Information Overload and the Tale of the Deadly Pear

Creative Commons by Krzysztof Puszczyński

Creative Commons by Krzysztof Puszczyński

My pear tried to kill me this morning.  I was driving to work and was, ironically, listening to a segment on NPR about their “Infomagical challenge”–all about removing distractions.  Just as I rounded the corner into school, my pear, precariously placed on the middle console, leapt forward and rolled under my break pedal.  Luckily, I watched a ton of Rescue 911 when I was a kid and was very prepared for this moment.  Two of my childhood fears were water bottles rolling under brake pedals and playing near ravines just as the town opened the dam somewhere a mile away.   I was very fortunate to be at an empty intersection, so I kicked the pear away and leaned down to grab it.  I am now eating this pear–as revenge.

This post isn’t about beating myself up for terrible driving, but more about introducing you to the Infomagical Challenge on NPR’s show Note to Self.    The millions of tasks I tried to focus on during my commute, almost kept me from doing the one thing I was supposed to do–drive safely to work.  The video on this link is particularly interesting.  Overall, this 5-day challenge asks you to observe what happens when you cut out certain parts of information-overload habits.  For example, it challenges us to recognize our urges to multi-task or our obsession with memes and trending material on social media.  It turns out that the habitual part of our brain keeps us clicking and scrolling, long after the flexible part of of brain, the hippocampus, runs out of steam.  And so we actually train ourselves to stay engaged online, instead of allowing ourselves to process selected information.

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