Saturday, May 07, 2016

Of minds, notifications, and meaning


There is an infinite level of detail in everything. Un-raveling that detail is what the human mind is tuned for. It is what it’s meant to do. 

With all our immense brain power, it would be a great injustice if we don’t harness it for something complex. More than an injustice, it would be ….. hurtful; dangerous even. What would happen to a giant power source if it is not tethered to a suitable load ? it would burn itself out.

Which is why the attention deficit inducing brave new world of notifications is so dangerous. It is highly efficient of course. It gets things done. And most enjoyable too, up to a point.

But the human mind’s innate capabilities are left almost completely un-utilized as we lower ourselves to a pavlovian routine - reacting to set stimuli with set behaviors for immediate gratification.

It would keep us occupied, but it would not soothe us. 

Deep down we know we’re missing something. That giant computational powerhouse that we carry around in our heads needs to be fed. It demands complexity, subtlety, a challenge worthy of its dimensions. When the challenge doesn’t come, the brain will start finding its own problems to solve. It will get attracted to the first interesting stimulus it can latch onto, or it will switch from one thought to the other in search of a true challenge. The first, an unsupervised sub conscious grab for anything challenging, can lead us down several dark alleys, and the world today has a frightening number of those. The second, a desperate hunt for meaning, would lead us to desperation, a nagging restlessness.

The television image of Sherlock getting bored, restless and desperate when a case not challenging enough for him turns up is a fictional exaggeration. But it is not too far from the truth.

At the end of the day we all live inside our heads. And the lack of something intellectually invigorating will drive us all to despair to varying degrees. For a while we might mask it with the constant stimuli from the outside, but we will eventually tire. At some point, even if for a short period, we all need to recede back into our heads, and hope that we have filled it with something worthwhile to dwell on.

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