A Forest of News

I’m about halfway through the book The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb which is very generally about surprise events that are inappropriately rationalized with story lines after they have happened. Taleb does not find it difficult to write in a very personal style that wanders off in tangents for paragraphs or even just phrases at a time. One such tangent (and something that he refers to in numerous snide personal comments) is how it is useless to read or watch the news, that live streams of reports about an event in progress are useless for understanding what is occurring and why- one must wait to read it a book or magazine where the entire storyline can be represented.

For the past several years I have woken up early enough to have an hour free before needing to get ready for work and have spent it reading through a selection of news websites and more lately various blog posts that have accrued throughout the past day. About half of the blog posts that I receive are about economics or finance and can vary between a paragraph in length to several dozen screens. Post the crash from 2009 through to 2010 these were a fighting ground between different theories that were built up and torn down by the participants while the rest of us watched and learned in fascination. These days while some posts still look to the big picture others spend most of their bandwidth on the daily market moves or bits out of the world press- more about the trees and less about the forest.

I’ve decided to try Taleb’s advice and have been reading books and magazines in the morning. The Economist in particular is something that I’d moved away from reading all the time and its return has been a delight since it takes the issues of the week and only gives analysis to those events that aren’t just part of the normal daily variance. Reading other magazines with larger articles such as The Walrus has meant that I am not going through as many different topics as before, but I also walk to work thinking about one issue in a much more meaningful way that I would have.