How to analyze information

Herbert E. Meyer tackles the characteristic dilemma of our age: how to cope with the deluge of data made available via the internet, and come up with meaningful and usable knowledge. His outstanding essay, "How to Analyze Information," really a user's guide to the analytical mind, is available on the internet here. [Full disclosure: Mr. Meyer is not only a contributor to American Thinker, he is a personal friend of mine.]

Until roughly half a century ago, scarcity was the eternal problem of mankind. But as the Industrial Revolution took hold in a majority of the globe, and then gave birth to the Information Revolution, in whose midst we live, more data than any human could possibly absorb became available instantaneously and for free. So for those who consume and process information as their major work and leisure activity (a rapidly growing segment of the advanced countries' population), suddenly scarcity has been replaced by the necessity of choosing which data to select for consideration.

The problem is that far too few of us have been trained in or created explicit methodologies for operating in this sort of environment. Should Western Civilization survive, future generations of humanity will undoubtedly grapple with this problem of selection as powerfully as our ancestors grappled with the problem of poverty and starvation.

Fortunately, there are few people better qualified than Herb to guide us through the process. When he joined the CIA as Special Assistant to the Director William Casey, appointed by President Reagan, his job was to organize the vast torrent of data pouring in and produce meaningful reports for action. He later received the nation's highest award for intelligence work, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, because he was able to perceive the vulnerabilities of the Soviet Union in an era when the consensus was that détente was our best hope for dealing with a permanent and implacable enemy. The very process he prescribes for us must have been his operating plan, though of course the details are still secret.

Herbert Meyer is a master at explaining complex concepts in a manner which makes them simple, even commonsensical. One facet of this extraordinary skill is the ability to use analogies with both precision and adequate scope. Another is the ability to write with an inviting, un-intimidating manner. His essay is a user-friendly user's guide to higher mental faculties. Incidentally, Herb is a serial enlightener. After you have read "How to Analyze Information," check out "How to Write" and "The Siege of Western Civilization" (linked at the end of the essay) for similarly helpful examples of his skills in this realm.

We should all be grateful that Herb avoided the clutches of academia, for any academic writing in such a clear, straightforward manner about intellect would be seen as giving away trade secrets. In fact, all too many academics today fail the tests Herb advocates we all apply to our analysis.

Don't be intimidated. You will not find 5000 or so words of reading matter that will be more helpful to you (outside of Holy Scripture, at least) in the unprecedented age we are creating.