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新闻坏处多 少读更快乐

作者: 无锡翻译公司 发布时间:2017-05-04 10:29:37  点击率:

  

新闻坏处多 少读更快乐

 

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  In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most 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.Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.

  News misleads. Take the following event (borrowed from Nassim Taleb). A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car. Where he came from. Where he planned to go. How he experienced the crash (if he survived). But that is all irrelevant. What's relevant? The structural stability of the bridge. That's the underlying risk that has been lurking, and could lurk in other bridges. But the car is flashy, it's dramatic, it's a person (non-abstract), and it's news that's cheap to produce.News leads us to walk around with the completely wrong risk map in our heads.So terrorism is over-rated. Chronic stress is under-rated. The collapse of Lehman Brothers is overrated. Fiscal irresponsibility is under-rated. Astronauts are over-rated. Nurses are under-rated.

  We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.

  News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what's relevant. It's much easier to recognise what's new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age. Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we're cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

  News has no explanatory power. News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world. Will accumulating facts help you understand the world? Sadly, no. The relationship is inverted. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists' radar but have a transforming effect. The more "news factoids" you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand. If more information leads to higher economic success, we'd expect journalists to be at the top of the pyramid. That's not the case.

  News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system . Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.

  News increases cognitive errors. News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: "What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact." News exacerbates this flaw. We become prone to overconfidence, take stupid risks and misjudge opportunities. It also exacerbates another cognitive error: the story bias. Our brains crave stories that "make sense" – even if they don't correspond to reality. Any journalist who writes, "The market moved because of X" or "the company went bankrupt because of Y" is an idiot. I am fed up with this cheap way of "explaining" the world.

  News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers. But it's worse than that. News severely affects memory. There are two types of memory. Long-range memory's capacity is nearly infinite, but working memory is limited to a certain amount of slippery data. The path from short-term to long-term memory is a choke-point in the brain, but anything you want to understand must pass through it. If this passageway is disrupted, nothing gets through. Because news disrupts concentration, it weakens comprehension. Online news has an even worse impact. In a 2001 study two scholars in Canada showed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Why? Because whenever a link appears, your brain has to at least make the choice not to click, which in itself is distracting. News is an intentional interruption system.

  News works like a drug. As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore. Scientists used to think that the dense connections formed among the 100 billion neurons inside our skulls were largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. Today we know that this is not the case. Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. 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. If you read the newspaper for 15 minutes each morning, then check the news for 15 minutes during lunch and 15 minutes before you go to bed, then add five minutes here and there when you're at work, then count distraction and refocusing time, you will lose at least half a day every week.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 stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can't act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is "learned helplessness". It's a bit of a stretch, but I would not be surprised if news consumption, at least partially contributes to the widespread disease of depression.

  News kills creativity. Finally, things we already know limit our creativity. This is one reason that mathematicians, novelists, composers and entrepreneurs often produce their most creative works at a young age. Their brains enjoy a wide, uninhabited space that emboldens them to come up with and pursue novel ideas. 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. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don't.

  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.

  I have now gone without news for four years, so I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It's not easy, but it's worth it.查看译文

  过去几十年,我们有幸认识到过量饮食的危害(例如导致肥胖和糖尿病),进而开始改变饮食结构。但是,大多数人并不知道新闻之于思维,如同糖类之于身体。媒体奉上的逸闻趣事、琐碎信息其实与我们的生活无甚关联,但易于理解,读起来并不费脑。因此我们对新闻从未有过饱足感。与阅读书籍和长篇杂志文章(这些都需要边读边思考)相比,无数闪现在眼前的小段新闻更加易于“吞噬”。对于思维,它们就像五彩缤纷的糖果。如今,新闻对于我们来讲如同20年前的食物一样,人们逐渐意识到,新闻可能也是有害的。

  新闻产生误导。下面借用纳西姆·塔勒布[1]的一个例子:一辆车驶过一座桥,结果桥塌了。这则新闻的重点是什么呢?是这辆车,是车里的人—他从哪里来,要到哪儿去?(如果他幸免于难)这场事故经过是怎样的?然而,这些都无关紧要。什么才是至关重要的呢?是大桥的结构稳定性。它暗含着重大风险,而同样的风险还可能存在于其他桥梁。但是新闻中却充斥着这辆车如何光鲜亮丽,遭遇如何扣人心弦的信息,甚至把它刻画成一个人物(非抽象的)。如此报道,毫无价值。新闻给大脑一张全然错误的风险地图,让我们偏离了重点。正因如此,恐怖主义、雷曼兄弟破产以及宇航员这类主题被过度渲染,而慢性精神压力、财政失责以及医护人员这类主题却报道不足。

  面对媒体,我们尚不够理性。看到电视里报道飞机失事,也不管这种概率实际有多大,人们很容易就改变自己对此类风险的看法。如果你以为能通过内心的深思熟虑抵消这种影响,那么你错了。事实表明,银行家和经济学家纵然利用强大的手段也无法弥补新闻导致的危害。唯一解决之道是:与新闻完全隔绝。

  新闻无关紧要。在你最近一年中阅读的上万条资讯中,很难找出这样一条新闻:因为读了它,让你面临人生、职场或事业的重大问题时做出了更好的决定。原因在于,你所读的新闻与你自身毫无关系。人们很难辨别哪些新闻与自己有关系,但是很容易知道哪些是新的。当今时代,关联度和新颖性是一对基本矛盾。媒体想让人们觉得新闻可以为之提供某种竞争优势,而许多人竟信以为真。一旦与新闻隔绝,我们就焦躁不安。而事实上,新闻只会令人在竞争中处于劣势。读的新闻越少,你的优势反而越多。

