While I think the stakes for the upcoming election are pretty high, the past months of media coverage have only increased my conviction that there is something fundamentally wrong with our understanding of “the news.” I don’t follow “media studies” much, so the observation that follows may in some circles be a commonplace. But here it is: while we are to believe that there is always something new under the sun, and that an educated human being and a good citizen are to pay close attention to such developments in the news, in fact our fascination with the news causes us to spend a great deal of time and attention on things that are not very important. Within a week, a month, or a year, the vast majority of what appears on TV or in a newspaper will be rightfully forgotten, of interest only to specialists of one sort or another if to anyone at all. The news is for the most part not even the stuff that one will regret one day not remembering; it is the sort of thing that was not worth knowing in the first place.
What we call the news is really just the fractal repetitions of the human condition, the follies and triumphs that are experienced by individuals, communities, cities, states, nations, empires, each at its own scale. Those who are closely touched by these matters must for better and for worse attend to them to the appropriate degree. But our own affairs are just that; most of the time what the news tells about the affairs of others has very little to do with them, and our interest is the interest of the voyeur. In the midst of the flow of events, I am not aware of anyone who has a consistent ability to pick out and highlight those relatively few things that will have enduring or widespread significance. Time does that for us. If we wanted to be serious about “current events,” then nothing would be covered until after it had had a chance to age; we would want our news to be our olds.
What does this point have to do with transhumanism? We’ve noted before in this blog how transhumanism is in many respects a manifestation of some of our more problematic cultural characteristics. If our fascination with the news is unhealthy, then transhumanism shares that ailment, with its love of the new, the novel, whatever appears disruptive. It routinely confuses the latest with the greatest, and mistakes speedy communication of information for knowledge. Like the news, it is subject to thinking that something is important because it is happening right now, under our noses, making its allegedly long view remarkably short-sighted.
Rolf Dobelli wrote a paper about exactly this phenomena. He basically suggests avoiding news completely and reading books and technical papers instead. His piece is highly recommended:
Actually I'm avoiding news actively for one and a half years now, and it is indeed a positive experience.
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