Information and the Paradox of Value

Information and the Paradox of Value

  • Post by:
  • June 12, 2021
  • Comments off

Everywhere you look in your search for information about the screenprinting technologies, you seemingly have two choices; free and cost-based information. Stop for a moment and consider the truth of that statement.

by G. William Hood

Imagine for a moment a glass of water, a commodity that is essential to life. It is an apparent contradiction that water, while more valuable to our survival than diamonds, is less expensive than diamonds.

Paradox of Value

This concept is called the Paradox of Value also known as the Diamond–Water Paradox. First presented by philosopher Adam Smith in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Smith explained the value in exchange as being determined by labor:

“The real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.”

The True Cost

When searching for information, and expending effort and time to find what you believe to be the answer at no cost, or perhaps through experience, must be considered the toil and trouble—the true cost—of acquiring it. However, the search is not as easily resolved as one would wish.

There are great amounts of seemingly free information available to those in the screenprinting technologies; trade magazines, online forums, social media groups, seminars at trade shows, conversations with manufacturers representatives, and more. But, as Adam Smith pointed out, little is actually free, when the cost of the toil and trouble is considered.

As an example, with the reading of articles in trade magazines, one must constantly consider the bias and trustworthiness of the information. The majority of revenue for trade magazines is derived in the form of advertising by manufacturers and the articles must, of course, be biased to avoid losing the revenue. Many of the articles are actually written by representatives of the manufacturers as a way of gaining free advertising, by way of association, with their products. If you use the particular manufacturer’s product, the article may contain information of some value to you, but certainly not if you use a product by another of the myriad manufacturers of similar products.

You might be convinced to purchase the product from the manufacturer that is represented in the trade magazines, based on what you read. You have expended the effort to read the article, make a decision, and purchased the product, thus the information was not free.

Ask yourself, “Does it have value?” If you make the wrong choice and expend the effort only to find out that the product is not the best choice of product for your unique need, the value is greatly reduced. Still, you have expended your effort and received no value to you.

Another example is visiting an online forum or a social media group to seek an answer. Let’s use one of the most commonly asked questions, “Who makes the best ink?” The answer to this question is as varied as there are individuals on the forum or in the group. You will quickly find that there is no consensus and after expending much of your time reading over the answers, you will still be in the dark.

At best, you will only receive biased opinions. Most of the answers will be the brand of ink the individual is currently using, but you have to ask, “Why are they using this ink?” Perhaps they made their choice by taking action in the same way you did, and are only using the particular brand of ink because it seemed the most popular on the forum or in the group.

Perhaps the better question is, “Who makes the worst ink and why?

Source of Information

When receiving any information, stop for a moment, and consider the source of the information. Does the person who presented the information to you, have a vested interest in convincing you? You need to always be aware of the risk associated with the outcome of your decision, and you are not likely to receive it from someone who has a stake in convincing you.

“It is important to understand the value of the right information in order to know what risks are worth taking and which ones are worth avoiding in seeking the information.”

Does it really come down to cost?

Consumer research has shown that people are more likely to buy products that have a higher price as such products carry more intrinsic value to the consumer. But when it comes to acquiring information, the opposite holds true. Today, most people want their information to be without cost. They do not want a long-winded answer to their quest—just simple bullet-points that form a convincing solution.

As a society, we determine the value of information by what is seemingly more important to us in terms of what we need or want, whichever has the highest priority to us at the moment. It appears that as a whole, we no longer care about the amount of thought that went into the right answer, or for that matter whether is it without bias, correct, or helpful to us, only that it is quick, easy, and seemingly free of cost.


The short answer, even if incorrect, has a much higher value to most, than the long answer, even if correct. And, this is why so many people make the wrong decision and why the rate of business failures in the screenprinting technologies is so high.

Because there is a large supply of incorrect information in the world, the value of information is low. In other words, each bit of incorrect information that is written, the more society tends to believe that the information is correct, simply based on the amount of supply.

“To make mistakes or be wrong is human. To admit those mistakes shows you have the ability to learn and are growing wiser.” ― Donald L. Hicks, Look Into The Stillness

In truth, those who are capable of following the advice of Donald Hicks, knowing that they are not always right, will always seek out information that is accurate and of more value to them. They will always be willing to pay a higher price to get the right information, with the least amount of effort, that can satisfy both their needs and wants, and be more useful to them.

They understand that the right information, like a diamond, is worth valuable than the wrong information, no matter how abundant the wrong information. And thus, those with the right information can ask for a higher price for their “diamonds of information.

How about you? Do you have an abundance of right information or are you perhaps holding onto a vast amount of wrong information because of your belief that because it was seemingly a free commodity, that it must be correct?

Think about it—do you have the ability to learn, and grow wiser?


Categories: Free Articles