  新闻无法解释世界。新闻不过是浮于表面的水泡,现实世界深藏其下。不断积累事实有助于你了解这个世界吗?很遗憾,不能。恰恰相反,真正重要的事实并没有报道出来。它们不为记者关注,发展缓慢,却拥有改变一切的强大能量。你对杜撰新闻消费得越多,你对现实宏图的了解就越少。如果资讯越多,经济就越繁荣,那我们真该期望记者们稳坐金字塔顶端。但事实绝非如此。

  新闻毒害身体。它不断触动大脑边缘系统。令人恐慌的新闻使人体内糖皮质激素(皮质醇)呈级联式分泌,导致免疫系统紊乱,抑制生长荷尔蒙分泌。也就是说,使身体长期处于精神压力之下。高糖皮质激素水平还导致消化功能受损、(细胞、毛发和骨骼)生长缓慢、情绪紧张,让人容易感染疾病。其他潜在副作用还包括:恐惧感、攻击性、视野狭窄和麻木不仁。

  新闻增加认知错误。新闻为“确认偏误”[2]提供养分,而后者正是一切认知错误的源泉。沃伦·巴菲特曾说“人类最擅长将所有新信息都解释一通,以确保先前的结论不受影响。”新闻则是这种缺陷的帮凶,使我们过于自信,盲目冒险,错判时机。此外,新闻还助长了另一种认知错误:新闻偏见。大脑渴望“有意义”的新闻,即便这些新闻与事实不符。弱智记者在稿子中解释“市场因为某某原因而波动”或者“公司因为某某原因而破产”,见解之拙劣,令我不胜其烦。

  新闻抑制思考。只有免受打扰才能集中注意力,进而潜心思考。新闻片段却似乎是专为打断思考而设计。它们如同病毒,为了一己之私分散人的注意力,令我们无法深入思考。更糟糕的是,新闻严重损害记忆力。记忆分两种:长期记忆和短期记忆。前者潜力近乎无限,后者却仅限于一定数量的不确切信息。短期记忆转化为长期记忆是大脑的一项瓶颈,但要形成对事物的理解,这一关不可逾越。如果这一过程中断,我们什么都学不会。新闻打断注意力,从而弱化了理解力。网络新闻的负面影响则更为严重。2001年,两位加拿大学者曾做过一项研究。他们发现,文章中链接越多,人们的理解力就下降得越快。原因何在?因为一旦出现链接,大脑就至少得做出是否点击的决定,这本身就是在分散注意力。可见,新闻是专门打断思维的机器。

  新闻就像毒品。随着新闻事件发展,我们想知道接下来发生了什么。脑子里那几百种故事情节令好奇心愈发难以抗拒,挥之不去。过去,科学家们认为大脑内上千亿神经元间的紧密联系大部分在我们成年之前就固定下来。而今,我们发现事实并非如此。神经细胞之间不断打破旧联系,形成新联系,如同例行公事一般。接触的新闻越多,大脑就要越发频繁地启动用于略读和多重任务处理的神经回路,忽略用于深度阅读和专注思考的神经回路。多数新闻读者(即使他们曾经热衷读书)已经失去了理解长篇文章或书籍的能力,仅仅阅读四、五页,就无法集中注意力,且心生厌倦,烦躁不已。这并非因为年龄增长或者事务繁重,而是因为大脑生理构造发生了改变。

  新闻浪费时间。如果你每天早晨、午餐时和睡觉前各花15分钟读新闻,工作中再不时抽出5分钟来看新闻,不妨计算一下注意力分散和重新找回所耗时间。你会发现每周至少半天时间就这么浪费了。新闻不再是稀缺商品,而注意力却是。你不会不在乎金钱、名誉和健康,可为什么却不把思维当回事呢?

  新闻令人消极。绝大多数新闻里讲述的都是我们无法改变的事。每天反复阅读新闻,因无法左右现实而饱受折磨,我们就会变得消极。久而久之,或悲观厌世,或麻木不仁,喜欢冷嘲热讽,凡事听天由命。这一现象在科学上称为“习得性无助”。也许这么说有点言过其实,但是新闻消费至少在一定程度上导致抑郁症流行。对此我并不感到意外。

  新闻扼杀创造力。这是我要讲的最后一点。已知信息限制了创造力。这也是为什么数学家、小说家、作曲家和企业家最有创造力的成绩产生于年轻时期。他们脑海中有片广袤无垠、人迹罕至的天地,在这里他们可以大胆追求新奇想法。据我所知,那些有创造力的人,无论是作家、作曲家、数学家、科学家、音乐家、画家,还是医师、设计师或建筑师,没有谁是新闻“瘾君子”。另一方面,大量极度缺乏创造力的人却像吸毒一样对新闻成瘾。想墨守成规?看新闻吧。想别出心裁?还是别看了。

  社会需要新闻行业,但不是现在这种局面。调查性新闻报道往往能切中要害,而我们的报道就应该发挥监督各类机构和揭露事实真相的作用。不过,重大发现不一定非得以新闻形式体现。长篇杂志文章以及有深度的书籍也是上佳选择。

  近四年,我摆脱新闻的束缚,转而选择去看,去感觉。我的切身体会是:内心不再焦虑彷徨,可以深度思考而不被打断,有了更多时间来洞察世事。虽得之不易,但物有所值。

  [1]纳西姆·塔勒布(1960–),安皮里卡资本公司创办人,纽约大学库朗数学研究所研究员,当前最令人敬畏的风险管理理论学者。

  [2]确认偏误指的是个人选择性地回忆、搜集有利细节,忽略不利或矛盾的资讯,来支持自己已有的想法的片面诠释。

  (译者 AshleyColin 编辑 丹妮)

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