You’re not going to want to read this. Your every instinct is telling you that whatever follows, however valuable it might be, won’t be satisfying. And you’re probably right.

News consumers are conditioned to expect, seek out, and even find gratification in negativity. This is not the flowering of some grand conspiracy, but the nature of a media ecosystem that is dedicated to covering events over trends. “Bad things can happen quickly,” noted psychologist and author Steven Pinker, “but good things aren’t built in a day, and as they unfold, they will be out of sync with the news cycle.” The ready availability of bad news contributes to a cognitive bias that favors negative events as reliable indicators of future circumstances (i.e., the “availability heuristic”). That’s a shame, though, as it presents a distorted picture of prevailing conditions. By and large, those conditions are pretty good.


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