Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Speculation, The Giant Time Waster That Sucks Us In

Someone recently mentioned they wished they could have back the week of their life they spent glued to the television during the Kavanaugh hearings. While the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh riveted Washington and the nation with hours of fiery, emotional testimony, in the end, it may not have been the best use of time for those watching. Speculation has the potential to be a massive time-waster, but both men and women tend to get sucked into this pastime that can while away the hours.

Speculation Was Not Kind To Mark Twain
This is not to say thinking through problems or looking at the various options being presented has no merit, but more often than not humans waste a lot of time pondering things that will never happen or never did. We even ponder why someone took a certain action or why something took an unpredictable turn. The habit of carrying speculation to an extreme is a curse.  
Speculation is defined by Oxford University Press as the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence: such as "there has been widespread speculation that he plans to quit" or as the act of investing in stocks, property, or other ventures in the hope of gain. This article is focused on the first definition of speculation. It is true that in terms of investment or other such pursuits speculation can extend into a form of placing a bet by buying or selling a commodity or stock. It can also be the driver for someone to scream a prediction from the rooftop as a way to prove their superior judgment or intellect.  As I have written in a prior post I consider predicting the future as an impossible task, a fool's errand, full of pitfalls.

Events never seem to unfold as we might expect or predict. When you see how the world has developed, the twist and turns are most unpredictable and full of what the author, Nassim Taleb calls "Black Swans." This term is used to describe events that seem to  descend out of nowhere catching everyone by surprise. A great example of speculation gone wild can often be found on the Sunday morning talk shows emanating from our nation's capital. These shows originally designed to inform and report the crucial news of important issues facing our nation tend to quickly leave the facts and stray into the area of speculation. The line between opinion and speculation is fine and can easily be crossed. Blurring this, even more, is the habit many people have of stating an opinion as a fact, this does not make it one.

Speculationville is where the confident and suave television and news commentators, politicians, and the experts that speak with false authority live, I include the pundits and so-called specialists. Whenever I find myself drawn down the path that leads towards Speculationville I try to stop and ask if the journey ahead has any real merit or payoff. Often the subject we speculate over is a big factor into just how frivolous the effort is. This means I find very annoying the efforts of media, news programs, and talk shows to drag us into huge areas of speculation instead of focusing on facts and important issues. When they start talking about who will run for President in 2024 or be elected in 2020 we know where they are taking us.

It is often not the message they crank out, but the spin and way they project it with their heads all a bobbing and their arms moving all around that freeze us in our tracks. These people often rise through the ranks by stating their case with such brilliance and force that we are carried away by their enthusiastic message. As the words spew from their mouths and we read the reams of material they write it is easy to overlook the large number of often misstated facts and forget they are speculating or merely guessing. Sometimes they even go as far as to tell us exactly what someone was thinking, for example, a commentator might say, "when Martin jumped he knew it was to his death." I ask, how do they know that? It is possible that Martin was an optimist thinking he might survive the fall or he might not have even jumped but simply slipped.

The fact is that when it comes down to what someone is or was thinking unless these authorities have had a deep honest one on one conversation with that person they are only speculating. After they have used every recent "buzz phrase" they say, "that being said" and after "having said that" they often wow me with "just do the math" or "it is not if, it is when".  A major pet peeve of mine is the mixing up of "millions and billions" of dollars when talking about money or cost. But what sends me over the top is a line of pure speculation often used by politicians and our so-called public servants to justify some unsavory action, "it would have been far worse if we had done nothing". How do they know that? On more than one occasion when it comes to our government I find myself wishing they had done nothing.

We have all witnessed the crazy unenlightening information generated  from media coverage during "live crisis" coverage of a news event, it is a reminder that often the world is clueless. It seems that people love to defer to the opinions and advice of so-called experts so they don't have to think. When we look behind the curtain, we often find their background in the subject is weak and short, or clouded and blurred by bias. One thing I do know that is not based on speculation or hearsay is that a certain point speculating about the future tends to get excessive and becomes a great waster of time. Most of us might better spend our time focusing on real problems in the real world rather than whether Michelle Obama will run for President in 2024.

1 comment:

  1. "the habit many people have of stating an opinion as a fact, this does not make it one." My pet peeve! I email this video to "unbiased " journalists," unhinged "expert commentators" as well as friends. Imbecilities abound in today's political discourse where uninformed opinion substitutes for facts.