The future is now and though I haven't kept up with science fiction, the same issue applies to academic publications. Recent posts by Michael Nielsen and on Slashdot have asked: With nearly all new papers in physics and computer science easily accessible on the web, how do you find the ones worth reading?
Conferences have traditionally played this role in computer science. But, by definition, paper choices are decisions by committee and with the massive growth in the field, many good papers do not appear in the major conferences.
What we need are "editors"! You can help. Write a survey paper, or spend a page in your research papers discussing the important earlier results in a field. Maintain a web page pointing to papers you find interesting. Start a weblog saying what you find interesting--you don't have to post long or often, just to say, hey, this paper is worth looking at. This way people with similar interests to you can find out what at least you think is important. Only by many of us working together can we make the interesting papers stand out.