Thinking Out Loud

Why Knowing Everything is a Bad Idea 3

Why Knowing Everything is a Bad Idea

The society and economy that we find ourselves in today is based on vast amounts of information.
Which sounds desirable at first glance (woohoo I can find everything on Google, so I know more than everyone ever knew last century, so I’m clearly the top of the heap, the pinacle of my species, and I will be awesome.)

The only problem is that everyone else is also neck-deep in the same new society, only now it’s global instead of city-based, and everyone knows everything there is to know about everything, and we all have Bing and Google and some 25 other awesome search tools with voice recognition and A.I. and Virtual Reality overlays to the real world. And we all get 3,248 tweets per hour, and upload 2 hours of video every 3 minutes.

The previous revolution, The Third Industrial Revolution, was all about the data.

  • All about gathering information.
  • Knowledge Management.
  • Chief Information Officers.
  • Trivial Pursuit.

We are building and working with global knowledge systems based on information gathering and processing. The raw data is being gathered by the Internet of Things. It is being stored and processed by Cloud Computing.

We are exposed to 50 new infographics per day, enticing us to nod and say to ourselves that NOW we understand what’s going on. Now that the information has been distilled into a mental sound-bite for us.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T.S. Eliot


What we are really looking for is wisdom.

The wisdom to know what the correct course of action is.
We tend to think that if we know everything pertaining to our problem set, then we will automatically be wise about how to act on that information/knowledge. Yes, I know what’s happening, I’ve seen the infographics, I can follow the powerpoints… but for the love of Zeus, I don’t know what to do today or tomorrow… forget next Thursday, that’s for “future me” to worry about.

A lot of “wisdom” is just some blogger’s opinion (like this article).

Wisdom is also subjective and relative to the specific problems you choose to solve.
It might be wise to follow some action in one case, but follow the opposite action to achieve some other goal.
Traditionally wisdom comes from quiet contemplation of facts and trends and knowledge, with a slow dawning of relationships and ramifications.

Or are we looking for a way to Filter the abundance of information/knowledge?

More information can actually be detrimental to our wisdom and decision-making abilities.
You need to prioritise the information that’s used to arrive at future plans of action.
And the way to do that is to set up filters.

Filters for

  • Big Data (What are we going to measure? What do we reallly need to record?)
  • Knowledge (How can we distil that data stream into a few meaningful bits of knowledge?)
  • Wisdom (How can we plan our future based on what we know?)

With the proper filters in place, you and your team are able to

  • Efficiently gather data relevant to your goals
  • Not waste time with irrelevant knowledge *
  • Only seek wisdom where that translates into something actionable and in line with your bigger picture.

“It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” – Clay Shirky

By Setting up Filters, we Reduce Decisions.

The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less is a 2004 book by Barry Schwartz, where he argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.



So, if you KNOW LESS (because you have intelligently selected the information you need to reach your specific goal), then chances are you will be able to process that raw information easier, and reach better conclusions, which you can act on.

An expert, or a advisor, in your field, can help you see what’s important, how to filter out the unimportant, and how to act on what’s left. They can help you “slay the dragon of too many combinations”.






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