the consumption renews the appetite
September 6, 2009 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Seeking - How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting.
posted by nickyskye (40 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
and, uh, not least of all, MeFi.
posted by Pliskie at 6:44 AM on September 6, 2009


creatures eating Double Stuf Oreos or repeatedly having orgasms.

Where does one sign up to be in this experiment?
posted by jbickers at 6:46 AM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Orgasm" is a sort of cookie, right? Because I'm pretty sure Double Stuf Oreo is an obscure sex act.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:54 AM on September 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Interestingly, "seeking" is the root of the German word for addiction.
posted by Slothrup at 6:59 AM on September 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting. And why that's dangerous.

Interesting stuff, even though I'm not a fan of the scare-mongering in the title and vaguely judgemental tone throughout the article. Besides, by the end 'dangerous' has somehow become 'This perhaps should make us cautious.' Information is appealing in and of itself, it doesn't need to be Pandora's box to make people want to look.

"My boyfriend has threatened to break up with me if I keep whipping out my iPhone to look up random facts about celebrities when we're out to dinner."

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the iPhone is not the problem here. People behaved in anti-social, instant-gratification ways before twitter. It might make it easier to scratch that itch with the help of technology and society might be more tolerant of people doing so, but I don't see this is a slippery slope to a doomed society of info-junkies looking for that next hit.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:02 AM on September 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, that just begs for -

Metafilter: a doomed society of info-junkies looking for that next hit.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:05 AM on September 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


Focusing on nowhere
Investigating miles
I'm a seeker
I'm a really desperate man
posted by Tube at 7:11 AM on September 6, 2009


I won't get to get what I'm after
Till the day I die
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:22 AM on September 6, 2009


This isn't exactly a new thing, though it's become more obvious and ubiquitous. People have exhibited info-addictive behavior since BBS days.

And modern technology is a litany of tools that make these problems worse, from distilled alcohol and purified cocaine and heroin to modern propaganda and advertising to ever more immersive forms of media. Don't underestimate the effect of powerful interests who stand to make money from your urge to keep hitting that seek lever.
posted by localroger at 7:32 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Shakes notes via his priest character in Rome and Juliet, that that which can be used as poison can also be used for medicinal purposes. Depends upon the user.
posted by Postroad at 7:46 AM on September 6, 2009


Mind Hacks posted a great rebuttal to some of the things talked about in this.
posted by nostrich at 8:03 AM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, "seeking" is the root of the German word for addiction.

That is interesting. While we use the cognate for that word in Dutch as well in a similar sense, the more common word for "addiction" derives from the word for "slave".
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:05 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


See, I KNEW MetaFilter was aerobic!
posted by Drasher at 8:05 AM on September 6, 2009


That Mind Hacks article seems to be defiantly ignoring the central point of the Slate article, which is that certain types of information are inherently rewarding because they allow us to make new connections and perceive new patterns, which are the things that directly stimulate the seeking system.
posted by localroger at 8:11 AM on September 6, 2009


localroger, as I understand it, the Mind Hacks article is saying that the small bits of information that we get from Google, Twitter, etc. do NOT directly stimulate the seeking system.

Still, my tendency is to agree with the Slate article, although I'm not exactly sure why yet, and I would guess that their scientific rigor is, well, not too rigorous. My sense is that somehow the way I use the internet tricks me into thinking that I'm really gaining something in exchange for my time, which I usually am not. So the eternal loop of clicking continues.

Post comment!
posted by nosila at 8:40 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


nosila -- that's precisely the point the Mind Hacks article doesn't get; the seeking system doesn't care whether you actually ever gain anything; it directly rewards activity that could possibly gain you something, whether it ever does or not.

The Slate article is saying that those small bits of information do directly stimulate the seeking system precisely because they are (1) small bits of information which (2) can be readily interconnected to reveal unexpected patterns. That those patterns might never prove useful doesn't matter; we are put together in such a way that we feel directly rewarded just for seeing them.
posted by localroger at 8:54 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seeking knowledge about seeking knowledge is pretty rewarding by itself, especially if it makes us seek more knowledge about seeking knowledge.
posted by bru at 8:57 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:10 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Interestingly, "seeking" is the root of the German word for addiction.

Which led me to wonder what the root of the Russian word for addiction might be, and upon investigation I learned that there is no Russian word for addiction: the dictionaries translate it by пристрастие 'weakness (for); partiality (towards)' or влечение 'attraction (to),' and the Wikipedia page is titled Вредные привычки 'Harmful habits.' How about that?

*runs off to spend an hour pointlessly looking up useless information*
posted by languagehat at 9:28 AM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


localroger - I also disagree with the assertion in the Mind Hacks article that the information we get from looking at the patterns in the bark on trees (cue Hansel from Zoolander) stimulates us in exactly the same way as the types of information the Slate article is dealing with. Clearly, there is a HUGE difference between feeling compelled to visit your RSS feed 80 times/day and standing for five minutes staring at a tree. I am not knowledgable enough about neuroscience to tell you what that difference is, but I'll eat my hat if it's not there.

