Signal, noise, overintervention & iatrogenesis

Imagine someone of the type we call neurotic …Compare him to someone imperturbable … The supply of information to which we are exposed thanks to modernity is transforming humans from the equable second fellow into the neurotic first one. For the purpose of our discussion, the second fellow only reacts to real information, the first largely to noise. The difference between the two fellows will show us the difference between noise and signal. Noise is what you are supposed to ignore, signal what you need to heed … [The] personal or intellectual inability to distinguish noise from signal is behind overintervention.

… A very rarely discussed property of data: it is toxic in large quantities—even in moderate quantities.

Consider the iatrogenics of newspapers … to do things right, they ought to learn to keep silent in the absence of news of significance. Newspapers should be of two-line length on some days, two hundred pages on others—in proportion with the intensity of the signal. But of course they want to make money and need to sell us junk food. And junk food is iatrogenic … daily news and sugar confuse our system in the same manner.

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, locations 2332-79.

I consciously tried to sort signal from noise in this morning’s news reading. It cut my time investment a great deal.

Reader John @ReaderJohn
My main blog is the Tipsy Teetotaler, http://intellectualoid.com.