Our modern information age has created a world where everyday throws us into a sea of information. Information that comes in waves across multiple media platforms. Information that can often make you feel like you are drowning. Funnily though, you might actually be drowning in a very shallow pool! A shallow pool with a turbulent surface that keeps you distracted from looking deeper into the truth.

Signal from the noise

There is so much data being created every minute that paradoxically, the more time we spend immersed in information (reading the news daily, for example), the more likely we are to miss the signal within the noise. Because there is so much noise that pours out into the world under the guise of being “news” that we miss the real stories. That we miss the underlying themes and truths because we are so lost in the surface level turbulence. 

So, the higher the noise-to-signal ratio, the more likely you are to get lost in meaningless mumbo jumbo. Because there is just so much of it! This is an inherent property of our age of mass information. As the empiricist and philosopher, Nassim Taleb points out, “newspapers should be of two-line length on some days, two hundred pages on others — in proportion with the intensity of the signal”. 

Of course, this wouldn’t be in the commercial interest of newspapers, now would it?!

The death of journalism

In addition to the problem of there being too much noise, we have the problem of journalism being carried out by people who don’t really know their subject matters deeply. Just think of a time you read something in the newspaper that covered a topic you know intimately.

I bet you scoffed and cursed at how simplistic and perhaps even wrong the analysis was? Now, consider what you read on topics in which you are not an expert and that the same thing might be going on!

Looking deeper into the truth

If you only rely on information gathered from a very shallow and turbulent pool to inform your opinions and judgements, this is a recipe for very superficial thinking. You have to go deeper. You have to seek out information that is beyond superficial journalism. That takes you into ideas from the past and present, and by different thinkers from different cultures and fields. The truth (if there is such a thing) is not going to be found on the front page of [insert choice of newspaper or magazine]. It is much more nuanced.

Seeking the truth requires not only an awareness of the signal-noise problem, but also a healthy dose of skepticism and along with it a real commitment to looking deeper into the truth.

No one said it was easy.


Harsha is an executive and life coach based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives. Subscribe to receive more insights like this.