The idea of what information means to us and what it does to our perception has been on my mind lately. It has been said that information is power and I suppose it can be powerful because it does influence our thinking. It can change our priorities. It shapes our judgements and helps us discern what is important to us and what isn’t.
There are certainly arguments that can be made that being informed improves lives. Information quells ignorance and sometimes, if left unchecked, ignorance is ugly. It leads to prejudice and prejudice leads to hate, so we need information to better understand and accept one another and use it to learn how to value these differences instead of fear them.
Information provides us facts and facts help us create, invent and evolve. Information gives us the data we need to make decisions. Sometimes we heed the information we are given and make good decisions and sometimes we ignore it but information does provide us choices we would not otherwise have.
So, information, if not powerful exactly, is important.
Yet, I can’t help thinking that information can also sometimes be deceptive. It can be overwhelming and it can be needlessly worrying, especially when gaining certain knowledge does nothing to better a given situation. Sometimes the only thing information does is cause anxiety, fret and panic. These things also have an influence on our perspective but not necessarily a good one.
And, what about inaccurate information? Is the information we receive always right? Think of the consequences of acting on false information. It can be damaging, if not dangerous. We should not always take the information we receive at face value. We must analyze it. Inspect it. Scrutinize it. Does what we are being told make sense? Can it be proven? Where did the information come from? Is the source reliable? Will it really change anything?
I’m not suggesting that living in mindless ignorance is necessarily better because I know for the most part, that it isn’t, only that the concept of information and what it does to how we perceive the world is complex and if nothing else, it is critical that we understand the impact information has on how we choose to engage the world.