How to Distill the Truth, Without Drowning in the Sea of Information
On The Importance of Good Information
Every person on Earth is born willing to absorb everything they experience. From the gentle blowing of the wind across their face, to the sensations they experience as they eat, each child absorbs that information and stores it.
This happens throughout our whole lives. Each experience expands the library in our heads. We continue gathering information and testing our hypotheses about how the world works until we can come up with heuristics — mental shortcuts that don’t burden our brains but don’t guarantee an optimal or perfect solution. They’re basically one of the ways that we model the world around us.
Heuristics are great. They make sure that we are able to make snap judgements, help us speed up our workflows and daily tasks, allow us to have conversations with strangers; basically allowing us to survive in unknown situations. But just like everything else, they come with a cost. Heuristics can keep us in a rut, they can remove that childlike wonder about the world. Heuristics are the reason you might not think about a better way to complete a task than the way you’ve always been doing it. Heuristics can prevent you from trying new things. For example, you might think the fastest way to find an email in your Gmail account is to scroll through until you find it. If that email is old or you tend to keep a full inbox, you might spend more time on that than you would like. But, it works! Since it works, there’s no reason to learn about the search bar feature that could have saved you a lot of time over the course of a day.
Another major drawback to trusting heuristics is if they’re based on faulty or outdated information. Faulty information can lead to us building poor mental models about the world around us. These poor mental models could get us in trouble. You might find yourself in a new situation that you’ve never experienced before and have no idea what to do.
One solution to this is to read as much as you can. This will expand your library of information and ‘train’ your mental models on more information. This will lead to a more comprehensive heuristic.
Getting Good Information in a Digital Age
How do we know the information we’re reading is good? To be honest, we can’t know for sure, but we can certainly try our damnedest. Back in the very beginning of November (before the election), myself and a few of my friends realized that in order to stay informed we were passing a lot of news articles back and forth in a chat. That spawned an idea. If we were spending so much of our day reading all these news articles from every conceivable source, how many people weren’t!? What if there was a way to combine these sources and determine the truth within?
Enter our labor of love — The News Unspun. The process looks a little like this: we scour the internet to find quality reports on the latest events, we compare what those sources say and then write a small brief containing the salient facts, leaving the fluff and partisan non-sense behind. These briefs, or gists, give you the important goings on of the world. The best part is that they’re delivered right to your inbox.
We’re hoping that this project helps to inform all of us a little more and make staying up to date on the news and events of each day a little less of a chore. We’re not looking to replace these news outlets though. We highly encourage our readership to read the full articles on the topics they are really interested in. Our value added is in making sure you stay up to date on a wide variety of topics and know where you can learn more when you’re ready.
Because this is a passion project and provided as a public service at no cost, we’re looking for contributors to fit into the compilers/researchers component of the flow chart. Shoot an email over to myself at email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can help.