Value of Knowledge

Our search for knowledge usually takes us to the Internet. However, the Internet has spawned at least two generations of disinformation, since the first message was delivered by ARPANET on October 29, 1969. Today, when asked how one can gain knowledge of screenprinting, the novices on social media will answer that question with, “Just go on YouTube and watch a ton of videos!” But, what is the value of the knowledge acquired from watching videos on YouTube, or for that matter, any information?

Bill Hood, ASDPT Fellow

Unfortunately, YouTube videos are not graded on the accuracy of the information they present. The perception of value is that of the individual receiving the information. The individual watching the videos with the idea of learning a skill, such as screenprinting, will be inundated with differing opinions of the creators of the videos. At the end of each video, or more often than not after watching only a few minutes each of us, must justify the existence of the information that we have just received, and therein lies the beginning of the problem.

However, John Naisbitt, the author of Megatrends, said,

“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”

Information and the Paradox of Value

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

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.

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 seemingly 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 some information that has value to you, but at the same time, you can be sure that a person attempting to convince you to buy a product is leaving out the reasons for not buying the product.  And certainly, the information that is valuable from one manufacturer may 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. This is because each person is biased to the product they have purchased and do not want to believe that they made a poor decision.

Thus, 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 do you personally believe it is the worst ink?

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.”


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 within the screenprinting technologies is so high.

Because there is a large supply of incorrect information in the world, the perceived 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. Donald L. Hicks, wrote in Look Into The Stillness:

“To make mistakes or be wrong is human. To admit those mistakes shows you have the ability to learn and are growing wiser.”

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 more 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?

Excerpted from The Value of Knowledge –

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