Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – I have often said that the internet has made us dumber. All one has to do to see evidence of this is go through your email box on any given day. Look at the things that are forwarded to you. Just sample some of them and read some of them. You will ultimately find that many of them are, at best, urban legends. Most of them are afactual and ahistorical. Because you took the time to read them, you were probably distracted from doing something that is actually productive. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: I have a story in the Pile of Prep that I did not get to last week and that I lamented the fact that I did not get to it. It would be very useful in a conversation with a future Greg. [mocking] “Can you statistically prove this?” I can’t statistically prove that the incorporation doctrine has destroyed the federalism fabric that the American Union was formed on. I know it to be true. I can look at it. I can see that that has happened. I don’t know that I can statistically prove that. Oh, but we’re news junkies. We have to be able to prove everything. Everything can be boiled down to a science, into a scientific answer. If you just read more news, Mr. Church, then you would know these things. Rolf Dobelli, writing at The Guardian UK newspaper on the 12th of April 2013, under the headline “News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier.” I’m just going to do this in part here.
A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car. Where he came from. Where he planned to go. How he experienced the crash (if he survived). But that is all irrelevant. What’s relevant? The structural stability of the bridge. That’s the underlying risk that has been lurking, and could lurk in other bridges. But the car is flashy, it’s dramatic, it’s a person (non-abstract), and it’s news that’s cheap to produce. News leads us to walk around with the completely wrong risk map in our heads. So terrorism is over-rated. Chronic stress is under-rated. The collapse of Lehman Brothers is overrated. Fiscal irresponsibility is under-rated. Astronauts are over-rated. Nurses are under-rated.
We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.
News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what’s relevant. It’s much easier to recognise what’s new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age. Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we’re cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.
News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world. Will accumulating facts help you understand the world? Sadly, no. The relationship is inverted. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists’ radar but have a transforming effect. The more “news factoids” you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand. If more information leads to higher economic success, we’d expect journalists to be at the top of the pyramid. That’s not the case.
News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.
News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers. [Mike: See last caller for example.] But it’s worse than that. News severely affects memory. There are two types of memory. Long-range memory’s capacity is nearly infinite, but working memory is limited to a certain amount of slippery data. The path from short-term to long-term memory is a choke-point in the brain, but anything you want to understand must pass through it. If this passageway is disrupted, nothing gets through. Because news disrupts concentration, it weakens comprehension. Online news has an even worse impact. In a 2001 study two scholars in Canada showed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Why? Because whenever a link appears, your brain has to at least make the choice not to click, which in itself is distracting. News is an intentional interruption system.
Mike: I have often said that the internet has made us dumber. All one has to do to see evidence of this is go through your email box on any given day. Look at the things that are forwarded to you. Just sample some of them and read some of them. You will ultimately find that many of them are, at best, urban legends. Most of them are afactual and ahistorical. Because you took the time to read them, you were probably distracted from doing something that is actually productive, which is why, in my email boxes — AG, do you have any email filters? Do you have an email filter that grabs anything that says “FWD:” and throws it in a box that says junk?
AG: I think it grabs crazy email addresses and spams them out for me.
Mike: Here’s a good filter for you. I don’t know if you get spam from college friends. Parents are especially dangerous. If you’re my age, parents are really dangerous with email addresses because they forward everything. You can have your email client go and look for anything that has an FW or FWD and say: Oh, forward? You don’t want to read that. Some of you are saying, [mocking] “Mike, you never return my messages.” Does your mail have something in it that says FW or FWD or RE? In other words, if someone sent it to you and you resent it to me. Almost anything that’s original I read. In other words, if it comes under the title “Mr. Church, greetings from Alaska.” There’s a very likely chance I will read that.
End Mike Church Show Transcript
Written by: AbbyMcGinnis
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