Sunday, September 17, 2017

my scaredy-cat

One of the things I notice about getting older is that as various other capacities (muscle, mind, etc.)  recede, the capacity to be afraid seems to add to its own bounty. Perhaps it is the increasing distance at which age stands from the flow of daily, work-a-day life. Or perhaps it is just my innate scaredy-cat.

Whatever ... One of the things that honestly scares me is the tendency of a younger crowd to rely on smart phones and other electronic gadgets as a way of feeling connected and assured.

A couple of months back, I stopped perusing BBC news because too many of the stories that popped up seemed to reflect other stories I had previously read. I read four or five news wires per day. And then I read about Amazon, Google and other 'smart' sales giants that had ways of tracking and associating and providing a reader with things s/he had shown an interest in in the past.

This tactic may make sense when it comes to selling the widgets of life, but when it comes to news, I want to know things that range afield from what I know already and what I am persuaded by. I want to make the choice of mental fodder and as often as not, it is what does not suit the cut of my preferential jib that brings me the most information and depth and meaning. OK, my taste is my taste.

But then I think of today's work-a-day world and its addiction to smart phones et al. If news is absorbed solely on devices that know the preferences of its users, how well-informed are they likely to be? Everyone agrees with me -- my smart phone tells me so. This is the real news, so my leanings must be correct.

This scares the shit out of me not because I have some halo-ed understanding that exceeds yours but rather because a universe that agrees with me is likely to be fake news in spades ... and my kids among others are likely to believe it and premise their lives on it and promote ever more ingrown views by means of it. Racism, for example, gets a boost. Misogyny gets a hand up. Dictatorship. Democracy as one big hoo-rah applause section. War. .... the list goes on and on.

It's bad enough trying to sort out my own biases without having them reinforced.

And the same goes for others.

Yes, I can probably keep a low enough profile so that this dumb-as-a-bent-spoon universe will largely pass me by. I'll be dead. But my kids?


  1. The kids will manage somehow, same as we did.

  2. You could spend some time researching the issue of your browser and apps tracking and spoon feeding you information and put your knowledge to use (and share it in you Blog).

    First, I think that if you're actually able to go directly to the "wire services," you're in better shape than most. I don't have (can't afford) direct access and don't really trust the public's free access.

    In the same vein newspapers are not a far model of internet based news. While the stories are similar across papers the slant and conclusion is different.

    Same with cable. I watched FoxNEWS while having lunch at a local eatery on Friday. I never knew that Ben Carson is THE Rock Star of Black Politicians. Funny how news facts get put into a story with a particular bias. Sure. Absolutely correct! This nonsense is nothing new.

    There are search engines that claim they don't track e.g.

    You can purge your cookies.

    Switch your browser.

    As for our children and grandchildren, the key is getting them to learn how to read and listen, to ask questions, and to think critically, This is no different than what we were (or should have been) taught. I'd imagine that in this area your background and career as a newspaperman puts you in a uniquely qualified position.