Why the News is Not Useful and What to do Instead?
News is Not Useful – News is the definition of a high-noise, low-signal media source. It is what you can do instead.
Here may be a doubtless lee travelled view. Reading the bulletin is one of the vilest ways to pass the time. We dedicate our time to two activities: being productive or entertaining ourselves. Unfortunately, the news has a limited application for both.
Regarding productivity, the news provides superficial insights with articles or opinions that are either irrelevant or will be in a short time. The information is a lot of noise and low signal, a mental model we will explore in this article.
When it comes to entertainment, the news is designed to entice us with headlines or images that invoke reactive emotional states, leaving us anxious, angry, or depressed.
Perhaps one of the only reasons people read the news is to feel “in the know” so they don’t look like fools at dinner parties. I haven’t read the information for about five years, but I can still hold a conversation on most topics with my friends. This article will share my approach and how it might work for you.
Signal against Noise and News
To understand why the news is so useless in helping us gain a holistic understanding of issues, we first need to quickly explore the phenomenon of signal versus noise.
Signal versus noise, or more correctly, signal to noise ratio, is the measure of the desired signal compared to the background noise. The easiest method to describe this is through the idea of an audio recording. For example, the diagram below shows the waveform of someone speaking. When the person stops saying there is still a background noise level, you can see that there is still a level of background noise. This noise is always here. It’s just that the signal usually masks it.
The signal vs noise calculation is straightforward: the movement: noise ratio is the desired output (the signal) over the unwanted output (the noise).
Signal Versus Noise and Time
Let’s add one more element to this, the signal and noise concerning time. Imagine owning a casino and looking to get an idea of its profitability. If you look at the graph, it would probably look like this.
There would be peaks and valleys, but overall your income would be increasing. So you could easily pick out the signal, which is the trend of profitability. But what if you looked at it daily?
T would be much more difficult to distinguish a discernible trend. What about the one hour?
Probably Completely Impossible.
Watching the news for hours or days makes it impossible to distinguish the signal (what is happening) from the noise (what is irrelevant).
Why Reading the News is all Noise?
When you read the news, you are strong, something that is, by its definition, ‘new’. That is because you are reading the events as they report, and because of this, there will be a lot of irrelevant information within the critical stuff.
It is not helpful because a website should publish a similar number of articles. So if there were a tranquil day, the same amount of articles would continue to be posted to fill the space so that media companies can continue to make money. Also, by focusing on small developments as they happen, we can lose sight of the big picture, which is vital if we are ever to take any meaningful action to change things.
Now the arguments in favour of reading the news usually go something like this:
“We need news to keep people informed about what’s going on in the world so that people can understand the world around them.”
It is true. But does the news give any deep and holistic understanding of complex issues? Does it help people understand the world around them?
I would say no, let’s discuss a better way, a strategy for making sense of complex current issues that I have used for the last five years to help me deal with life’s biggest problems.
What to try instead?
Step one – determine the most queries you’d like answered
The first factor I do once a brand new story or movement grabs my attention is an attempt to perceive the underlying themes of this story. What ideas, questions, principles, and theories would facilitate Pine Tree State higher perceive this idea?
Let’s work with AN example, taking a current issue we have a tendency to area unit all acquainted with: the Coronavirus.
In understanding the Coronavirus, I wished to answer three questions:
- however dangerous is the Coronavirus?
- What actions am I able to expect the govt to shield me?
- What can I do in-person to resist this pandemic?
Step two – appreciate high signal sources to assist answer these queries.
Now you will need to answer these queries, and therefore the best way to do this is through a high signal supply. However, does one realize a high signal source? The solution is easy. As a standard rule of thumb, the longer a well-liked outlet has been in circulation, the additional possible it’s to be a sign. It’s AN outlet that has stood the look at your time. You’ll notice that news articles, by their nature, are unit transient. You’ll presumably realize that the high signal sources area unit books that are around for a couple of years.
Here area unit the sources I selected to answer these queries.
How dangerous is the Coronavirus?
I selected to browse au courant the ideas of exponential growth and examine the book Naked Statistics. Exponential growth isn’t such a troublesome construct to know. You are locution that measurement will increase by a given quantity (for example, it doubles every three days). Once you recognize this, will|you’ll|you’ll be able to} see however life can increase by an unbelievable quantity in a very short time.
What actions can I expect the govt to require to shield me?
I selected to browse Nassim Taleb’s ‘Black Swan’ to answer this question. A book counselled to Pine Tree State describes how humans admit risk. In ‘Black Swan’, Taleb states that the human brain thinks of the worst case because of the worst that has ever happened, which is valid until one thing has never happened before! By understanding this idea, I recognised that the govt wouldn’t indurate a virus. Therefore I ought to mentally prepare myself for things to be pretty dangerous.
What am I able to personally do to resist this pandemic?
For me, respondent this question was reading AN previous favourite. Marcus Aurelius’s meditations area unit choked with a stoic recommendation, shedding perspective on recognising what’s at intervals our zone of management and what’s not.
Step three – begin Formulating Your ideas
Once you have answered the essential queries you asked in step one, you ought to currently be able to combine your ideas. the most effective way is to write them down. It’s not necessary to share them anyplace. The easy act of writing is enough. You will conjointly need to lift your opinions with your friends, going back and forth. Expect your ideas to alter and evolve. That’s the educational method.
Following these steps could seem a ton of additional work than merely looking at the news. And taking over the most recent compelling argument you detected on a subject as your own. However, I will assure you that it’s far more valuable. By specialising in high-signal sources, like long-form literature, instead of in haste writing news articles, you will be ready to steer further from the anxiety and distraction of the news and move through life with clarity.