O.K., this is not going to be one of those pre-planned and well structured posts; I’m just going to share whatever’s on my mind right now, and that happens to be a topic that’s super personal to me (and which frankly should be to everyone with a smartphone/internet connected device) — information overload.
Our neural synapses, over the course of the preceding million or so years, evolved to process vast amounts of information on survival related stuff (archetypal prey heuristics, location of food and water, and visual data on poisonous plants, … for example) over almost a life-time. And, a life-time, even 10,000 years ago, was measured in decades — around 4 on average, to be precise — which was a plenty of time for memory consolidation processes to kick in and solidify the learned information/behavior.
Here’s the problem — 10,000 years + Agricultural Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Information Revolution, and gargantuan amounts of Globalization later, our brains find themselves in a place they didn’t evolve to be in, and this causes a number of incompatibilities that wreck havoc on some of the most innate aspects of our species without which we pretty much lose our identities. I’m in particular talking about ATTENTION, or the ability of an individual to expend the it in a meaningful manner. As my rants across years have proved, I am incredibly uncomfortable with the notion of tech industry changing (or hijacking rather) our brains by taking advantage of its plasticity, its hard-wired longings for specific elements (roots of which can be traced back to our evolutionary history) in the environment, and of course, by giving up those super sweet incremental dopamine hits, thereby keeping the ‘attention economy’ chugging.
Here’s a great video talking about what I just wrote (produced by ‘Epipheo’, featuring the dude who wrote the book I reviewed earlier):
As you may have guessed, this is a serious situation. Our brains have been conditioned so well to the internet that many folks are having a hard time disconnecting from it, and this in turn has spawned a bunch of new industries.
Even long time tech insiders, folks who stand to benefit the most from all those ‘eyes glued to the screens,’ have spoken out against their former employers, accusing them of deliberately making their devices and service more addictive (by incessantly incorporating what’s called, “Intermittent Rewards“) in order to increase their quarterly results — not exactly in the illegal territory, but certainly unethical on part of these billion-dollar corporations to pretty much go Pavlovian on us … ffs those fuckers.
But wait, before you throw in the towel and declare defeat, there surely are some silver-linings to the story — Google recently unveiled their plans to enhance “Digital Well-being” of its users on the next version of Android by adding a dashboard to track app usage time, with friendly reminders and grey-scaling option to boot in case your dopamine circuits don’t co-operate. Two prominent Apple investors wrote to the company asking it to adopt more stringent measures to tackle the issue of children being hooked on to their devices and services (except their shitty maps; no one uses Apple Maps). Think-tanks like this are springing up all over the place to spread awareness about how damaging tech can be to not just our mental health, but also physical well-being.
Before I wrap this post up, here are trusted resources if you’re helplessly glued to that slab of glass:
That’s about it, until next time.
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