News and political junkie that I am, the presets on my car's satellite radio prominently feature the POTUS (Politics of the United States), MSNBC, CNN, and NPR channels.
Usually I listen to them. But today I kept channel surfing -- listening for a short while, then mentally blurting out a profanity and clicking on either my Chill or Classic Rock music channels.
My willingness to hear blather about what might be, what could occur, what the future possibly could bring, it's sunk to a low level.
I've been gradually heading in this direction for quite a while.
Today, though, I felt more disdain than ever before for the almost non-stop frothy guesses about what will, before too long, become solid reality.
"What do you expect President Obama to say in his State of the Union speech tonight?," a host would ask. Then several people would pipe up, expressing opinions about what is going to be a freaking fact in just a few hours.
I realized that I didn't give a damn what they thought. Tomorrow, after the speech has been given, I'd like to hear some informed analyses about what Obama said.
But what's the point in spending lots of air time trying to predict an unpredictable future?
It used to be that news shows actually reported -- shock! -- on what has actually happened in the world. Now, though, the 24 hour news cycle apparently requires that 23 of those hours be devoted to guesses about what might happen newswise in the future.
"Polls show Sanders narrowing the gap with Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire. What does this mean for Clinton's presidential chances?"
I'd think, Here's what it means... nothing! Or so close to nothing, let's round it off to exactly nothing.
Astonishingly, someone on the satellite radio channel would point out the truth -- that in previous elections, polling in Iowa and New Hampshire at this point in the presidential election season had nothing to do with who eventually became this nation's leader.
And then the show's guests would ignore that fact, going back to guessing about who is going to win in those states in coming weeks based on the most recent polls.
The inanity and uselessness of it all hit me hard.
Listening to an actual "blast from the past" on the Classic Rock channel felt so much more real than all the blathering about what might be. A David Bowie song would play. It wasn't a possible David Bowie song. It was a song that Davie Bowie truly sang.
Probably my increased distaste for future news forecasting, as opposed to actual news reporting, is linked to my re-reading of Alex Rosenberg's marvelous book, "The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions."
Rosenberg, a philosophy professor with a strong background in science, likes to talk about the human predilection for story telling. We're almost hard-wired for this, he says. (See this post on my other blog.)
Natural selection made us crude conspiracy theorists, using the introspective markers we mistake for our own plans and designs to cause behavior, and using other people's noises and inscriptions to figure out their behavior.
This sort of conspiracy theorizing to predict other people's behavior has limited but long-standing adaptive value. That's why Mother Nature found a way of addicting us to it.
We use other people's behavior, including the noises they make (their talk) and the inscriptions they scratch out (their writing), along with our own silent markers and mental images to guide our expectations about other people's behavior.
When we get it right, there's the relief from curiosity and the psychological satisfaction that makes us keep doing it.
...Because the markers that move around our introspectable minds only crudely indicate what is really going on in each person's brain, folk psychology doesn't do a very good job. It breaks down badly once you use it to predict a lot of people's actions.
...The thoughts about human actions that are supposed to give them meaning and purpose have no reality in the brain. Our own apparent thoughts about things are crude indicators of the real causes of our behavior.
We guess at the thoughts of others from their behavior, their actions, their statements and speeches, their letters and diaries. But the results of our guessing are equally unreliable indications of what actually moves people.
Which is why I'm coming to feel that guessing what one person, such as President Obama, or lots of people, like voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, will do is absurd.
But we'll keep on doing it because it is fun. Even if it has little or nothing to do with reality.