The noise floor is raising. Our brains are information processing machines of unknown capacities and we are being told that we make use of only 10% (or anything below 50%) of our brains and we choose to believe it. Consequently we stop guarding ourselves from the informational overload and don’t question whether the amount of information we are constantly bombarded with is doing us any favours. There’s scientific evidence, as quoted by Alvin Toffler in his widely recognized book Future Shock, that restructuring microbiological arrangement of our brains that accompanies re-learning and unlearning requires more energy than learning. Understanding the considerable effort needed to process information may lead us to become a little more selective of what information we desire or decide to allow to enter our precious storage house and to develop the awareness of where do we take our information from.
It’s the press, social network feeds, tv and radio broadcast as well as online video content services, with the constant stream of ever changing and updating information that we choose to consume, which are of special interest here. While there’s a reasonable level of awareness of what a healthy diet look like, none such awareness is found when we consider information.
Explosion of communication technologies that allowed rise of mass media has happened too quickly to allow wisdom of healthy discernment to develop in terms of filtering and controlling information intake. In comparison our nutritional knowledge has been growing since the dawn of human race.
We build our image of the world based on what information we find to be true, however, the mass media provide a MASS of unverified and/or unverifiable information, “facts”, fantasies and opinions that are created for a certain effect (advertising, news) or less tailored (social media, youTube, entertainment).
The traditional sources of press, radio and television are still widely trusted even though there is strong evidence of facts manipulation and intentional misrepresentation according to private interest of the stakeholders of those, now mostly, private enterprises.
This point is perfectly illustrated by an insight that was shared by a former american news journalist in a conference I recently attended. He has been specializing in aviation catastrophes for over a decade and publically acknowledged pressures exerted by producers to continuously provide ANY news that journalists in his field are facing. He admitted this leads to flooding of unverified information that further confuses the dataset upon which we form our opinions and base our decisions. Without a benevolent censor that would filter it for our own good, we need to take the matters in our own hands. Cut!
Is there too much information out there?
We’ve been systematically recording our knowledge for centuries. With the raise of type the information has become available to masses on an unprecedented scale. The internet and computing have widened accessibility, speed and capacity manifold. With the imminent popularization of technologies like Google Glass we’ll have access to all human knowledge at the tip of our palms, instantly. Mind that Joe Public will have the same access to the entirety of human knowledge and solutions as everybody else. Another words, individualism based on knowledge will be annihilated.
What does it leave us with?
Knowledge Is Not Wisdom
Information cannot replace experience any more than learning about physical phenomena behind the visible spectrum of light and human perception of colour can teach us about the sensation of seeing a rainbow.
Some of the classical far east teachings mention three types of knowledge. This accepted as truth from others, that of understanding reached by mental reasoning and this of having a personal experience, which is taught to be the highest form of knowledge, attained, in this instance, through deep, careful consideration possible only through stilling the mind and letting go of mental clutter.
Good news, everyone!
Information is useless unless acted upon and how do we act upon an information that somewhere in Britain Rolf Harris has been found guilty of sex assault? And what about the difference of a handful of Rolf Harris’ (top news on BBC website at the time of writing of this article) clones all over the world with stories untelevised? If it was news in your life you would not need BBC to tell you about it.
Without going into commercial, conspiracy or otherwise irrelevant agendas what’s at stake here is the protection of our minds from the unnecessary information. We need to become the filter and that’s about one thing we as human beings have, a choice.
Technological Health & Safety
It goes beyond news reporting. The technological advancement outpaced our ability to use it to enhance our lives, instead we became slave to it. What’s particularly dangerous is that many of us are not even aware of the new patterns that have creeped into our lives. Our phones and emails have a magical power to draw our attention to them as often as every 15 minutes. Just think of giving up a mobile for 30 days. How about driving in another country without Satnav? Mental! why would you want to do that? Apart from inviting happy coincidences and a bit of freshness to our lives, which to some may appear too hipster, it may force us to wake up and use our brains. Regain a little bit of skill that we lose every time we substitute our ability for a technical gadget and it just may save our lives one day, when we run out of battery or a magnetic storm destroys all the bloody tech that was doing all that we would be doing if we weren’t busy… doing what exactly?
We exist in motion, time exists in motion. The moment the mind stops creatively participating through experiencing rather than watching a continuous replay of its former creations it’s going to stop expanding, stall and die.
What you focus on grows
As the proverb says:
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,
All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.
The purpose of this article is not to disdain Information Technology, but to promote intentionality and awareness of what we allow into what we essentially become.
I have found useful to utilize what I call 3x touchdown, which means to limit the number of times I check and respond to my emails to three times a day at the fixed, most appropriate times according to my schedule. Switching a mobile off several times during the day works as a reminder to be more intentional, present and less impulsive. Also, website blockers, like the Chrome extension StayFocusd can be effective when it comes to kicking off unrooting those habits of compulsive logging in to certain services. Getting disconnected from the world without is where the connection to the world within begins.