The Limits of Speed and the Importance of Reflection
We live in an age of instantaneity. The internet, and in particular social media, have greatly accelerated the speed at which information and disinformation spreads. The trends have even created an expectation of instantaneity.
We all enjoyed a graphic example of this effect with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act. CNN and Fox News read only the first few sentences of the syllabus of the decision, saw that a majority had ruled that ACA couldn’t be sustained under the Commerce Clause, and leapt to the conclusion that ACA was unconstitutional. Oops. Equally impressive was the speed with which social media excoriated CNN and Fox News for their blunder. There’s a really excellent minute-by-minute analysis of the events by Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog.
To some extent, it seems to WC that reaction has trumped reason. An instantaneous response is deemed more important than a reasoned, thoughtful response. Worse, the speed with which information moves today seems inversely proportional to the accuracy of the information.
Famously, Britain’s King George III supposedly wrote in his diary on July 4, 1776, “Nothing important happened today.” It took weeks for news of the Declaration of Independence to cross the Atlantic. Today, WC supposes, it would be live-tweeted. But quick doesn’t mean better.
Speed at the expense of accuracy is worthless, even harmful, to society as a whole. WC wants to make a plea for a pause for reasoned reflection. H.L. Mencken reminded us, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” We are surrounded by complex problems like health care; speed results in hasty, simple and dead, flat wrong decisions.