Signal vs. Noise

The Idea

Contributed by @philhagspiel |  Edited and curated by @philhagspiel

The meaningful is often buried in the meaningless.

Belief Formation
Finding Truth

Whether in the physics of wave frequencies (tuning into a radio), in statistics (analysing trends over time) or everyday information media (understanding world events) — we almost always have to filter the meaningful information from the random variation and fluctuation around that information.

Signal vs. Noise is a term often used in science and engineering but also widely applicable to our lives at large. It describes how that which we are actually interested in can be buried in unwanted and often misleading data. In a world that’s full of information, separating the useful from from the useless becomes an essential ability.

For example, when we look at historic sales data in a business context, we want to filter actual customer behavior trends (signal) from the random variation around it (noise).

Likewise when we consume any kind of news, we want to dissect true meaningful world happenings (signal) from exaggerated or untrue reports and over-interpretations of random events (noise).

Even more broadly, the concept of Signal vs. Noise can be applied to our personal development as well. In a world where ideas and concepts are being broadcast to us non-stop, we want to be open to those that help us evolve as individuals and ignore the ones that don’t.

Before jumping to conclusions, asking yourself something like “Is this a signal or just noise?”, or “Where is the signal in all of this noise?” can focus your attention on what really matters as well as help you not fall prey to misleading information.

“The signal is the truth. The noise is what distracts us from the truth.”

— Nate Silver

“Censorship no longer works by hiding information from you; censorship works by flooding you with immense amounts of misinformation, of irrelevant information.”

— Yuval N. Harari

Go Deep

Go Beyond

A few further resources you might like if you find above idea interesting: