The Paradox of Noice

Note to my future self…

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of the content that I consume. However, today I want to make a case for why we shouldn’t aim to completely remove all the noise in our life.

If you think about it, we all want to make sure that we spend as much time as possible focusing on things that matter to us (signal). I personally go to great length to curate the videos, movies, feeds and articles that I expose myself to and remove anything that I think is low quality (noise).

However, this morning while taking a shower I thought to myself: Do I want to remove all the noise in my life? What would that look like? Is it a desirable state? If not, how much noise is enough noise?

I don’t have an answer to any of these questions. However, to me it’s seems that a world that’s all signal and no noise is more of an ideal state that we strive to but never really achieve. This normative view of the world pushes us to constantly re-evaluate our sources of information so that we remove anything that’s not relevant.

Having said so, I do think that we need noise in our lives for a couple of reasons:

  1. Exposure: being exposed to noisy content increases our exposure to new information and hopefully the chance that we make interesting and serendipitous connections that might otherwise be more unlikely if our corpus of information was more homogenous. How much entropy you want in the quality of information you consume is a question for another day(:
  2. Calibration: Noise can provide contrast. If all we hear is high-signal information, it intuitively makes sense that it will become harder to distinguish what’s really great from what’s merely good and what sucks. I can’t exactly articulate or prove why this is the case. It just makes intuitive sense so I will have to keep thinking about a better way to explain this.

Takeaway

I think that the key takeaway for me is that despite how much I strive to eliminate “noise” from my life it’s a necessary evil. The trick is in fine-tuning how much of it you want and I suspect that even that is more art than science.

Now back to work…