INFORMATION ANXIETY

A Mental Disability

“A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.” 

~Murphy’s Law

You and I are like the man with two watches, so we should never be sure, in other words, adopt Positive Uncertainty. Especially today, because with information overload, we probably have many “watches.” This results in information overload. Information overload is also known as information glut. It describes the difficulty in understanding an issue and effectively making decisions when you have too much information about that issue. 

“When you can admit to ignorance, you will realize that if ignorance isn’t exactly bliss, it is an ideal state from which to learn,” Richard Saul Wurman, in Information Anxiety (1989).  Now we not only have too much information, but also too much misinformation, alternative facts, fake truth, and an excess of political lies in what is called a Post-Truth World. “We have transformed information into a form of garbage,” Neil Postman. How much is too much?

The man with two watches, and the rest of us, can solve our unsureness dilemma by paying attention to only one “watch.” That’s what most of us do. That is what is happening in the political information overload explosion today. People, including me, are paying attention to one source of political information. 

One of my paradoxical principles of Positive Uncertainty in my 1991/2003 book, Creative Decision Making Using Positive Uncertainty, was: be aware and wary of what you know. Believing the information you have nowadays indeed is a problem. Part of the reason is that you have so much. My advice: be intentionally aware and wary of what you know.

Decision making is arranging and rearranging information into a choice. There is always more information available that one can process. There is no such thing as “innocent” information and information today is not always “user friendly;” it is often misinformation, incomplete, biased, unreliable, irrelevant, subjective and never independent of values. 

Therefore, collect a few more “watches” and get a diversity of information. Fact check your information with reliable sources. What you know partly determines what you believe and what you believe partly determines what you know, so check your beliefs. The goal of dealing with information glut is to avoid information anxiety. Keep looking; verify your knowledge. Be careful about what you think you know. Acknowledge your ignorance. 

“Some things are impossible to know and it is impossible to know these things.”

~Murphy’s Law 

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