America is a great nation, a proud nation rich in resources and ingenuity. But the same resources that have fueled the engine of its greatness are fast dwindling.
For decades, the U.S. has led the world in its production of current events. Yet, as we enter the 21st century, we find that our national bleak-news tolerance reserves are dangerously close to running dry. And if we continue to ignore warnings, the consequences could be dire.
The statistics paint a bleak picture: In 1972, the average American had only three major current events with which to be concerned: the war in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, and the film Deep Throat. The rest of the public's interest was split between petty domestic matters, such as whether or not to get aluminum siding, and town gossip such as which neighbors had the tidiest lawns—renewable-attention sources in no danger of depletion.
But today's world is very different. The introduction of the 24-hour news cycle and increased info-missions from the Internet are taxing the American attention span like never before. And now we stand on the precipice of disaster.
The national real-news interest rate—an attention-indicator measuring the ratio of care-hours spent with relevant current events versus those spent on distractional options (such as daytime TV, futuristic toothbrush designs, and name-brand shoes for less) currently stands at an alarming 5.1 percent, nearly four times its level throughout the 1990s; that is to say nothing of the alarming rate at which we are releasing relevant information into the blogosphere.
We now see cases of information-overload across the country—a truly terrifying disease, especially among those who watch excessive amounts of television or read two or more newspapers a day. The result: cynicism, apathy, fatigue, and consistently strained retinas.
Sadly, the country's most informed are the most at risk. These brave but misguided souls continue to live a waking nightmare, still consuming dangerous amounts of information and analysis about their ever-more-complex world.
According to new data, if Americans continue needlessly paying attention to current events at this rate, our nation will completely run out of attention-paying capacity by the summer of 2012.
It's time for America to wake up. Issues like the Iraq war, the Middle East peace process, the debate over intelligent design, influence-peddling in Washington, the fate of Social Security, Hurricane Katrina, and global warming, to name just a few, cannot be paid attention to indefinitely.
We must conserve our attention and direct it toward alternatives such as lottery numbers, "reality" game shows, and cartoons. If we don't, America will become a virtual wasteland of random news items broadcast into thin air without anyone capable of listening or understanding. Jobs will be lost, entire sectors of the economy wiped out as we turn to other nations for cheap, less important foreign current events.
That is why I propose this four-point plan to reduce our dependence on any and all forms of current events:
1. Reduce overall information emissions by 50 percent by 2010.
2. Provide incentives and opportunities such as first-person experiences for those who voluntarily reduce their prime-time current events consumption.
3. Impose stiff fines for media conglomerates that abuse the public airwaves with specific and timely current events that perplex and confuse Americans.
4. Finally, require pundits, experts, and others who comment on current events on television or the radio to perform a mood-lightening trick or sing a brief song.
Now, I ask you to join me, as stewards of the Information Age, to live a more healthy, more responsible life in blissful, sustainable ignorance.