The Meaning Matters

What something means is important.  Data, information and even knowledge cannot assign meaning.   Meaning is what you care about.

We live in a world where meaning has given up its place to information.  Many can refer to sources and studies and “facts” without a limit.  Does it matter?  Yes, but not in the way you think.  Too much adds to the file volume but not to the meaning.

The reason that volume adds little to meaning is that there are too many ways for the data to combine.  Suppose ten facts if known and combined properly would cure cancer.  Not hard until you notice that if you have 1,000 data points.  the number of ways to pick ten items out of a thousand is more than 2 with 23 zeroes after it.  Unlikely to find it by chance and there are far more than 1000 data points to consider.

The movie Zero Dark Thirty, dealing with the capture of Osama Bin Laden, estimates that the CIA had 200 million bits of data and more than 200 analysts trying to make sense of it.  An impossible task.  You don’t know if you have it all and you cannot tell which is important.

It is usually easy to see after the fact that all of the information for a given decision was there, sometimes years earlier.  Hindsight is a marvel.

In your own life you must make decisions with less than perfect clarity.  Decision making under uncertainty is a difficult task for many of us.  It is made more difficult by having too much information.  Facts are necessary to make better decisions but they are not the only condition.  People must learn to assess the meaning of the facts and of their situation.

Common sense will help you grade the data.  There are no magic bullets.  Things that used to work probably still do.  Things that are hyped are usually not for you.

In some ways it is like playing poker.  You get your cards and begin with the idea that you do not want to play them.  You must find a reason to carry on.  Maybe the other players matter.  Maybe the size of the pot matters.  The idea is that by starting with I don’t want to play, the facts must be more than hype.  They must come with a reasonable expectation of success.

Like life, a reasonable expectation must relate to what you know and what you have observed from others.  That is what looking for meaning is about.  How do I use the information to my benefit?

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772

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