|Taken at the Center for Civil & Human Rights in Atlanta: One Week Before MLK Day|
It has been a long time now since I was reading The Four-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. I didn’t read it all the way through, because I got to a point where he was talking about how to read quickly through books, and how you can skip most of the stuff. He tried to convince me that his book was different, though, and that I should read it in its entirety. I didn’t.
In chapter 6, he speaks of a low-information diet. He makes some very valid points, one of which was retention. When most of us read the entire book, or the entire article in a news source versus the headline and some highlights, we can’t regurgitate or retain much of anything past the headline and highlights anyway. So why bother? I agree with that to some extent.
In chapter 7, he talks about how he never accepted anything less than an A in college and his technique for doing so. It involved taking whatever paper that had a grade lower than an A to the professor/instructor/grader with hours worth of questions for two purposes.
- To get every last detail about how papers were graded, down to the grader’s pet peeves and prejudices.
- To instill a standard that this would happen every time the grader assigned something lower than an A.
This bothered me so much as an academic, I think this is where I had to stop reading the book.
Back to the low information diet. I did this for a while, ignoring the news. Letting the news come to me was refreshing. If something was important for me to know, I waited for someone else to tell me.
I noticed that I cannot be a good citizen, nor can I make the contributions that are part of my philosophy without informing myself of the current events. Granted, I use the spirit of his idea, and keep my reading of current events to a bare minimum, but I want to be up to speed. I want to be able to discuss them with people, and not just get the word from them. I want to be the progress I want to see in the world. In order to do that, I need to keep informed.
Contribution to society may not be part of your philosophy, and perhaps this isn’t as important to you. If that is the case, a low information diet is just fine for you. Indeed, it is blissful. Ignorance is bliss.
But I despise ignorance. So, a low information diet doesn’t work for me.
4 thoughts on “The Low Information Diet and Why It Doesn’t Work”
Great post! I maintain a low information diet but share your concern about being a good citizen. Cal Newport recently wrote a great blog post about this very thing (the relevant section has the header “Case Study: Supporting a Desire to Stay Informed About Politics”).
I'll need to check that out. Thanks for the tip on Newport's blog post.
Holy crap! I just read that post, and he explained almost exactly what I do!
I have New York Times (Morning Briefing) and the Wall Street Journal (10-Point) delivered to my mailbox each business day, “dive into [their] political thinking, notice the fundamental disagreements; build familiarity with the major streams of contemporary ideological thinking, etc.”
That's awesome! Great minds think alike, obviously.