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comment by swearitwasntme
swearitwasntme  ·  1988 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Reading The News Is Bad For You (Not Reading Will Make You Happier)

    who do I know to vote for at all levels of government if I don't follow US politics? How do I know what to do with my money if I don't follow world finance? How do I know where to vacation and where not to vacation if I don't follow world news? Those are fundamental questions (and yes, you might respond that I could just "ask an expert" -- but come on).

A more fundamental question is what really constitutes knowledge. Haven't you ever found yourself talking to someone and quoting a news article only to find that they've got personal experience that invalidates it? Following US politics doesn't tell you much about which campaign promises will turn out to be lies, world news won't tell you how not to get mugged in your own town, and hell, the best financial forecasting in the world is still pretty close to 50/50. I believe this to be the fundamental reason why reading the news is sometimes bad for you: it can lead to a false sense of certainty about the world and then distress when that illusion is shattered.

Even an understanding of the world that comes from direct experience is sort of a statistical inference that assumes that past behavior accurately represents what will happen in the future. Trusting other peoples' interpretations of interpretations of dispatches of firsthand accounts from across the world is just an aggregation and layering of somebody else's inferences. And on that topic:

    Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful - George E. P. Box

Life is easier with fewer expectations that you know exactly how things are going to play out.




flagamuffin  ·  1988 days ago  ·  link  ·  

As to that, I agree in general, but would counter that it completely depends what you read. Photoessays from journalists on the scene in Syria are news. Articles on the state of the bitcoin from experts are news. Hard not to benefit from knowledge if you know what you're doing.

I follow US politics for many reasons, not least of which is that it makes election night very interesting when it otherwise would be confusing and pointless. But I would say that yes, having a general knowledge of politics does tell you what's going to be a lie in some cases -- various politicians have been promising to hit a budget surplus consistently for years now, and none of them have done it for very long ... now Paul Ryan wants to. Should I believe him? Nope.

World news indeed will not tell me how not to get mugged in my own town. (I'm honestly not sure why I should expect it to?) Common sense will probably help me out there, though.

The best financial forecasting in the world isn't really 50/50, either. There are plenty of ways to safely invest money longterm for a guaranteed small return -- but only not having your head in the sand and knowing a bit about economics would have told you not to invest in real estate in 2007.

    I believe this to be the fundamental reason why reading the news is sometimes bad for you: it can lead to a false sense of certainty about the world and then distress when that illusion is shattered.

This is utterly and completely a personal problem (not your personal problem; a common problem that people have when attempting to separate fact and opinion). Bad proofs can lead to a false sense of certainty about math, but we don't swear off math as a result, usually.