Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free

Information doesn’t want to be free. Information doesn’t want to be expensive, either. In fact, information doesn’t “want” anything. It can’t. Only people want things.

What do people want? They want food. They want comfortable places to live. They want clean water and air. They want their kids to be happy and healthy. They want to be successful at their jobs. They want vacations. They want to know what’s going on. They want to laugh.

Information helps people get what they want, and then some. It helps them make better decisions. But only when they get the information they need at the right time and place — in context. An abundance of cheap (or free) information doesn’t necessarily help them make better decisions. In fact, too much information can make it difficult to decide — or worse, snatch their attention when they need it most.

In the abstract, information isn’t worth anything. But the right information at the right time can be the difference between acting skillfully and messing everything up. It can (literally) be the difference between life and death.

What’s that worth to you? How do you pay for it?