Information Myopia, Or How To Screw Up By Ignorance

The other day my flat mate sent me a message asking me what type of peas do we usually buy. She was at the grocery store, and we use to cook together, one of the dishes being based on canned peas with carrots. As I was the one buying it, most of the time, she had no idea how it looked like, or on what aisle should she look for it.

I found myself a bit surprised, when I wrote back: “it’s the one with a nice picture on the label, a very pleasant green and some cute little carrots”. And then I realized that’s how I was choosing it, lately. In the beginning, I obviously looked carefully over the label, read the entire description and even spent some time on the ingredients. But then I went on with the most accessible visual layer: the drawing on the label. I didn’t even think to re-read again.

And I realized that I was doing this thing with many other groceries. The first identification layer was enough, most of the time, for my buying decisions. I’m not saying I was buying only based on that, but it was definitely a very frequent shortcut.

The more I was using the shortcut, the more I got accustomed to it, until I got to a point where I simply didn’t see beyond. I was having “information myopia”.

What Is Information Myopia, And How Can It Be Bad For You

Simply put, “information myopia” is what happens when we rely primarily on shortcuts, on partial information, to make important decisions. We simply maintain our level of knowledge to a “good enough” layer. We approximate, just a like a person with regular myopia would approximate the blurry shapes and colors to actual objects.

Of course, there are excuses for that. Lack of time, information overload, the increasing speed of living, I know. And, to a certain extent, this approximation works well.

But the problem is that we get used to it, and, slowly, we let it pervade areas that should be way more clear, unapproximable, so to speak.

For instance, when we’re “shopping” for a partner. We seldom go beyond the initial drawings on the label. We don’t dare to read the description, let alone to have a peak at the ingredients. We just hope that once we open that beautifully decorated can, we will enjoy something tasty. Alas, most of the time, it’s not happening. On the contrary, as the saying goes, we get into more trouble, as the fishermen trying to open a can of worms can easily testify.

Or, on a more practical note, when we invest in something, being it a company, a piece of real estate or some crypto asset. How much do we really know about the company, about that piece of real estate or about the crypto asset? How much is just a gut reaction to a beautifully designed label, luring us into emptying our pockets, and how much is sustainable value? Without peeking deeper, without taking more time to actually stop and read the fine print, we have no way to know.

Information myopia is a real thing, and it feeds ignorance. Although it may give the impression of a shortcut, of saving some time in the moment, what it really does is increasing the future expenses for managing that decision.

Of course, once we know what a thing, a person, a stock or an asset really is, we can function by approximating it, if we just need to identify it. We already did our due diligence.

But when it’s something absolutely new, it pays to read between the lines, and try seeing beyond the beautiful, yet way too many times, deceiving, drawing on the surface.

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