According to Pew Research roughly 72 percent of American adults read a book last year. Which has shown a continuing gradual decline over the last 5 years.
Many of those people have seen every single episode of American Idol. There is a clear correlation here.
Access to knowledge, for the first time in history, is largely unimpeded for the middle class. Without effort or expense, it’s possible to become informed if you choose. For less than your Netflix bill, you can buy and read an important book every week. Share the buying with six friends and it costs far less than coffee.
The thing is, watching TV has its benefits. It doesn't need you to have an informed opinion about things that matter. It gives you shallow opinions or false ‘facts’ that you can parrot to others that watch what you watch. It doesn’t disturb our self induced calm and isolation from the world.
I was talking with someone the other day about this. She made it very clear reading non-fiction books related to her industry was not important to her. She seemed very proud of this.
I was caught in an argument with someone who was sure that ear candling was a useful treatment. Had he read any medical articles on the topic? No, but he knew. Or said he did.
You see a lot of smart people in airports. It never ceases to surprise me how few of them use this downtime to actually become more informed. It’s a deliberate act–in our info-culture. It takes work not to expose yourself to interesting ideas, facts, news and points of view. Hal Varian at Google reports that the average person spends seventy seconds a day reading the online news. Ouch.
Not all books are correct or useful. Not all accepted science is correct. The conventional wisdom is not always accurate. But, ignoring it all because the truth is now fashionably situational and in the eye of the beholder is a lame alternative.
I know this rant is nothing new. In fact, people have been complaining about widespread willful ignorance since Brutus or Caesar or whoever invented the salad… the difference now is this: more people than ever are creators. More people than ever go to work to use their minds, not just their hands. And more people than ever have a platform to share their point of view. That raises the bar for our understanding of how the world works.
Let’s assert for the moment that you get paid to coach, train or spread ideas. That you don’t get paid to lift bricks or hammer steel. If you’re in business, what’s going to improve your career, get you more clients or customers, more respect or a happier day? Forgive me for suggesting (to those not curious enough to read this blog and others) that it might be reading blogs, books or even watching TED talks. It might be getting a mentor, joining challenges or a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
As for the deliberately uninformed, we can ignore them or we can reach out to them and hopefully start a pattern of people thinking for themselves…
I Invite you to learn with us in YEP - The young Entrepreneur Project where new ideas are embraced and tested. Everyone is encouraged to grow and help others grow.
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