Sunday, July 4, 2010

Info as an upper, entrenched views and excuses for dogmatism

Being away from internet access over the past week (oddly enough, while staying at my cousin's West SoHo apartment that appears to be outfitted with everything except a reliable wireless connection and a can-opener), I found myself really craving unfettered browsing time and almost a bit depressed that I couldn't connect! It's not so much that I need to know what's going on in the world – I have never been someone to follow the comings and goings of everyday news – it's more that my brain seems to get-off from learning new things, which I'm sure yours does too. Without some random facts to learn (which are often actually quite useless and pose minimal relevancy to my life), I was feeling a bit empty, and while I wouldn't categorize any of it as withdrawal symptoms, I was definitely yearning for an info hit – a digital stimulant!

So, what's the neural reward system for information? When we learn something new what positive jolt of dopamine or seretonin is being transmitted in our brains? Where and why? The post-hoc evolutionary argument is a simple one – learning (to be bipedal, hunt, communicate, etc) is the key to survival, and it obviously makes evolutionary sense to 'reward' new information. But, what's not intuitive to me is why some information seemingly produces this hit (i.e., is 'interesting' to us), while other information is not. Obviously, experience shapes our perspectives and wiring, and apparently, we tend to favour information that supports, rather than challenges, our existing heuristics. So perhaps, evolutionarily, an 'all-eggs-in-one-basket' strategy was selected for over a diversification strategy? Better to keep learning and invest in one area, even if it may not pay off, than to spread your learning across a range of areas? This still rings true to some extent today, society rewards expertise. But I'd think that the evolutionary cost of diversification has definitely declined with the advent of the internet. So, perhaps diversification of learning and viewpoints will be selected for over the next 'very long period of time'! The open and well-rounded minds will prevail?

For now, I have a physiological excuse as to why I'm not that into SciFi.


  1. It's quite amazing how much we all have become addicted to our hits of information on the internet. With all of the distraction and new experiences in Mexico I still needed to check websites to find out about new stuff. So where does gossip fit in here and celebrity culture?? Why are so many people so addicted to following the lives of celebrities? Might it be related to our evolutionary wiring or is it cultural?? or something else??

  2. Oh, that reminds me of another dogmatic viewpoint I have: celebrities are a waste of time.

    But yes momo! Why are ppl so obsessed? It's easy to see how evolutionarily speaking, a desire to be associated with / closer to 'celebrities' or the popular elite who had real power in the community would be rewarded. And now there is the whole escapism and fantasy aspect of following celebrity culture. But why you would want to emulate a Kardashian or spend any time reading about their fingernails is beyond me. I believe that was your good influence!

  3. hahahha..yes no barbie dolls for maybe that was okay