R. Paul Wilson On: Data – What Matters Most?

R. Paul Wilson On: Data – What Matters Most?

In any situation or human interaction, information flows between participants depending on what is deliberately being conveyed or observed.

Some factors are unimportant distractions, some are difficult to notice but essential to understanding the true nature of what’s going on.

This is true of a scam, a legitimate game of poker and a worldwide pandemic.

Sorting Out The Noise

Yes, I’m well aware that there’s something redundant about the phrase “worldwide pandemic”.

The word pandemic already indicates that a pathogen has a global impact, yet I feel that the we still need that added reminder to retain the weight of our current crisis.

So it’s unnecessary information but retains clarity and underlines the seriousness of a word that has become all too familiar.

Unnecessary information can be like noise in the room while trying to engage in (or listen to) a conversation, yet human beings are actually pretty good at filtering out the background to focus on what interests us.

This is the secret to the art of magic where the term “misdirection” is a clear misnomer since the best exponents learn how to direct audience attention by structuring performances so it always seems as if we are watching the most important action; meanwhile another covert action is what makes the mundane into a miracle.

Con artists also understand how to keep their victims distracted from deception by playing those victims based on their wants or needs, while anticipating every move or challenge based on past experience.

And while playing blackjack, the vast majority of players spend all their attention on the cards they are dealt while professional card counters process all available information from that game to inform their decisions.

They take the time to collect data from what everyone is dealt and do the work to apply that data to future decisions.

Likewise, in poker, most players concentrate on their cards and the action that applies to any one round of play while experts are constantly collecting data from other players’ decisions, positions and plays.

In any situation, it is always valuable to consider what information might be available to help inform us of what’s actually going on, so I always recommend that people be aware of how narrow their focus is on any decision process they might be engaged in.

Field Of Vision

The ability to sit back and consider what’s happening around us is entirely dependent on being conscious and confident enough to survey those surroundings.

Think about your first time playing a game.

It doesn’t matter if it’s blackjack, chess or Go Fish; at the beginning, we are always consumed by learning the rules and procedures that will help us play that game.

When playing Hungry Hungry Hippos it’s a pretty shallow learning curve before we are perfectly adept at hitting those buttons so we might quickly learn to watch our opponents in order to help time our own smash-button action.

With poker it’s a much higher mountain to climb in terms of playing the game at a high level but thankfully it’s a relatively easy game to learn how to play.

After a few rounds, anyone can be a danger to their own bankroll, but a few fledgling players will keep studying and learn to make decisions while soaking up every piece of information the game allows them.

Experience allows us to act with confidence while freeing up our attention to watch our surroundings and the more we do this, the better decisions we make in the long run.

Filtering The Barrage

Inexperience or lack of knowledge can be dangerous and expensive – as any gambler will tell you.

Even if we happen to get lucky, a smart player will remember times when they were seriously out of their depth and had no idea what they were doing.

I’ve won more than my fair share of pots playing hands I didn’t understand, and I’ve lost a lot more to situations that I didn’t know how to play.

But over time, I built up enough experience to lessen those occasions where I need to play on instinct rather than knowledge.

Experience is gained by learning what was important to know or observe in any given situation.

The problem is, filtering out the garbage requires the ability to recognise the difference between good information and bad information and the current global crisis is an excellent reminder of this.

At the time of writing, the world is still in the midst of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

There are several vaccines being promised for early 2021 but governments are still trying to contain the spread of the disease through lockdowns and tiered restrictions across the globe.

We have, over the past few months, endured a period of frustrating uncertainty as experts and politicians seem to flip-flop ideas based on emerging data that becomes overwhelming for anyone who tries to understand it all.

Because you can’t understand it all.

And you don’t need to.

Taking The Time

Analyzing data with magnifying glass.
Image: Shutterstock

Right now, we are in the middle of a data tornado with opinions and facts flying from every direction.

But as time passes, hard data emerges based on measurable results so as we look back we get a better picture of what was going on in the past.

In the present, the data has to be sifted, prioritised and selected based on experience learned from those past data.

The more proven information we have, the easier it is to identify as it emerges and once we have an entire cycle, it’s possible to make predictions for the next cycle or wave.

Science is about learning from mistakes, exploring ideas and discounting theories until all that remains is backed up by hard evidence.

One thing we can all learn from the coronavirus situation of 2020 is that information must drive decisions and the more and better that information is, the more effective our decisions can be over time if we adapt to that data.

This applies to games we play, business transactions we make and situations where we might be overly focused on the wrong data or where necessary information needs to be weeded out from other distractions.

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