Distilled Information

Distilled information is superior to undistilled information. Increase your access to the distilled and decrease consumption of the undistilled.

Distilled Information Vs. Undistilled Information

The distinction between distilled and undistilled information was something I first came across in Taleb’s Fooled By Randomness (my review here). In brief, the definitions are:

  • Distilled Information:
    Old ideas that are still around and still in practice. For anything to have stood the test of time, it must have passed multiple memetic selection pressures. This means that it is tried and tested, and will have become refined with age.
  • Undistilled Information:
    Anything new, that comes in real time. Because new information is constantly being generated, it is untested. Some new ideas and memes will stand the test of time, but the vast majority will not.

Examples of distilled information include classic books and works of literature. Examples of undistilled information include things like the news and sports scores.

The Flood Of Undistilled Information

There is an absolute dominance of undistilled information over distilled information. In one modern day, we generate more information than humanity had ever done before the arrival of the internet.

This is reflected in our consumption habits. Facebook is a behemoth of a company, and its entire model is based on feeding users undistilled information. Every pull-down-to-refresh is like opening a faucet of the undistilled.

Even before the internet, many would read a daily newspaper or watch TV for information access. But technology is constantly increasing the ratio of the undistilled to the distilled.

This is dangerous for your mind memetics. With a diet comprised mostly of undistilled information, you’re seeding your brain with memes that have not stood the test of time or rigorous analysis. It’s equivalent to investing most of your capital in fool’s gold. It glitters, but the shininess doesn’t mean it has any value.

Changing Your Consumption Habits

A healthier information diet involves dominance of distilled information. This means you will be less plugged in to things like social media, and more involved in older ideas.

Choose:

  • Books over the news
  • Tested theory over the “cutting edge”
  • Classics over latest releases

Prioritize the old and tested, and you guarantee higher quality. You have limited resources. The war for eyeballs has refined he ability of newer memes to grab your attention, and thus get into your head.

But their lower quality will also lower the quality of your thought. Seek better information to build better mental models.


I post daily, but I try to keep it as distilled as possible. If you’re interested in information and how it affects us all, join thousands: subscribe for email updates and follow me on Twitter, where I also post daily.

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