Friday, July 21, 2006

They will stick you in the end

This post, and the next few seemed to disappear into nowhereland. Hence the fishy tests below, one of may finally came through. So here goes.

I once had a philosophy lecturer, who despite a penchant for tracksuit pants and red socks was without doubt a wise man. He insisted that it was not necessary to follow current affairs in any great detail and that daily reading of tthe newspaper or watching of the TV news was no more than a bad habit. Time could be better spent, he argued. Besides if anything really important did happen he was sure his secretary would let him know. This was in the days before the internet really gripped us, but I often wonder whether he wasn't right. Is it really worth to cram my brain with billions of trivial facts and a knowledge of diverse affairs? It is, I must admit a habit of sorts. (habit: A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.)

A recent research article by Irving Biederman indicates that there may be something more primal behind this thirst for knowledge:

The "click" of comprehension triggers a biochemical cascade that rewards the brain with a shot of natural opium-like substances, said Irving Biederman of the University of Southern California. He presents his theory in an invited article in the latest issue of American Scientist.
"While you're trying to understand a difficult theorem, it's not fun," said Biederman, professor of neuroscience in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. "But once you get it, you just feel fabulous."

The brain's craving for a fix motivates humans to maximize the rate at which they absorb knowledge, he said.
"I think we're exquisitely tuned to this as if we're junkies, second by second."

Biederman hypothesized that knowledge addiction has strong evolutionary value because mate selection correlates closely with perceived intelligence. Only more pressing material needs, such as hunger, can suspend the quest for knowledge, he added.

So being a knowledge junkie is an addiction like any other. If not controlled it could destroy you. Simple rule - you can get too much of a good thing.
You need some knowledge... but how much I'm not sure. Maybe, maybe we just get too much knowledge?

I'll leave you with some lyrics from The Violent Femmes' ...Lack of Knowledge.

my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge

I wonder if I'm happy
wonder if I'm mad
I wonder why the whole wide world is so wonderfully sad
I don't know bout that but I can tell you this
that when I drink a lot of beer y'know I gotta piss... off

people should be pissed off
people should be pissed off
for lack of knowledge

read read read read read read read everything you can read and
learn learn learn learn learn learn learn everything you can learn

cause there is no tomorrow like today
and there is no today like tomorrow
and they will stick you, and they will stick you in the end

Make of it what you will.


VallyP said...

I don't know about too much knowledge, but too much news can be a serious overload.These past days have really been grim and I wonder how much good it does us to know about the terrible conflict in the Middle East when we can do so little to resolve it. Does that rate as something the good prof's secretary would see as imporant enough? Sorry, that seems needlessly cynical

Third World Ant said...

Vallyp - I definitely agree that the news coverage of the Middle East has far less to do with informing us and far more to do with the news channels showing off who can get the bigger scoop - and feeding our morbid curiosity. I've resolved not to switch to BBC/CNN/Sky until this crazy bloodfest dies down.

ATW said...

To continue the needless cynicism. There is a chance that dstv buttons 50 to 52 may be idle for a long time in the Antnest.