As I watch Lund turn into a vibrant aureate palette of autumn colours, I realise how quickly you can go from feeling the warmth of the sun to suddenly find yourself looking for anything that will protect you from the biting wind. You carelessly wrap a scarf around your neck without focusing on the actual change of weather. All of a sudden the autumn is here, even though you knew it would come. You first notice it when the temperature subsides your fingers while writing a short message on your phone. They stiffen and you cannot even scroll through the latest news from October.
It has however, in spite of numb fingers, been an eventful month; our tiny student city of Lund welcomed the Pope, the Nobel Prize laureates has been announced and in many parts of the world an election is about to wind up.
As the October wind sweeps in with its vicissitudes, so does the closure of the US election. We are watching it coming to an end through notifications on our phones, through updates on Facebook and reports on the evening news. The other day, I watched one of the final debates between the presidential candidates while running on the treadmill at the gym. The raindrops pattered furiously on the big windows against Kattesund as I realised that running for president does not change who you are, rather reveals your true colours. While reflecting on the debate I observed how a business man with his nose deep in his phone walks in the rain on Kattesund and nearly gets hit by a female cyclist. For a brief moment I experienced two men not willing to see the obstacles of reality and two women trying to emphasise this.
Some people dedicate their lives to overcome obstacles and solve problems. A new set of Nobel Prize winners were announced this October. When the winners of the Prize in Economic sciences were released, I sat in a lecture hall listening to our professor in microeconomics trying to explain the dilemmas of externalities. He wanted to enlighten us regarding the change in costs that externalities make, but most of us did not listen very carefully. Notifications that make our phones buzz, always seem to take away our focus from whatever we are doing. I for instance, read the news flash on the prize winners Hart and Holmström:
“Modern economies are held together by innumerable contracts. The new theoretical tools created by Hart and Holmström are valuable to the understanding of real-life contracts and institutions, as well as potential pitfalls in contract design (…) This year’s laureates have developed contract theory, a comprehensive framework for analysing many diverse issues in contractual design, like performance-based pay for top executives, deductibles and co-pays in insurance, and the privatisation of public-sector activities.”
While changing my focus to the online news I lost a part of the live information given by my professor.
Information is all around us all the time; while running, while walking, while sitting in a lecture hall or while writing a chronicle. It does not matter where we are or what we are doing, we have the happenings of the world in our pockets. We tend to look at them without really focusing on what it is actually occurring. We observe it from afar, from the safe side of our phone display. We easily forget that the notification we just read is not only a couple sentences written by a journalist, it has happened or is still happening somewhere. It is not easy to live in two parallel realities, the online and the live world. As The Economist nicely puts it in The Economist Style Guide:
“Focus can be a useful word. It is shorter than concentrate and sharper than look at”
When news flashes by or loses its colours and grow cold, one tends to turn a blind eye to reality. Think about all the things you do not see.