06 June 2010

DUToE #4

Signal processing. Which I will also refer to this as "kinetic societies". A theory which I'll explain at some point. Once I know what I mean by it.

I do notice this happening. I spent some of the day trying to unplug from the internet and finish reading my civil war book (all 800 pages of it). Certain subjects I can usually buckle down on and focus for long, often very long, stretches of attention. But reading has also become something that I do a lot of through digital mediums, like blogs. That's a convenience when I read some article or blog entry and think it worth a commentary. It becomes something else to do while I also concentrate on the topic itself for a few moments and chew it over mentally. It's less so when I flip through a book as I don't have tabs to use to make such notations mentally (although, it sounds like that's a huge disadvantage for memory processing anyway. So it's probably fine that I have to go from the book to my memory and then to the chewing stage. That I have a chewing stage is also an advantage of course).

What seems like the critical advantage is that when I'm "reading" in that way though, I'm actually focused on a increasingly limited set of channels. I have lots of different blogs I read regularly, but I'm now trying to trim down the number of entries per day that I read with interest and thus give them more attention. That gets around the F-type mind problem I think as it does less skimming when it's a subject I wanted to pick out and see what was going on about, but doesn't get around the "that's not something I'd usually read" problem. I've had to resort to picking more blogs to try to fix that one. It doesn't get around the way journalists write their articles, where I can indeed very often just read the first two lines, see what they think they were saying, and then skip to the bottom after a page of fluff and see what they actually said.

What really interested me about the subject is the social aspect of this kind of diffused behavior all taking place online. I have a cell phone. I have almost no use for it. Most things I'd need to keep tabs on people in their glories and failures are available online. Or can be, if they put it there. Social networks like that are indeed a form of addiction. But they also become a cloud source of data. People don't have to remember things. If you need to recall someone's birthday, well it's on their page (if they're nice enough to tell everyone, which I'm not). If you need to know the capital of Latvia or to bone up on organic chemistry or macroeconomic theory, well all that is in Wikipedia (a cloud sourced encyclopaedia) or the university of Google. Constellations and stars are on Droid phone apps (which was a pretty neat little thing I'm happy to have had a chance to play with).

I'm not sure how this will improve processing or analyzing the information to draw conclusions or make comparisons, but if it can be stored and recalled whenever we need it, that will make analysis easier for the people who can do it. And make it more accessible still as information becomes more and more "democratically" accessible. What's really the interesting part to shake out is how the information is collected or gathered by individuals who might want to process it themselves. That's a lot easier to do, but it's a lot harder to access the source material. When your compatriots were in the same town, with the same basic cultural norms, and the same basic outlooks on a variety of things, it is pretty easy to assess the quality of their information (subjectively speaking). That kind of filtering subroutine continues as people can reject information provided by people outside of approved sectors as invalid (whether or not it is, which it can be), and accept only filtered information within that same closed circle. The problem people are having with all this of course is that the social world is no longer simply that little village of same-minded people. It's everywhere at once. It's amazing to watch people who've lived in a cultural enclave all their lives throw up their ideas and watch them be obliterated, just as I assume this explains why people watch American Idol's first couple weeks because it demonstrates all those people who think they can sing. And can't. At all. Maybe this will ultimately help us think in a different and more efficient way. Or maybe we'll all just become paralyzed as we go from reading an article, to looking at photos of a friend's wedding, to youtube, to reading some random page on wikipedia. I haven't gotten that far into it. I at least can usually keep up with my random walk function. But I've seen it happen to good people. It'll be interesting if this internet revolution eventually has some sort of impact in evolutionary terms on the human brain in order to keep up with all the signal processing and better organise memory storage.

Or maybe everyone else will just have to become some version of autistic or aspie. Since they do seem better at pushing through the bullshit than most people. And if storing large social networks becomes increasingly a problem we turn over to clouds and computers, then that would leave more processing power for other things anyway. In theory.

Incidentally, while trying to go through all this mess, I was of course, dealing with an NBA finals game which has induced a few instances of yelling at the TV screen (in alternating good and bad yells), and of course, facebook (and twitter) was sitting there in the background hopping up with status updates until everybody finally went to bed when I yelled at them to leave me alone (not really, but my timing is impeccable). Fortunately the Blackhawks got up big in the NHL finals game so I could skip that one too as a source of diverted attention. Multitasking is not a fun time. It adds many hours to tasks that should take a few minutes. I at least have the luxury of partially blaming the last source for potentially destroying all human thought: television, and probably the first as well, in professional athletics.
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