Hindsight is better than 20/20

Hindsight is better than 20/20
February 16, 2015 John Spiers


The Knight Foundation begins its recent release Field Notes From The Age Of Digital Journalism by describing the ways in which traditional journalistic enterprises, especially newspapers, are beginning to fall apart in a world increasingly dominated by the internet and more modern forms of communication. It’s a trend that causes concern for many young news writers who may see few opportunities in their chosen field. Building on that as a hook, the opening review of communication history proceeds to lay out what the future of news might look like based on a ridiculous amount of confirmation bias and cherry picking. It undermines itself before it even begins with its preposterous depictions of a future that relies on a predictive scheme that has little basis in history and even less in rationality.

One is supposed to imagine that major conflicts happen predictably every 80 years, the author citing the space between World War II and an imagined “World War 3.0” reliant on espionage and information rather than open warfare.

Why doesn’t the Cold War meet those qualifications?

Doomsday clock of '53

Doomsday clock of ’53

It was in 1953 that the symbolic Doomsday Clock, a summons to arms by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists,¬†¬†reached two minutes to midnight, representing that the human race was predicted to be closer to its annihilation than at any other point in history. The reason is simple to deduce: the Cold War didn’t fit the author’s framework for human historical progression.

When someone trying to answer the concerns of modern journalists turns to writing purple prose about the future merging of humankind and machine and the death of civilization, they have utterly failed at their original purpose.

The future of journalism doesn’t lie in confirmation bias or speculating about what technology might develop according to ridiculous philosophies of cyclical human development. It lies in responding to an actively developing media in the present, which is, one might want to remind the author, where we all live.

Image of capsule stuck in moon from Georges Melies sci-fi classic.

Lunar capsule smacks Luna in Georges Melies’ 1902 sci-fi cinema takeoff on H. G. Wells’ “First Men in the Moon.”

The world doesn’t look like a pulp sci-fi book from the 50s, no matter which pages are torn from them and stapled into a single piece. We have to at least acknowledge that to move forward.

John Spiers
John Spiers is a writer and journalist whose passions include cinema, interactive entertainment, and gender theory. He considers critical analysis of media to be crucial to building cultural discourse, and hopes that his work at Extreme Alaska contributes to a living historical record of the people and lifestyle of the 49th state.

1 Comment

  1. Brian Patrick O'Donoghue
    Brian Patrick O'Donoghue 3 years ago

    I agree the whole concept of a 80-year conflict/cultural upheaval cycle has no foundation beyond cherry-picking history. Likewise, citing Sci-Fi home runs predicting tech advances ignores decades of futuristic whiffs and errors. For me, the real takeaway from this section of the “Field Notes” is the emergence of this generation’s tech-birthed Digital Natives, possessing perspectives and a level of shared experience never before seen.

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