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Measurement of Information and Disinformation

Yokel

LE
We live in an age of disinformation. This comes from both malicious and innocent sources, but whatever the cause, it poses huge dangers to the future of society and even as individual it is a risk to our well being. What can be done about it?

Information Theory suggests that the amount of information contained within a message is related to its rarity - for example a sharp shooting pain in one's chest, coupled with other symptoms suggests that urgent medical attention is needed. However, Psychology shows that the less expected or politically/emotionally acceptable it is the less likely it is is to be accepted and acted upon. To the use the severe chest pain example, how many people hesitate and hope that it will go off, because they are "too young for a heart attack" or it is probably indigestion. Every GP could tell you tales of patients who ignored symptoms until it was too late. I nearly did this myself when I found a lump in my nuts, but I told a friend and she pestered me to go and see the doctor.

How many people refuse conventional medicine due to possible side effects, yet when taking 'natural' remedies they decide to ignore things such as palpitations or a rash because they do not associate natural products with those risks?

Information is measured in terms of the ability to resolve uncertainty, but this offers no solution to the problem of people becoming certain of things that are factually wrong. Information does not exist on its own, it is the cause of action or inaction. Therefore, can 'information' be measured and charactersed in terms of are the consequences of acting upon it positive of negative - and if so how? Are negative feedback and checks and balances the only way of doing this?
 
Information is intelligence. Previous reliability of the source X the provenance on this occasion. A single item of information from an untested source could be useful if the provenance is strong, and vice versa. All action are risk-based, there is no true line beyond your experience. EG team gibshite, sorry I'm late, a jet crashed on the motorway and I stopped to help. BBC news:yup, a jet did crash and he was there. FFS.
 

DaManBugs

LE
Book Reviewer
We live in an age of disinformation. This comes from both malicious and innocent sources, but whatever the cause, it poses huge dangers to the future of society and even as individual it is a risk to our well being. What can be done about it?

Information Theory suggests that the amount of information contained within a message is related to its rarity - for example a sharp shooting pain in one's chest, coupled with other symptoms suggests that urgent medical attention is needed. However, Psychology shows that the less expected or politically/emotionally acceptable it is the less likely it is is to be accepted and acted upon. To the use the severe chest pain example, how many people hesitate and hope that it will go off, because they are "too young for a heart attack" or it is probably indigestion. Every GP could tell you tales of patients who ignored symptoms until it was too late. I nearly did this myself when I found a lump in my nuts, but I told a friend and she pestered me to go and see the doctor.

How many people refuse conventional medicine due to possible side effects, yet when taking 'natural' remedies they decide to ignore things such as palpitations or a rash because they do not associate natural products with those risks?
Information is measured in terms of the ability to resolve uncertainty, but this offers no solution to the problem of people becoming certain of things that are factually wrong. Information does not exist on its own, it is the cause of action or inaction. Therefore, can 'information' be measured and charactersed in terms of are the consequences of acting upon it positive of negative - and if so how? Are negative feedback and checks and balances the only way of doing this?
I think the “problem” may be that any item or piece of information is almost automatically the subject of a double-bias. The first bias is on the part of the creator of the information, whether consciously or unconsciously. The second bias happens when the information is passed to a recipient. The recipient will scan it, again almost unconsciously, for its adherence to personal biases and prejudices before being either accepted or rejected, even though the personal sorting process has nothing to do with the actual veracity or otherwise of the information.

A typical example of what I mean would be this: Ignaz Semmelweis - Wikipedia

Semmelweis fetched up against the ominous “received wisdom” of the day and his simple instruction to doctors at the time to wash their hands regularly wasn’t taken up until years later. The course of what happened would indeed validate your first paragraph about harm to society (although in this case “only” to recovering mothers).

But there’s also another example from more recent times that is similarly interesting:

Helicobacter pylori - Wikipedia

Stomach ulcers (and gastritis) had been a bane of humankind for centuries. However, it was only in 1982 that two Australian researchers were able to identify the bacterium as the cause. Again, for hundreds of years “received wisdom” claimed that bacteria couldn’t survive in the acid environment of the stomach. How many deaths from perforated ulcers could’ve been prevented by a simple six-week course of antibiotics!

Numerous experiments with bias and the creation of negative or positive attitudes concerning items of information have been carried out and practically all of them came to the same conclusion. Either the creator of the information included a bias so as to influence the recipients in a particular way, or the recipients themselves filtered the information through their own biases and prejudices to arrive at a conclusion. Either way, it was never “neutral” in a true sense. But it’s also a basic tool in the armoury of demagogues everywhere. Although what can be done about such a problem is something that needs to be worked on, I imagine.

MsG
 

Yokel

LE
I started this thread in good faith - partly as being a victim of false information being spread about me to cover up for others failings. As it see it, the only way of rejecting false information is negative feedback - constant critical thinking. Without that, people can easily be driven to extremes.

That is why checks and balances are important features of managerial and legal systems. Even precision measuring systems use negative feedback as well as precision references.
 

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