When it comes to health, wellbeing, fitness and nutrition there is a sea of information out there. And a swamp and mire and thicket.

There are obvious cons and subtle manipulations.

There are claims fabricated and exaggerated.

Profits to be made, numbers games played.

Misinformation and disinformation mixed in with good information.

When falsehood gets passed on, it is AMPLIFIED.

This is a Fog of What. 

An information morass.

What to do?

One response, is just to be totally cynical; to refuse to believe in any claim made. This might be a wise response in some domains, like politics and entertainment, but about our own wellbeing? To ignore that? To let alone the genuine chances we all have ahead of us of improving ourselves and our wellbeing?

I think it is irrational (See last newsletter), tantamount to saying, “I will ignore all advice that helps me get what I value.” This, is what this issue reduces down to. 

If we are choosing to fight for our wellbeing a key battle is with optimising information. This idea again; being businesslike about our wellbeing. Investing in profit in one of the greatest of riches.

We know some of the advice out there is good. And some bad. Some is good for some and bad for others, and pretty much all combinations thereof.

Consider this principle:

For any claim on the internet, the information relevant to that claim can be discovered, or produced, to support, or refute that claim.

You can easily see this for yourself by looking at the countless online arguments about countless claims, each side certain in their impossible certainty.

  • Fat is terrible.

    • Fat is essential.

  • You can survive just on air.

    • No, you cannot.

  • Planking is good.

    • Planking is bad because overdoing it is risky.

  • It is insane to supplement with Lugol’s

    • It is optimal to supplement with Lugol’s.

Acknowledging the reality of this information morass is so important because it forces you to be sceptical, initially, of all claims. This is the starting position, as it were, to the rational journey into making sense of the external world, especially online, with regards to optimizing one’s wellbeing. This is pretty much the starting point from where Rene Descartes (my absolute favourite rational philosopher) began his journey. A journey that revealed the principles of reason, these principles that brought in the Enlightenment and most in science and human endeavour that followed. A journey that showed, without doubt, that we could at least be certain that we exist. A journey that ultimately, and so far irrevocably, proved the existence of God. Except for us our journey is about things like legumes, exercise and magnesium.

Here we are, keen and with a morass to pass, to separate the smarts from those talking out of their assumptions. From here, we need the right tools. The skills for the smarts, as Descartes might have said, only in French. Once one accepts the journey, the battle-task can be seen: To work out, for myself, which information I need to focus on primarily, and then to try to clarify it. 

To not be duped. 

To not be self-limitingly cynical.

It will be different for us all.

This might sound like some grandiose mission brief (perhaps, in a sense, it is) but keep in mind that it is merely about the mundane and domestic issues we face… when we are not stumbling through our actions. It is from these mundane changes, like walking to work, that valuable changes can emerge.

So, what are the skills to help us find clarity, some hopeful truth from the blur?

I think one key skill-set for information clearance is asking rational, common-sense, filtering questions that try to get us towards value preserving actions.

  • Who benefits from the information?

    • Is this a proprietary product?

    • Is the informer a vendor?

  • What is public opinion about the information?

  • What is the history of the information?

  • What does the science say?

    • What is the evidence?

    • What is the mechanism?

  • Is there controversy?

A skippable example. 

Take the case of nutrition product claims as an example. We can ask:

  • Is this a proprietary product?

    • If it is, I say avoid.

      • The biggest changes to our biochemical lives are most likely to come from the simplest molecules, and these are much less likely to be proprietary.

      • There is going to be an information bias in any information from the product creator.

  • Is the informer a vendor? (Who doesn’t make it)

    • This is at first sight an obvious one, and oft-times have I heard the retort that, “They are probably selling the stuff,” as if that is a de facto refutation of their claims.

    • It is certainly a negative sign, but not a refutation.

    • Moreover, as said above, in such cases it should be possible to find independent confirming evidence… or not.

  • What is the informed public option?

    • En masse and individually.

    • We are in the lucky position now to be able to fairly accurately gauge public opinion on almost anything.

      • Amazon reviews

      • Reddit

      • Facebook groups

    • Of course, there are issues of commercial misinformation and shilling, yada yada, but again, sceptical, not cynical.

  • What is the history?

    • If there is a long history of use, with benefit, then this is a key signal.

  • What is the science?

    • Is there evidence?

      • It is now very easy to check the paper abstracts of millions of scientific papers.

        • Pubmed, Sci-Hub, Google Scholar etc.

      • This is time-consuming. I have done it with a few things and will continue to do so. But mostly I am happy to go with an expert whose opinion and integrity I trust.

    • Is there an explanation?

      • Mechanism

        • We can explain the mechanism by which ketosis enhances brain function.

        • We can explain the mechanism by which EMF damages cellular function.

      • Aetiology (Causation)

        • Glucose causes insulin production to increase.

          • High insulin causes insulin resistance.

  • Is this thing controversial?

    • Controversy should not be considered evidence.

      • This is a tricky one because I think some, especially and overwhelmingly beneficial, things are controversial (iodine, boron, coffee, sunlight, salt…).

    • There is little controversy that Vitamin D3 is safe and should be supplemented in the UK.

    • There is controversy about the safety of Vitamin A supplementation.

Applying these tools, getting 80/20 by asking these questions first, efficiently takes a lot of the darkness and time-sink out of the available information, because you can know that, within reason, and reasonable time, you can get as close to the scientific conclusions, and reasonable opinion, as anyone else. 

Key Points of Information Clearance

  1. It is rational for me to want to optimise my wellbeing.

  2. It is rational for me to want to spend as little time on optimising my wellbeing as possible.

  3. A fundamental parameter optimising wellbeing is distinguishing the relevant information from the misinformation.

    1. It is expected that there will be mistaken information.

    2. Do not expect all information of a kind to be mistaken.

      1. Warning signs are not always no-entry signs.

      2. Being closed minded is as unskillful as being gullible.

And as with all these things, it shouldn’t seem like a daunting task -“Oh no I am going to learn to sit in a squat! Boo!” – but a challenge accepted – “I am going to reduce the amount of misinformation in my life. Fight!:)”

Thanks for reading!

Mat

PS if you know of anyone who could benefit from an hour or two of stoic coaching or wellbeing coaching, online or 3D, please get them in touch!:) Thanks!

Leapness

Author Leapness

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