Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Sticky World We Live In


I came across a provocative statement that listening to the radio each day or watching the nightly news is worse than reading the news in a weekly magazine, because the longer interval between installments of information allows to it be filtered better. We live in an age of information overload. The more input we receive, the more ideas we end up formulating along the way. The problem is that with so much information bombardment, we make less effort to be as discerning to sort what is noise from what is accurate.

Add to that the matter that the ideas we each generate are "sticky"; once we formulate an idea about one matter or another, we are not likely to change our minds. It turns out that those who delay settling on new ideas are ultimately better off. When you develop opinions on the basis of weak or insubstantial evidence or outright propaganda, you will have difficulty interpreting subsequent information that contradicts those opinions, even if the new information is obviously more accurate. As creatures of habit, we are subject to the tendencies of confirmation bias and belief perseverance, the tendencies to consider valid only those ideas that are supportive of your own and hold to ideas even though you suspect or know they are wrong. We all treat ideas like our possessions and have a hard time parting with them.

Looking at the stark divide in ideology within the United States, I suspect much of it is the result of overload in our information age and known human tendencies rather than actual differences in outlook and expectation. In the end, we all pretty much want the same things out of life and share more in common than political and media agitators would have us believe.

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