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Life & Philosophy Politics & Society Quotes

‘Coercion is natural; freedom is artificial.’

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From Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club:

Coercion is natural; freedom is artificial. Freedoms are socially engineered spaces where parties engaged in specified pursuits enjoy protection from parties who would otherwise naturally seek to interfere with those pursuits. One person’s freedom is therefore always another person’s restriction: we would not have even the concept of freedom if the reality of coercion were not already present. We think of freedom as a right, and therefore the opposite of a rule, but a right is a rule. It is a prohibition against sanctions on certain types of behavior. We also think of rights as privileges retained by individuals against the rest of society, but rights are created not for the good of individuals, but for the good of society. Individual freedoms are manufactured to achieve group ends.

Democracy is an experiment, one that’s meant to keep going. Beware those who try to take it away like this, this, and this.

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News Social Media Tech

News makes your brain fat

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via Peekasso

News can be toxic. When consumed in excess, it can make your mind fat like eating fast food. You need to leave space in your brain for thinking, which means you need to reduce cognitive load. Writer and author Rolf Dobelli has spent the last four years ignoring the news.

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.

If you have a tendency to succumb to the inundation of cheap headlines, consider spending your time consuming slow media instead. Read a book, listen to an entire album — concentrate on the whole rather than snacking on the parts. The news wants to interrupt you and impede comprehension.

In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

Part of people’s fascination with the news is to confirm their own partisanship — Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats watch MSNBC. To quote Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”

As someone who scans the feeds to pluck interesting things–Twitter, RSS, Facebook, you name it — I see a lot of noise and very little signal. Breaking news is broken news; it clouds the brain with unnecessary knowing and anxiety, made worse by the fact that there’s nothing you can do to influence it.

So slow down. Take three deep breaths and reconsider the urge to know, especially when the news causes you to know less. No news is good news.