Data Aikido: on data digestion (v1.0)
This article is the chapter #6 of the free e-booklet Going meta on "singularity" and other tales
Hey you, trend-rider…
yeah you trend-rider… Listen, how many tabs are open in your browser? how many of them collapsed in an irreversible way by leaving you in that awkward feeling of having lost a million dollar briefcase? I know, a lot.
Now, think about your mind. How many “tabs” have you seriously opened today? how many of them were routine background tasks? I’m not talking about brushing your teeth or else. I’m referring to all the time that you spend dealing with that futile part of the interaction with a computer. Everyday millions of agents demand to get a little part of your precious attention. So you basically struggle to keep up your integrity against computer issues, advertisements, people drilling your brain with emails, contact, shares, campaigns to do that, petitions to save this, and so on. It became a routine, you don’t even realize anymore. It’s an embedded part of any digital native, a constant subconscious action of memetic resistance.
This morning you’ve come here to do just a couple of things. But as any other day, you systematically end up opening three hundred thousands different tasks. Then things start to slip out of hands and suddenly you being involved in some worthy ethical project that sucks up your time, or likely you achieve great expertise in some exotic field, despite the fact that you’re loosing everyday a bit of mental health.
But easy dude, that’s normal: you don’t have ADHD, and you surely do not need pills to keep the rhythm. The problem is neither you nor your behavior. That’s a final effect of something that is sick far beyond you. But we’re going to take this easy, I promise.
Locus Coeruleus and mPFC
In a nutshell, our brain is biologically wired to seek novelty. So, living today and being connected to the Internet means to constantly be induced to redefine the vision on our self, about the possibilities of this life, and finally on the consequences of our choices. Let’s say that’s the positive outcome. However, all this happen every moment of your digital (and even not-digital) life, in a endlessness war between armies of mental, emotional and physical stimuli that fight each other to get a bit of your mind-space, they literally sneak into your nerves, to be carried out and spread all around (mainly as normality shaper). But it’s a trade-off, right? It’s a compromise between the technological need for speed and our rights of cultural integrity.
A time warp
So while this simulation became everyday more addictive, our social inhibitions weaken, and the pace of social interactions increase. One of the main results is the perceptual compression of time. Events that usually happened in a 2 or 3 years, let’s say 30 years ago, nowadays happen in a very short time. So clearly something huuge on a sociocultural level is definitely driving a massive hallucination.
Of course, it’s hardly arguable if, whether or not, this change has more positive outcomes for our individual and social health. It’s not a matter of discussion in any case. This rapid change of perception is just like any natural event, nothing less… but maybe, something more.
Nevertheless, I’d like to play a game with you –
How many links does your bookmark have? and how many links have you averagely share in a week? Great. I guess that a vast majority are stuff that you’re basically not going to read entirely (just like this article here). The other, and most common scenario is that you usually do not read them at all. I’m not sure if this is kind of compulsive surfing is a sort of psychopathology – but it certainly have some aspects that concern me.
If all the time you take a brief read and not deeply understand what the meaning of the text is, how do you think this will help you understand the world around you? Also, in more than the 90% of the case, your mind will be virally attacked by some interesting Mr.click or Miss click-me-here video. Take it easy, at the end you know it’s almost all free here! Indeed, the issue is another.
The point is that if I want some grapes, I go out for a shop. But then, I come back with some cheeseburger, not because I decide to buy it, but because they were cheap, off-sale, and I met a pretty lady who tried to sold them out to me.
So, how can I select the proper food? More important, how can I well digest it, to get the most powerful nutrients from it?
Data are food, almost un-processed raw food. Food could be bad, or could be good.
Some good foods if mix together could take a bad smell, or a nasty taste. They possibly became even poisoning. Moreover, if food is eaten fast, then your stomach will stuck, and your brain will not take the best nutrients of the day.
You definitely need to learn how to pick, process and chew your food.
How can you pretend to digest all this food, if you’re not even able to pick what to eat? This post is not about food shopping. It’s about the data belch we’re covered with (at least now). And the barf forecast are not getting any better.
It’s then a sad story to being compel to eat constantly increasing amount of data to earn a living and keep up a fictitious mental-health. Fictitious because it’s the massive hallucination we’re all going through.
Sad story, uh?
It’s all about attention, so try to figure out which is the best way for you to train and keep up your attention. And it’s not a matter of a ritalinic focusing, it’s about realizing that your perception of reality only depends on what, where and when you lay your attention over.
Something really cathartic would be to delete all your hard-drives, or at least all your bookmarks. This will definitely boost your memetic immune system, trust me.
Just like food: keep the essential, all the rest is (still) waste.
If you want to have a good read, I suggest you the following books:
- Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine;
- Eva Jablonka’s Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life