If you wait for the news -- you'll be wrong or late.

George Mack

If you wait for the news -- you'll be wrong or late.

Easy question: When did the Roman Empire fall?

Answer: 476 AD.

Hard question: When did Roman society recognise the Roman Empire had fallen?

Answer: For most people, it didn’t happen until centuries later.

Why?

This is one of the most fascinating parts of history.

When we look back on history, everything is clear. You get to be the Monday morning quarter back with clarity of hindsight.

When you’re living through history, everything is muddy. And there’s no historian in the present day to explain everything that’s happening. It’s millions of emotional opinions with incentives trying to decipher chaos.

When presented with ambiguity of change, the news will usually choose the comfort of accepted opinions — until it’s too late.

In the Sovereign Individual, the authors remark that if CNN existed during the falling of Rome — it would not have been announced on CNN that day.

“CNN editors probably would not have approved a headline story saying “Rome fell this evening”. The powers-that-be denied that Rome had fallen.”

Why is this important?

Because if you wait for the news to inform you — you’ll either be wrong or late.

By the time the consensus has decided on an event like Rome falling — all the benefits in knowing that information has faded away.

If you announced that Rome had fallen on 476AD - you would’ve been historically true, but socially false. You would’ve been mocked and rejected by society for decades or centuries.

The news manages to make you forget that it’s typically wrong or late — how?

Because they’re too busy with the new news to analyse their mistakes with the old news.

The clue is in the name: News. Old news doesn’t sell well.

The same news criticises their opponents for doing X can be the same news source that now supports X — and never acknowledge they were wrong.

Why does this happen?

Nobody is held accountable because nothing is accounted for. Most readers are too busy with the new news to even remember.

A low agency trap to fall into is to allow your sense making of the world to be outsourced to journalists — without doing due diligence on their track records, incentives or source materials.

One common trait that high agency people share is: Don’t wait for the news.

They work from first principles, craft their own information sources, apply sandboxes for new information, and make the move before the consensus agrees they are right.

This doesn’t just apply to the macro — it also applies to the micro.

Don’t wait for a friend to tell you to get that mole checked — by then, it’s too late.

Don’t wait for your boss to call you in to his office — by then, it’s too late.

Don’t want for your partner to text you “Can we talk?” — by then, it’s too late.

Don’t wait for your competitors to launch the new technology — by then, it’s too late.

If you wait for the news to inform you — you’ll be wrong or late.

Table of contents

If you wait for the news -- you'll be wrong or late.

Easy question: When did the Roman Empire fall?

Answer: 476 AD.

Hard question: When did Roman society recognise the Roman Empire had fallen?

Answer: For most people, it didn’t happen until centuries later.

Why?

This is one of the most fascinating parts of history.

When we look back on history, everything is clear. You get to be the Monday morning quarter back with clarity of hindsight.

When you’re living through history, everything is muddy. And there’s no historian in the present day to explain everything that’s happening. It’s millions of emotional opinions with incentives trying to decipher chaos.

When presented with ambiguity of change, the news will usually choose the comfort of accepted opinions — until it’s too late.

In the Sovereign Individual, the authors remark that if CNN existed during the falling of Rome — it would not have been announced on CNN that day.

“CNN editors probably would not have approved a headline story saying “Rome fell this evening”. The powers-that-be denied that Rome had fallen.”

Why is this important?

Because if you wait for the news to inform you — you’ll either be wrong or late.

By the time the consensus has decided on an event like Rome falling — all the benefits in knowing that information has faded away.

If you announced that Rome had fallen on 476AD - you would’ve been historically true, but socially false. You would’ve been mocked and rejected by society for decades or centuries.

The news manages to make you forget that it’s typically wrong or late — how?

Because they’re too busy with the new news to analyse their mistakes with the old news.

The clue is in the name: News. Old news doesn’t sell well.

The same news criticises their opponents for doing X can be the same news source that now supports X — and never acknowledge they were wrong.

Why does this happen?

Nobody is held accountable because nothing is accounted for. Most readers are too busy with the new news to even remember.

A low agency trap to fall into is to allow your sense making of the world to be outsourced to journalists — without doing due diligence on their track records, incentives or source materials.

One common trait that high agency people share is: Don’t wait for the news.

They work from first principles, craft their own information sources, apply sandboxes for new information, and make the move before the consensus agrees they are right.

This doesn’t just apply to the macro — it also applies to the micro.

Don’t wait for a friend to tell you to get that mole checked — by then, it’s too late.

Don’t wait for your boss to call you in to his office — by then, it’s too late.

Don’t want for your partner to text you “Can we talk?” — by then, it’s too late.

Don’t wait for your competitors to launch the new technology — by then, it’s too late.

If you wait for the news to inform you — you’ll be wrong or late.

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