Don’t Believe Media Gloom and Doom

Should I hire that promising new person I just interviewed? Should we push forward with our plan to expand our markets internationally? Should we invest in next-generation automaton systems for our machines? Not if you read the headlines. But letting media headlines drive business decisions is problematic as the media feeds on greed and fear, two of the most visceral human emotions. During most of my lifetime and certainly throughout this decade, the media focus has been on fear. This focus on fear directly contradicts long and short term historical evidence. History has been recorded with enough accuracy for us to know that standards of living have been improving dramatically for thousands of years. The United States has seen its stock market rise by an average of about 10% per year since 1925. More recently, the global economy just completed its fifth straight year of over 4% annual growth, the longest period of such strong expansion since the early 1970s. Knowing these facts, it would seem that any prediction of short and especially long-term reversals in these trends would be rare and backed by irrefutable evidence. Instead, the media takes the opposite tack and daily proclaims the imminent demise of society as we know it unless we do something drastic. And those are the optimistic articles. The pessimistic take is that it is already too late and that we are all doomed to a bleak future of wandering a barren earth in a futile search for food and shelter. Who would hire or invest anything given such predictions? Good news is ignored, and bad news is trumpeted. And of course, gloom and doom are not limited to newspapers and magazines; movies chime in. I don’t recall one movie released during my adult lifetime that portrayed the future in a positive light. For every Blade Runner and Road Warrior with their apocalyptic visions of the future, why isn’t there a movie depicting a much more likely and dramatically better future? Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on those who predict a radical reversal of undisputed historical evidence? Why is the media in all of its forms so relentlessly given to unrealistic predictions of a dire future? My theory is that secular types who don’t believe in an afterlife are terrified that they will miss an earthly future better than the present. The only way to assuage their fears is to convince themselves that, contrary to thousands of years of evidence, the future will be downright awful. Believing headlines can lead to bad decisions. In my Machine Builder Mojo column in our April issue, I will show you how to get behind the headlines to source data and how to analyze these source data to get the real facts.
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  • <p>I enjoyed your piece on the bleak outlook constantly presented by the media. As an employee for a North American manufacturer of spandex I’ve been waiting for our demise the past 15 years. We are still finding ways to be competitive, creative and profitable. It is on a slightly smaller scale, but we’re still here. Thank you for reminding us of a brighter future than that portrayed by many.</p> <p>Sincerely,</p> <p>Marty Siebken Senior Engineer, INVISTA S.a.r.l</p>

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  • <p>Can Control Design please focus on their core mission of delivering information relevant to controls engineering? Articles on media bias and the evils of secularism are just not appropriate for a techincal publication. There are other platforms better suited for this purpose.</p> <p>-Wade Peterson</p>

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