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"I've come across more and more people who've actually tried reading science fiction and can't make it make sense."
- Samuel R. Delany

Personal Interest Profile (PIP)  
  A set of topics about which you would like to hear the latest news; known today as Google News Alerts.  

The principal engineer in charge of the space elevator project liked to keep up on the relevant news on his area of interest; so, he set up his Personal Interest Profile to make sure that his computer searched for what he needed in the flood of global news items.

But the same technology that had eliminated one set of tasks had created even more demanding successors. Of these, perhaps the most important was the design of the Personal Interest Profile.

Most men updated their PIP on New Year's Day, or their birthday. Morgan's list contained fifty items; he had heard of people with hundreds. They must spend all their waking hours battling with the flood of information, unless they were like those notorious pranksters who enjoyed setting up News Alerts on their consoles for such classic improbabilities as: Eggs, Dinosaur, hatching of
Circle, squaring of
Atlantis, re-emergence of
Christ, Second Coming of
Loch Ness Monster, capture of
or finally
World, end of

Usually, of course, egotism and professional requirements ensured that the subscriber's own name was the first item on every list. Morgan was no exception, but the entries that followed were slightly unusual:
Tower, orbital
Tower, space
Tower, (geo) synchronous
Elevator, space
Elevator, orbital
Elevator, (geo) synchronous

These names covered most of the variations used by the media, and ensured that he saw at least ninety percent of the news items concerning the project. The vast majority of these were trivial, and sometimes he wondered if it was worth searching for them - the ones that really mattered would reach him quickly enough.

From The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Ballantine in 1978
Additional resources -

Today's reader will doubtless recognize the PIP as nothing less than the Google News Alert service. The Google Alerts were first beta'd in August of 2003. Just a quarter of a century after Clarke published the idea.

Compare this idea with the very similar interests profile from Frederik Pohl's 1966 novel The Age of the Pussyfoot.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Fountains of Paradise
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to The Fountains of Paradise
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Personal Interest Profile (PIP)-related news articles:
  - Yotify Scouts Work The Web For You
  - Wavii Follows Your Selected News
  - Should You Put Your Virtual Assistants In Your Will?

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