Open Future NZ "Be the change you want to see in the World"

The critical value of quality information.

printOne Printable Pageprint

We live in an information age. That means that people rely on the quality of the information they have in order to earn their living and in order to make critical decisions in their lives.

The world we have built in our heads is the only world we can know. So "my world" is different to "your world". When we talk we usually assume that our "worlds" are similar, and they must be or else communication would be difficult. Have you noticed that communication is in fact difficult?

Hence, we ALL have a personal "world-view". That world-view is distorted and partial in many ways. Our own personal experience is a necessary limit. We are also handicapped by the fact that some of the things our culture teaches us are no longer valid. The world-view we have looks "perfect" to us, because the errors and misunderstandings we have, are still unknown to us.

When someone makes an information error, and broadcasts it on the Internet or in the popular media, that's of no great moment. That error won't be amplified, provided other people are responsible with the truth they know. One person's misguided idea is harmless, Localfileunless other people give it credibility. Even if a group of people give credibility to a faulty idea, in a community that communicates openly and has and interest in the quality of ideas, the vast majority of the community will identify the information error and it's unlikely to have a serious dysinformation effect.

However, when people who have responsibility and influence take up a misinformed view, the effect is much greater. It's particularly dangerous when the people involved know that the "information" they are spreading is in fact "dysinformation". Spreading dysinformation poisons the information commons.

The Economics of Crack Cocaine

Freakonomics author Steven Levitt presents new data on the finances of drug dealing. Contrary to popular myth, he says, being a street-corner crack dealer isn't lucrative: It pays below minimum wage. And your boss can kill you.

His An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances (2000) analyzes a hand-written "accounting" of a criminal gang, and draws conclusions about the income distribution among gang members.

See Stewart Brand's Ted Talk about the development of slums as the quickest way out of poverty.  They arrive with nothing and they all begin by theft, they steal a place and the materials for a hovel, and they build from there.  

Steven David Levitt (born May 29, 1967) is an American economist known for his work in the field of crime.

Information Commons: Much of the success literature in advanced societies and far too much of the political thinking is based on long outdated ideals. Large political parties in particular find it very difficult to change, because the ideas of the members are based on recognised "principles". In this situation an open information commons and the existence of active forums for public debate are critical. The Internet has vastly increased the size of the information common. How well that is being used is a question yet to be answered. We need to kill the myths that misdirect our efforts and contribute to our failure.

Limits to Freedom: While the idea of personal freedom is very attractive, if we are to survive, personal freedoms need to be constrained by cultural rules, backed by the rule of law. So to some extent, freedom to do what ever I choose will be restricted. On the other hand my freedom from poverty and pollution and social breakdown will be better assured if we have taken the time, and made the effort to build the useful common. External LinkWe need good government at every level in our communities.

Limits to Personal Wealth: It's been widely argued by economists that the growing wealth of any individual has no limiting effect on the on the ability of other people to become wealthy. But that view is based on the faulty idea that there are no limits on resources and that economic growth had no limitations either. Since there are limits, one future cost of doing business will be to accept the responsibility of working inside resource use limits. We can expect quotas to restrict resource flows. We can't allow the commons to be plundered for personal gain. External LinkThis leads to the critical issue of full cost pricing. If the prices of materials reflect their real economic value most of the problems of pollution and excessive use will be self correcting. Openness and transparency will be an essential feature of a zero growth economic system.

Your comment on this essay is welcomed. Comments (0)