I have been thinking for a while about information overload. Modern life seems to be a never ending deluge of email and other information. One could almost spend their entire time answering emails and not doing any “real” work.
I had been thinking that communication is a basic need similar to food. If you think about babies, they could not survive without communication, similarly to they could not survive without food.
However, I had hypothesized that unlike food, our brain has no natural ability to know then there is too much communication. I think this is because in all of human history we have never had the situation where we could have too much communication. For hundreds of thousands of years of human history when our brain developed we were in small groups in a hunter gatherer society. Some studies estimate the small groups would be about 30 to 50 people. Thus we had a natural limit to communication. Unlike food, where we have a brain signalling system when we have over consumed (and we feel full), our brains would never have to evolve a signal that there has been enough communication consumption.
Our hyperconnected era is a tiny sliver of human history, too short for evolution. Therefore our brain has not had a chance to signal too us when there is too much communication. Thus I think this leads us to become addicted to the limitless communication of email, twitter, facebook, youtube etc. If you are like me, you also have a growing, backlog of videos to watch later on youtube, Ted. An ever increasing number of articles to read on “Pocket”. Let alone the media in our physical world, such as hundreds of unread books and hundreds of unwatched videos.
This talk on Ted seems to address these concerns partly by stating that food and information are essentially a very similar basic consumption to the human body. There is a very interesting research mentioned to say that at the basic level metabolism is the same for primates so there is a trade off between tissue to process food (our stomachs) and tissue to process information (our brains).
The hypothesis that we didn’t evolve abolity to have a brain signal for too much consumption needs more research by evolutionary biologists (I would greatly appreciate if anyone would like to contact me to discuss this). However at this stage I think we can say that information is similar to consumption of food. Too much is not good for you, and in fact destructive to your health. Because we do not have a natural brain signal to notify we have consumed too much information (as in food), we need to consciously force ourselves to have a limit (and to have a diet etc.).