Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rewired Brain


For someone who has done most of their reading online for the last fifteen years, I found this Wired article on how the web is rewiring the human brain very interesting. The author contrasts the online and offline reading experiences using an analogy :

Imagine filling a bathtub with a thimble; that’s the challenge involved in moving information from working memory into long-term memory. When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by varying the pace of our reading. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer much of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory and forge the rich associations essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom.

On the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast. Our little thimble overflows as we rush from tap to tap. We transfer only a small jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream.

This argument may be less valid for older internet users such as myself. We transitioned from reading offline to reading online at a fairly mature age. As a result, our reading idiosyncrasies online, remained close to what they had been offline. We are inherently able to control and the vary the pace of our reading online. Even when faced with the variety of information faucets we tend to read in a serial rather than parallel mode. However for readers who never had a robust offline reading habit, the author makes a perfectly valid observation.  

Love the conclusion of the article :
What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting post.

I vote for profound focussed pursuit of Knowledge. Though our education system & craze for quiz contests encourage otherwise.

No amount of information and counselling helped me during a difficult phase in life when I fell victim to "overeating" to manage my emotions , stress whatever.

Like many I was waxing and waning. Mindless gorging for no reason followed by starving when really hungry. I even prayed for heart attack or stroke as death seemed more welcome than this charade called life.

I came across Lord Krishna's assertion in Jnaneshwari Geetha ( Sant Jnaneshwar's exceptionally scintillating commentary on Bhagavad Gita) that Atma/Brahma Gyan ALONE liberates a person from all kinds of shackles including food temptations.

That spurred me on to read more on Vedanta. Somehow this particular message though true just could not be internalised by me. That foods like icecream , chocolates , rasagulla halwa laddoo or anything for that matter that one consumes to make oneself "happy" actually are INCAPABLE of producing any happiness. We unknowingly taste the ever present Happiness in us wrongly attributing it to the respective foods.

A very precious advice was given by my Teacher of Vedanta." When confused ask the Lord Himself. DO NOT ask any other person. DO NOT give up".

Miracle of Miracles ! It did work.

At last I am my pristine self.