Samir’s Selection 04/15/2013 (p.m.)

  • [M]ost of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. 

    – News misleads.
    – News is irrelevant. 
    – News has no explanatory power. 
    – News is toxic to your body. 
    – News increases cognitive errors.
    – News inhibits thinking.
    – News works like a drug. (The more news we consume, the more we exercise the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading deeply and thinking with profound focus. Most news consumers – even if they used to be avid book readers – have lost the ability to absorb lengthy articles or books. After four, five pages they get tired, their concentration vanishes, they become restless. It’s not because they got older or their schedules became more onerous. It’s because the physical structure of their brains has changed.) 
    – News wastes time. (Information is no longer a scarce commodity. But attention is. You are not that irresponsible with your money, reputation or health. Why give away your mind?)
    – News makes us passive. 
    – News kills creativity. ( I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs.)

    Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers truth. But important findings don’t have to arrive in the form of news. Long journal articles and in-depth books are good, too.

    tags: news information addiction happiness unhappiness perception reality health mediacontent mediaindustry distraction attention neuroscience mind journalism RolfDobelli

  • “We talk as though we’ll be together forever, though I’ve always known better: Someday we’ll be ranked. Someday we’ll be screened and then separated…

     Percentile is destiny in America. 

    As a natural-born child of the meritocracy, I’d been amassing momentum my whole life, entering spelling bees, vying for forensics medals, running my mouth in mock United Nations meetings and model state governments and student congresses, and I knew only one direction: forward, onward. I lived for prizes, praise, distinctions, and I gave no thought to any goal higher or broader than my next report card. Learning was secondary; promotion was primary. No one had ever told me what the point was, except to keep on accumulating points, and this struck me as sufficient. What else was there?

    Appetite can be a kind of genius.

    Back then I knew where I was going, and that to get there I’d have to keep a clear head.

    With no stored literary material about which to harbor critical assumptions, I relied on my gift for mimicking authority figures and playing back to them their own ideas disguised as conclusions that I’d reached myself. The deployment of key words was crucial, as the recognition of them had been on the SATs. With one professor the charm was “ambiguity.” With another “heuristic” usually did the trick. Even when a poem or a story fundamentally puzzled me, I found that I could save face through terminology, as when I referred to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land as “semiotically unstable.”

    …we skipped straight from ignorance to revisionism, deconstructing a body of literary knowledge that we’d never constructed in the first place. 

    Who knew that serious drama could be like this? Who knew that the essence of high culture would turn out to be teasing the poor fools who still believed in it?

    It frightened me that had I not reached Princeton, I might never have discovered this; I might have remained a rube forever. This realization altered my basic loyalties. I decided that it was time to leave behind the folks who’d raised me and stand with the people who’d clued me in.

    A pure meritocracy, we’d discovered, can only promote; it can’t legitimize. 

     It had been years since I’d known what I was talking about, and I no longer expected such conversations to educate or enlighten me; I just expected them to sound good. 

    streams of sonic nonsense

    I started skipping classes, which wasn’t like me, since the heart of my personal program for winning distinction, despite my baseline bafflement, was the diligent daily maintenance of friendly relations with my professors. I’d learned that by showing up early to say hello and chat with them, staying late to ask them extra questions, and dropping in during office hours to drink their stale coffee and let them bum my cigarettes (they had always just quit smoking, it seemed, but without conviction), I could pull down Bs, at least. If I also showed signs of having read their books (particularly if the course did not require me to), I could manage As.

    …rather than go home and shock my family with my listlessness and dissipation. I also set out to rebuild my brain.

    -an act of contrition for squandering my high-percentile promise.

    “Perpetual self-betterment,” my boss said. “That’s man’s purpose on earth, you know.”

    …the only game I knew how to play-scaling the American meritocratic mountain, not to gain wisdom but just because it was there-was, I feared, about to end.

    I’d learned by then that the Masters of Advancement use a rough quota system in their work, reserving a certain number of wild-card slots for overreaching oddballs.

    I’d won again, and by doing what I did best: exploiting my meticulously indexed collection of lofty buzzwords, charming gestures, and apt allusions.

    He said he had no one to talk to, no one who shared his interest in art and literature

    And so, belatedly, haltingly, and almost accidentally, it began: the education I’d put off while learning to pass as someone in the know.

    tags: to-read story progress meritocracy competition life selfdiscovery WalterKirn

  • “You will seek out jobs which reward a high “G factor,” or high general intelligence.  That means finance, law, and consulting.  You are productive fairly quickly, you make good contacts with other smart people, and you can demonstrate that you are smart, for future employment prospects.”

    tags: career employment jobs finance law consulting

  • tags: Krugman employment austerity macroeconomics demand policy

  • tags: cricket IPL finance economics

  • tags: children culture cheating sports MCC cricket

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