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A sobrecarga de dados pode ser mortal:

Publicado a 17/01/2011, 06:28 por House Work

Quando os investigadores analisaram um ataque de helicópteros americanos, que deixou 23 civis afegãos mortos, eles descobriram que o operador de um  Predator (avião não tripulado), não conseguiu transmitir informações importantes sobre a composição de uma multidão...

"But Air Force and Army officials now say there was also an underlying cause for that mistake: information overload.

At an Air Force base in Nevada, the drone operator and his team struggled to work out what was happening in the village, where a convoy was forming. They had to monitor the drone’s video feeds while participating in dozens of instant-message and radio exchanges with intelligence analysts and troops on the ground.

There were solid reports that the group included children, but the team did not adequately focus on them amid the swirl of data — much like a cubicle worker who loses track of an important e-mail under the mounting pile. The team was under intense pressure to protect American forces nearby, and in the end it determined, incorrectly, that the villagers’ convoy posed an imminent threat, resulting in one of the worst losses of civilian lives in the war in Afghanistan.

“Information overload — an accurate description,” said one senior military officer, who was briefed on the inquiry and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case might yet result in a court martial. The deaths would have been prevented, he said, “if we had just slowed things down and thought deliberately.”

Data is among the most potent weapons of the 21st century. Unprecedented amounts of raw information help the military determine what targets to hit and what to avoid. And drone-based sensors have given rise to a new class of wired warriors who must filter the information sea. But sometimes they are drowning.

Research shows that the kind of intense multitasking required in such situations can make it hard to tell good information from bad. The military faces a balancing act: how to help soldiers exploit masses of data without succumbing to overload.

“There is information overload at every level of the military — from the general to the soldier on the ground,” said Art Kramer, a neuroscientist and director of the Beckman Institute, a research lab at the University of Illinois.

The military has engaged researchers like Mr. Kramer to help it understand the brain’s limits and potential. Just as the military has long pushed technology forward, it is now at the forefront in figuring out how humans can cope with technology without being overwhelmed by it.

At George Mason University in Virginia, researchers measure the brain waves of study subjects as they use a simulation of the work done at the Nevada Air Force base.

On a computer screen, the subjects see a video feed from one drone and the locations of others, along with instructions on where to direct them. The subjects wear a cap with electrodes attached, measuring brain waves. As the number of drones and the pace of instructions increases, the brain shows sharp spikes in a kind of electrical activity called theta — cause for concern among the researchers.

“It’s usually an index of extreme overload,” said Raja Parasuraman, a director of the university’s human factors and applied cognition program.

As the technology allows soldiers to pull in more information, it strains their brains. And military researchers say the stress of combat makes matters worse. Some research even suggests that younger people wind up having more trouble focusing because they have grown up constantly switching their attention."



Published: January 16, 2011