Signal & Noise

Photo by Praveen kumar Mathivanan on Unsplash

The advent of the internet came with a LOT of perks.

It enabled instantaneous communication worldwide, facilitated the exchange of goods and services, and hopefully, soon, it will be the foundation for the exchange of tangible value (eg: digital currency).

That said, the ability for an individual to tap into the sum total of information collected by human beings, has already endowed us with more opportunity than we could have ever imagined.

Effectively, the internet has become humanity’s knowledge bank. One that anyone can tap into from, theoretically, anywhere.

However, these boons came with drawbacks.

For example, even though anyone can expose themself to all information they need, the sheer amount of content has made it incredibly difficult to differentiate between truth (signal), and everything else (noise).

Thus, making the skill of doing precisely that, one of the most valuable in every facet of life.

The bad news is, there is no formula to learn it. At least, in my experience.

The good news is, I’ve learned it (to a modicum of competence) by acquiring heuristics. And, I believe there is a process — albeit, a long term process — that one can follow to develop the same heuristics.

You see, it is next to impossible to identify signal from raw noise. But, what is manageable is to identify the quality of the source, from which you can derive the signal.

When you are young, chances are you won’t have the foundation to differentiate between good and bad sources.

Thus, to begin with, you must depend on the more traditional signals such as wealth, educational degrees, reviews (particularly from successful people), etc.

Over time, as you learn from these people and, more importantly, grow your knowledge base, you will start to identify the common emergent patterns of signal.

Thus, kickstarting a feedback loop which goes like this:

1. Absorb information from sources verified by tried and tested traditional metrics.

2. Observe and study the commonly emergent patterns from such patterns. For example, Signal-producing people tend to independently consider an issue from all angles, before coming to a conclusion.

3. Reflect on these patterns, codify them into your own personal heuristics to identify Signal and Signal-producing people.

4. Absorb information from other such sources.

5. Refine your heuristics by honing in on the consistently accurate ones. Keep track of why specific ones work/don’t work in specific situations.

6. Use refined heuristics to better identify Signal-producing people.

7. Absorb information from them.

8. Ad infinitum

Also read on: New India Express Magazine




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