Do you ever feel like life has gotten out of control?

That your mind is about to breakdown on account of information overload?

That life has gotten JUST TOO NOISY?

Well, you are not alone.

We find noise everywhere, even in information science. Claude Shannon spoke of it when he developed his theory of information in the 1940s. According to Shannon, every communication channel contains some noise that interferes with the sending of a message. Depending on how the receiver views the noise, however, it can be instructive or destructive.

Noise, in other words, can actually be informative.

It contains information, even if it is not the information we are looking for or expecting to receive.

In fact, it is the information that we are not expecting to receive that has the potential to be the most informative.

It can be the most informative because it surprises us. It has the potential to tell us something new. Its deviation from the redundant patterns governing our communications tells us something different from what we already know.

Noise, in this respect, is a lot like nonsense.

When we come across a message or situation that does not compute with the logic in our brains, we often disregard it as senseless. When something does not align with our expectations of rationality, we tend to view it as destructive interference.

But what if it’s not?

What if that noise, that seemingly senseless stream of data we are receiving through different communication channels, actually carries more information than the data we are actively seeking? The data we are expecting?

We live in a world full of noise, a world full of distractions–of nonsensical messages that constantly interfere with our ability to make sense of it all. For this reason, it is always tempting to plug our ears to it. To disregard it as meaningless, disruptive, and destructive.

And yet, there is always the potential that if we unplugged our ears just a little bit and stopped viewing that nonsense as noise, we could discover useful information in it.

We might find out that it is in the noisiness of our communications with each other that we have the most to learn. We might begin to locate the redundancies of our own thought patterns and make a new discovery about ourselves.

This is the thought I am negotiating as I navigate the “noise” in my life this week. I am hoping to learn something new from it, and I hope you will learn something new from yours as well!