I have so much studying to do before I can really talk about these things that I would like to talk about. Anyone who can direct me to any articles (I have access to pretty much any journal there is) that deal with the neurological differences in the ways in which we intake information (e.g. Wikipedia vs. Twitter vs. articles vs. books) would be my hero.
posted by nosila at 9:36 AM on September 6, 2009


This post is totally meta. I'm going to go look up all kinds of overarching information about it.
posted by autodidact at 9:43 AM on September 6, 2009


Or: how slate is addicted to psudoscience.
posted by delmoi at 10:15 AM on September 6, 2009


This is why World of Warcraft.

When I'm depressed I can spend hours filling up tabs with blog posts, wikipedia pages, youtube videos, search results ... to spend time with "later." My seeking goes off the rails. I'm the kitten, the web is my laser.

This article resonates with me.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:24 AM on September 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


The brain is hardwired to do anything half-assed journalists want it to do.
posted by Dr. Send at 11:20 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Weird, I was just clicking the back button as I read this sentence: "...our constant Internet scrolling is remodeling our brains to make it nearly impossible for us to give sustained attention to a long piece of writing..." so I guess the writer is correct.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 11:41 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
google, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through "the street" at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,

I changed three words. I'm going to go read more poetry now.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 12:00 PM on September 6, 2009



Curiosity
posted by notreally at 3:21 PM on September 6, 2009


languagehat - my Russian speaking woman here says the standard word would be зависимость, i.e. dependence.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:12 PM on September 6, 2009


Maybe this is why when I was a kid I imagined that Heaven was the place where I would "know everything."
posted by aetg at 4:15 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heh. I changed considerably more than three words, SinisterPurpose.
I saw the best posters of my generation destroyed by politics, commenting hysterical naked,
scrolling themselves through the n-word threads at dawn looking for a snarky fix,
trucker-hatted hipsters burning for the cheapest DSL connection to the bitwise dynamo in the datastream of night,
who pizza and tater-tots and poopsocking and high sat up typing in the supernatural whiteness of rented condos surfing across the tubes of internets contemplating porn,
who bared their breasts on MySpace under fake names and saw Mohammedan bombers threatening in video streams illuminated,
who played through universities with radiant eyes hallucinating Second Life and Warcraft tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were banned from the websites for crazy & posting batshitinsane on the Windows™ of the Bill,
who farted in unshaven rooms in underwear, tossing their tissues in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror on CNN...
Rather than repeat myself, here's my somewhat ranty ironically longform take on this stuff from a coupla years back.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:26 PM on September 6, 2009


Very relatable. I am always going after these sort of immediate and fleeting pleasure rewards. It's difficult for me to drive without music playing, to cook without turning on the tv. God forbid I leave myself quietly alone with my brain without some kind of media input as a distraction.
posted by aesacus at 7:55 PM on September 6, 2009


Ditto, aesacus.
This article had a few particular points that rang really true. Being one of those people with a "hyperactivity disorder", myself, I remember how I used to check the clock all the time, counting down until I was off of work or out of school, even if I was at a job I loved. Now that I have some controlling substances involved, I can't remember the last time I did that.
posted by redsparkler at 8:45 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Didn't read any articles. But I disagree with the one with the pseudo-science that says new things are really scary despite the fact they're obviously really useful and not scary.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:49 PM on September 6, 2009


Actually, recorded human history is what, four, five thousand years now?

In all that time, has there ever once been a new discovery or invention that somehow, provably and examined with the benefit of hindsight, damaged people psychologically without their knowing it? (Not a weapon or a disease or a poison or a drug, but something everyday people used because it was useful and cool?)

Honest question.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:55 PM on September 6, 2009


Define 'damage'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:09 PM on September 6, 2009


In all that time, has there ever once been a new discovery or invention that somehow, provably and examined with the benefit of hindsight, damaged people psychologically without their knowing it?

-agriculture
-organized religion
-division of labour

etc., etc.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:52 PM on September 6, 2009


Maybe this is why when I was a kid I imagined that Heaven was the place where I would "know everything."

No, I'm pretty certain you're thinking of the other place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:32 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Drjimmy11: Didn't read any articles.

Well that's obvious.

But I disagree with the one with the pseudo-science...

If you didn't read it, how do you know it's based on pseudo-science?

...that says new things are really scary despite the fact they're obviously really useful and not scary.

If you had read it you might have noticed that that's not what the article says. It says the new things are scary because people demonstrably react to them in addictive ways, and a number of animal and human studies indicate that this addictive reaction could reach self-destructive levels. While there is some controversy about the applicability of some of those studies the conclusion is a very reasonable interpretation of what is known.
posted by localroger at 5:09 AM on September 7, 2009


> languagehat - my Russian speaking woman here says the standard word would be зависимость, i.e. dependence.

Yeah, that's what I was told when I posted the same thing on my blog. Thanks!
posted by languagehat at 9:22 AM on September 7, 2009


The system is also activated by particular types of cues that a reward is coming. In order to have the maximum effect, the cues should be small, discrete, specific—like the bell Pavlov rang for his dogs.

[+] <--- GAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! It's scary because it's TRUE.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:42 PM on September 7, 2009


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