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In the era of informatization and artificial intelligence, how should we find target information? Searching for Target Information Series 2.

1. Personal Information Status in the Information Age and the Age of Artificial Intelligence#

We are currently in an information age. With increasing global connectivity and people's pursuit of fast and efficient problem-solving, various aspects of people's lives, work, and learning are rapidly creating/discovering, disseminating, storing, and developing various information in the context of rapid development of various technologies such as computers, the Internet, and transportation and communication. In simple terms, technological development allows us to encode and sort various knowledge according to certain rules. The rapid circulation and dissemination of information also promotes the spread of false or incorrect information, ultimately leading to people being trapped in an information cocoon and becoming more closed off.

At the same time, we are also entering the age of artificial intelligence. Due to the limitations of artificial intelligence technology, current artificial intelligence has not yet reached the level of general artificial intelligence. Therefore, artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT-3.5 often fabricates data or information when answering questions, leading users to fall into the "illusion" that artificial intelligence is correct. For example, for a period of time, when asked why Lu Xun and Zhou Shuren fought, ChatGPT-3.5 would answer that it was because they had differences, and so on. When asked who the author of "Ailian Said" is, she would answer that it is Yang Wanli; sometimes she would answer Zhang Ailing, and so on. However, as ChatGPT calls more and more Chinese data, these types of questions will be corrected and their occurrence will gradually decrease, but it is still not possible to completely eliminate the possibility of artificial intelligence creating "illusions". Therefore, while using artificial intelligence, it is also important for us to be aware of the potential for misleading information caused by its "illusions".

2. Basic Principles of Querying Information Based on Information#

With the rapid development of the Internet and mobile communication (including the upcoming satellite communication) industry, the speed of information generation, storage, utilization, and discovery of new information has become faster. However, false information can also quickly penetrate into various aspects of people's lives and learning due to the convenient circulation of information. In addition to the "illusions" or errors caused by the imperfect nature of artificial intelligence technology, there are also rules for pushing similar information based on user preferences. How to ensure that one is not overwhelmed by the ocean of information or does not create an information cocoon that leads to biased or completely false information, and to find the target information needed to solve real-world problems, is crucial and important for improving personal cognition and abilities.

To find useful information, we need to first understand the basic patterns of information circulation and the basic carriers of information (see my article here). Based on the nature of information, we know that information is an encoding of people's understanding of the world and human beings. The basic principle allowed by encoding is usefulness (for humans or humanity). Based on our analysis of the nature and circulation patterns of information, we know that as encoded knowledge, information circulates in a cycle of creation or discovery, storage, circulation, utilization, and generation of new information. The main carriers of information include language, text, images, videos, holographic images, and so on. Understanding the nature of information, the basic circulation patterns, and the carriers of information can facilitate us in better and more efficient querying of useful information.

(1) Insights based on information encoding principles#

Find the most valuable sources and storage points of information. Since information is encoded based on usefulness, when searching for information, we can locate the information we need based on the subject, industry, department, etc., and obtain the required information accurately through corresponding disciplines, industries, and departments. For example, when querying the content of a certain element in a bottle of cosmetics (without specifying the proportion of this ingredient), we can look at the benchmark value of the content of this ingredient based on the product number and the standards that this cosmetic product must follow, and any exaggeration or reduction can be verified. Similarly, if you want to search for articles by a professor in the field of philosophy, you can search through their school's website, personal website, email, or professional philosophy websites such as https://philpapers.org/. If you need to download detailed information, you can use the foreign journal database purchased by the school or use tools similar to Sci-hub to download articles. If you want to inquire about the operating status of a company manager or whether they are a dishonest person, you can use tools such as Qichacha, Tianyancha, Qixinbao, etc. to query, through which you can obtain basic information about the company, operating information, business risks, and so on. For example, when querying "Evergrande," you can find that its shareholder "Guangzhou Kailong Real Estate Co., Ltd." has become an "executed person," and the company's legal representative Han Xue has been "restricted from high-end consumption" (query time: January 31, 2024).

(2) Insights based on information circulation patterns#

1. Regarding information sources, we need to find authoritative and reliable sources of information#

The circulation of information is most important for the generation of new information. Since anyone can become a source of information, various forms of information dissemination seem to have their own reasonable reasons and ways of existence. Therefore, when searching for information, it is necessary to distinguish which information is more valuable or reliable. Regarding information sources, we need to be clear that, usually for a specific question, we need to find experts or authorities in that field. To avoid information errors caused by the bias of a particular expert, it is necessary to refer to the opinions of experts at the same level and ultimately form our own opinions.

2. Regarding the storage of information circulation, we need to change our querying methods based on different storage methods#

Different information is stored in different carriers. For example, images can be stored in the form of books, films, or digital images, while videos can be stored on CDs, USB drives, external hard drives, NAS, etc. Due to different information storage methods, the ways of querying information will also vary.

Of course, in terms of information storage, people usually prefer to digitize information. Therefore, when querying information, we need to first know how to query digitized information. For this, we need to make good use of exploration engines represented by Google, academic article collection and statistical tools represented by Wiley, Google Scholar, PubMed, Web of Science, CNKI, etc., professional journals represented by Nature, Science, professional communities represented by Github, Stack Overflow, ResearchGate, and online education platforms represented by Coursera, edX. At the same time, we should make use of text generation artificial intelligence services represented by ChatGPT-4, Bard, and artificial intelligence literature analysis tools represented by elicit, scinapse, semanticscholar, chatpdf, etc. When using artificial intelligence services, extra caution is needed to verify the authenticity of the information and ensure its validity and value. Reference can be made to Snopes or factcheck or verified based on industry standards, dictionaries, expert opinions, etc.

For many information that has not yet been digitized, we need to explore more deeply. For example, for historical images, texts, and other information that has not been included or discovered on the Internet, we can usually achieve this by visiting public libraries or archives or special collections of universities and other research institutions, or by contacting historians or researchers involved in the image to inquire about social and historical local archives, or by accessing digital collections of museums, or by querying relevant books.

3. Regarding the utilization of information, when querying information, we need to first identify the most authoritative institutions for that information#

Different individuals or institutions have different mechanisms for reviewing, selecting, using, and storing information. Generally, the more specialized and large-scale the institution, the stricter the standards for selecting information, ensuring that the information obtained is accurate, reliable, and effective. Therefore, when querying information, it is more efficient to directly refer to experts or professional institutions in these fields, which saves us a lot of detours.

For example, for the development of artificial intelligence, we can usually learn about the latest and most advanced research and development information in the field of artificial intelligence from large companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. Of course, we can also learn the most reliable information from universities or research institutions such as Stanford University, MIT, etc. The general idea is similar when querying the development of artificial intelligence in China.

4. The development and utilization of information should follow scientific principles#

Although the development and utilization of information are not steps in information querying, they can affect the effectiveness of subsequent information querying. Therefore, it is necessary to emphasize that when developing and utilizing information, scientific research spirit and principles should be followed, and information should be used and generated in a factual and contextual manner as much as possible.


In summary, the key to querying information lies in first understanding the nature and circulation patterns and rules of information. We need to first locate the field where the information is located and find the most authoritative and core sources of information in that field. These sources include but are not limited to experts, professors, researchers, large companies, research institutions, academic institutions, etc. Then, by making full use of electronic information exploration tools and non-digitized querying methods, we can quickly find high-quality, reliable, and effective target information.

In the future, I will categorize and list some of the tools I have collected and analyzed for information collection, storage, and utilization. Stay tuned.

This article was originally published on January 19, 2024, and is archived here.

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