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I’m Kind Of Sick of the World

I had three devices operating simultaneously, and somehow still managed to be wrong about everything.

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My flight from San Francisco arrived at 11:45 p.m., and I was exhausted. My car needed gas, extending my hour drive home (without traffic) to an hour fifteen. I just wanted to crawl into bed.

Sucked Down the Information Sewer

Then the damn local news and talk radio station started telling stories of a shooting in Boston at MIT. A campus cop was shot, according to the news, during hold-up at a convenience store near campus. Dozens of police SWAT vans, cars, and helicopters were on the scene.

So I got home and flipped on a 24-hour news channel on the television. The radio news was at least two hours behind. The flashing lights and black panel vans had migrated to a suburb of Boston. Residents—now witnesses—reported a minute-long gun battle in their sleepy streets. (One minute may not sound long, but one minute is eternity for people in the vicinity of a gun fight.)

Police scanner traffic talked about two men throwing homemade grenades and other explosives from their speeding car.

Reports were fractured and inconsistent. No one could explain how the MIT campus police murder, the convenience store robbery, a carjacking, and the real-life first-person shooter video game were connected.

I was following everything on Twitter, Reddit, news websites, television, and police scanner apps.

And I knew nothing.

I had the names of the suspects wrong. So did a lot of people.

I went to bed at 4:30 a.m. thinking one thing and woke up at 8:30 a.m. hearing I’d been completely bamboozled.

Information Isn’t Always Helpful

I wish I’d ignored the entire Boston Marathon bombing.

Ignored is probably the wrong word. I wish I’d just missed it.

The time between the bombing and the shootouts I was in another world. I was on business, but the really cool business of gamificaiton. I didn’t watch much news or read newspapers. I was immersed in the noble practice of making the world more like a game, making work more human. Even though my iPhone battery kept dying in a couple of hours, I couldn’t stay connected to wifi (no fault of the facility or organizers), and I had a stomach thing the whole time, three days of gamification beat the hell out of feeling useless and scared.

Sometime Knowledge Is the Opposite of Power

There was nothing for me to do about the Boston bombing and its investigation. There still isn’t. So how could knowing more about it—more that turned out to be flat wrong—help me or others?

It couldn’t. Not living in St. Louis. Not with my skills and experience and talent. I was of no use to the people trying to capture the culprits or nurse the wounded or comfort the survivors.

We convince ourselves that we must know everything as it’s happening. We don’t. Stuff blowing up on TV reported by hyperventilating anchors creates a false sense of urgency and danger that leads to paranoia and surrender of control.

Enough.

I’m going on an information diet.

If it’s really important and really urgent and I personally need to know or get involved, someone will tell me. And that someone won’t be a news anchor.

4 thoughts on “I’m Kind Of Sick of the World”

  1. Totally agree Billy. Although I started feeling that way during the whole Iginla trainwreck. I was glued to all the typical hockey outlets, who were all in agreement that NO DOUBT he was headed to Boston and the deal was done. As they continuously puked nhl jargon related to the hypothetical, or should I more appropriately say bullshitical line combinations in Bruinland, official word had still not been reported. I became sucked in until I had to force myself to look away from my android and check out the insides of my eyelids. Then waking up from what seemed like a drunken nap , I find out that he’s headed to ArmPittsburgh. When I came to, sipping my Kaldis thick black coffee (or as I refer to it, an aretha franklin, but waaay hotter) I immediately realized that I didn’t give two shits about what sweater he’d don…actually not even one. They say you can never catch up on sleep but I can certainly get a better nights sleep by waiting until the full story unfolds its facts. Maybe we all should, eh?!

    1. That’s exactly it. I get sucked into this “need to know” black hole all the time, and to no benefit to myself or to anyone else.

      Technologists talk about the difference between data and information. Data are raw inputs. Information is what comes from the data after they’ve been parsed, analyzed, and filtered. Distilled, maybe, so the impurities don’t go down the gullet.

      It’s like making whiskey. You begin with mash, which is basically just grain, barley, and yeast. This ferments for a couple of weeks, then it’s distilled. Distillation evaporates the alcohol from the ferment, then condenses it. The alcohol’s barreled and aged, then cut with distilled water and served. On ice with a bit of club soda.

      The way we get news today we skip the distillation, aging, and cutting. We drink the ferment, which tastes like shit and is often poisonous.

      Some will say, “do you want the MSM distilling information for you?” Yes. I can always go back to the twitter streams–the mash–if I need to. If there’s nothing I can do about it, why do I care?

  2. Bill – I loved the article. And I couldn’t agree more. I had friends on Facebook crying ‘conspiracy’ because there were four bombs on Monday, but by Tuesday, there were only two. These people don’t stop to think that with only seconds to gather facts, perhaps these news reporters got it wrong on Monday, but were able to get the real facts from the authorities by Tuesday’s newscast.

    1. It’s amazing how the bombardment of data triggers our brains to find patterns, whether they’re there or not.

      Good to hear from you. How are doing?

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