5 Questions to Ask About Your Information


by Arsalan Khan

Information collection, understanding and sharing has been a worthwhile pursuit since the dawn of humanity. At the beginning, now and in the foreseeable future this pursuit will continue, even if the “tools” change. We will continue to use information to make short-term and long-term decisions for our groups and ourselves. But depending upon the sources of the information, we might make good decisions or we might not. It is only until the results of the decisions are evident that we will know if where we ended is where we wanted to be. Sometimes we will make quick decisions and sometimes we will take our own time to make a decision. But in all of these circumstances, we will always hope that the information sources that we used to make our decisions are credible.

In order to understand information, we need to understand the various “flavors” of information that we receive. Lets explore them below:

1. Redundant Information: Think about how many times you have received the same information from two different secondary sources. In your mind, you might be thinking that since two different secondary sources are providing the same information then it must be true. But what if the primary source of the information is the same? What if nothing new has been added to the information that you received? This is the concept of Redundant Information where the primary source of the information is the same and nothing new has been added to it.

2. Corroborated Information: Think about how many times you have received the same information from two different secondary sources and are sure that the primary sources of the information are different. In your mind, you might be thinking that since the two primary sources are different then it must be true. This is the concept of Corroborated Information where the primary sources of the information are not dependent on each other.

3. Contradicting Information: Think about how many times you have received the same information from two different secondary sources and found out that they were saying opposite things. This is the concept of Contradicting Information where the information that we receive does not agree with each other.

4. Perspective-Dependent Information: Think about how many times you have received the same information from two different secondary sources and determine that there are various versions of the truth. One version might be at a high level while another version might be at a lower level. This is the concept of Perspective-Dependent Information where information that you receive has been looked at from top-down, bottom-up and horizontal perspectives.

5. Biased Information: Lets face it, everyone has biases at some level based on their history, culture, societal norms, politics, religion, age, experiences, interactions with others and various other factors. These biases can creep into the information that we receive from others but also influence us when we make our own decisions. This is the concept of Biased Information where even in front of mounting evidence that challenges your views, you are still holding on to your conscious and unconscious thought processes to make decisions.

Now that you understand the various flavors of the information that you receive, it is time to ask the following:

Currently In the Future
Who receives information? Who should receive information?
What happens to information? What would happen to information?
Where does information come from? What would happen to information?
Where does information come from? Where would information come from?
When is information being shared? When would information be shared?
Why information is collected? Why should information be collected?


When you ask the above questions, keep in mind that the information flavors and contexts are closely related. Even if you understand the information flavors being used but do not understand the context around them then your decisions will be skewed. On the other hand, be mindful of only looking at information that confirms your views (aka cherry picking) since you will miss something that might have helped you better understand the world around you.

*Reposted from KHAN’S BLOG: https://arsalanakhan.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/5-questions-to-ask-about-your-information/
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