The Value of Information

When we talk about “value,” we really mean “what is this worth?” There are several ways to consider the value of something, the simplest being “what would you give up to obtain this?” Often, it’s a case of money – but it could also be time, or effort.

A critical part of Infogineering is recognising that nothing has an objective value. That is, what you consider really valuable someone might consider worthless. The value of something depends on the person valuing it.

There are three reasons a piece of information will be valuable to someone:

1. Entertainment

2. Decision-making

3. Tradeability

Let’s look at each of these in detail…

1. Entertainment

Movies, novels, music… we obviously value them, because we are willing to spend billions on them every year. Yet they often don’t really help us live our lives any better. Entertainment is more about how we feel than about making an obvious improvement in our lives.

2. Decision-making

Maps help us decide where to turn left and right to reach our destination. Photographs help us recognise a distant relative at the airport, despite never meeting them in the flesh before. All of these forms of information help us make better decisions.

3. Tradeability

Sometimes, we aquire information not because we find it valuable (e.g. in neither entertains nor helps us make better decisions) but because we know it will help someone else – and they would be willing to give us something to obtain it. Booksellers don’t buy books because they want to read them, but because their customers do.

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