There are many contexts in which the quantity of information we have is vital to our success or survival, and in some of these cases the relative amount of information we have compared to others—or compared to all the information it's possible to have—matters a whole lot.
If I'd like to buy a used camera at a yard sale, I'm limited to what I can tell about the device using my own, in situ knowledge: maybe I can check the lens and sensor for scratches and turn it on to see how many photos have been taken with it, but I'm reliant on the seller to tell me anything further.
I may be less likely to offer as much as the seller wants to get for their camera because of those unknowns. They have information about the camera's history, use, and finicky pain-points that I do not, and my proposed price will be tempered by that gap in my knowledge: I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a lemon.
In contrast, if I'm buying a new camera I know will be up to certain standards of quality, I can look online to check prices at other vendors before pulling the trigger on a purchase. I know what I'll be getting, and I know about my other options, so I may be willing to pay more because there aren't any significant gaps in my knowledge that might later be filled with a significant flaw.
Incomplete information can also influence negotiations related to international diplomacy or our relationships with friends and neighbors.
When one party knows more than the other, and both parties understand that this is the case, it creates a sort of asymmetric gravity that slants all considerations in one direction or another.
We tend to suffer from incomplete information beyond the realm of buying used gear or shopping at the store, as well.
When we see a stranger walking toward us on the sidewalk, we don't know their intentions.
We might instinctually feel something pointed about that person—internal alarm-bells going off because of how they're walking, what they're wearing, etc—but we don't really know anything for certain. Our instincts are often informed by bias or misinterpretation, and as such we can't fully trust them.
Misperceptions of this kind are common because we arguably lack complete information about anything.
This is true of our realms of expertise and even seeming knowables like who we are, why we do what we do, and what we want out of life.
All of these things we know and don't know (and think we know, but don’t) help inform our unique perspective, and that unique perspective, in turn, influences our actions and behaviors.
One of the more frustrating elements of modern life—a period in which we're all more aware of each other, on a global scale, than at any point in history—is that other people can seem so amazingly ignorant about things we consider to be vital.
The parable of the blind men and the elephant—each man feeling a different part of the creature but none of the others, and thus assuming an elephant is like a tree trunk, a snake, a wall, etc—comes to mind here, as we're all traversing a complex reality relying solely upon our limited, individual perceptions.
There are other bits of information we can utilize, of course, but doing so requires that we trust outside sources potentially tethered to interests that aren't our own.
I could ask the seller how much the camera is worth, but his response might not be reliable because it's in his best economic interest to inflate the price as high as possible without scaring me away.
Likewise, I could ask a third-grader to explain quantum physics to me, and while they might gamely provide an answer, it's unlikely they'll convey anything practical on the matter.
We struggle with incomplete information and its consequences our entire lives, and it's unlikely we'll ever feel the entire elephant ourselves.
All we can do is attempt to identify better and more trustworthy sources of information over time: sources that describe what they perceive (in the context of all other possible perceptions) as accurately as possible.
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