Ever since Clay Shirky first used the quote “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure” at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York, back in 2008, there has been an ongoing, everlasting, but rather passionate discussion from both sides of the story pondering whether it’s really all about facing and dealing with information overload or whether it’s just purely filter failure. I am sure that this is one of those topics we are never going to get tired of talking about, conversing, share our first hand experiences, try to convince others about our own point of view, etc. etc. You name it. But what if we throw food out there into the mix? Yes, you are reading it right. What if the key towards dealing with information overload is not just filter failure but a matter of food. Actually, thought for food.
For a good number of years I have shared across my admiration, praise and just pure delight for having the continued unique opportunity to pick up on the brains, and muse further on, from a great group of rather talented and insightful thought leaders in the Social Computing space, who, if anything, have always managed to get everyone thinking differently about certain ideas, trends of thought, and whatever else, around that social transformation of the business world; not to mention as well the impact of our societies going digital, and how we deal, in general, with information and knowledge to make some sense into it, without asking anything in return. One of those folks I have been truly admiring for a long while is JP Rangaswami, a.k.a. @jobsworth. Why?
Well, not only because of the superb writing that he keeps putting together over at his blog “Confused of Calcutta – A Blog About Information” or his various tweets, amongst several other online places he gets to share his thoughts out loud on, but mainly because, just recently, he may have given us a new way of looking into information overload and how we can deal with it making plenty of good sense, in addition to Clay’s mantra about filter failure. And it’s got to do that with one of my favourite topics du jour as well. Food!
Who would have thought about that, right? Information / knowledge and food walking hand in hand to explain one of those current issues we keep facing in today’s more interconnected, intelligent and information abundant world than ever before. Yet, making perfect sense. Take a look and read further JP’s recently blog entry on this topic under the suggestively provocative title “Thought for food“, where he referenced his recent appearance at TED Salon in Austin as he delivered a truly inspirational speech of a bit over 8 minutes long, that exposed one of those brilliant analogies that, when going through it, as you watch him further dive into it, you realise it just makes perfect sense! Why didn’t we all see it before?
Take a look into the TED Talk video clip itself that I have embedded below. Like I said, it lasts for a little bit over 8 minutes, but it really is worth while watching in its entirety. And you will see what I mean after you finish it off. So here it goes:
Basically, on that short dissertation JP comes to confirm what may well be the potential solution to how we deal with information in the knowledge economy. Yes, it may well have to do quite a bit with collaborative filtering; term I have grown to become rather fond of while describing how the networks you keep treasuring and cultivating are those very same ones that will be filtering the best, topnotch content available out there for you!, but it may well not be good enough. JP explained it beautifully with this quote on what really matters at the end of the day on how we handle such information abundance:
“Information, if viewed from the point of view of food, is never a production issue. … It’s a consumption issue, and we have to start thinking about how we create diets [and] exercise“
And this is where it hit me. And big time! This is where I realised about that wonderfully inspiring connection between information & knowledge AND food. You see? There used to be a time when I didn’t care much about the food I consumed, nor the portions, nor the quality of the ingredients, or the variety, etc. etc. Whatever it was good to fill my belly up with and move on back to what I was doing was just good enough for me. Exercise and good working out sessions were out of the question, too!, for yours truly. I just didn’t have the time and I wasn’t that interested at all. Till around July last year when I reached what I would consider my own tipping point, that is, 101.5 kgs. / 223 lbs and on the brink of reaching 40 years of age. No, not to worry, no body warnings or body alarms blew off, but, right there, right then, I realised I needed to start doing something about it, because I was entering that dangerous situation where I was no longer feeling healthy, based on my food intakes and the non-existent exercise habits.
As you well may remember, I eventually blogged about that transformation I started right there, how by doing three simple things I have managed to change that dangerous path towards an unhealthy lifestyle with everything that entails. Those three simple things were:
- Watch, much more, what I do eat, looking for variety and healthier foods (fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, etc. etc.) in much smaller portions aiming for no longer feeling full meal after meal.
- Start doing daily exercise and some workouts, in order to carry on burning all of that bad stuff I have accumulated over the course of the years. I started small, walking, then fast walking, then moving on into slow running, and, finally reaching a certain level of running where my body feels comfortable and I, too, fell comfortable without putting too much strain, but still getting the job done; then every so often a bit more of rowing, some yoga and off we go. The journey began… and it never stopped ever since.
- And, finally, ensure that every night I would get a good night sleep, of, at least, 7.5 hours, if not more, since that seems to be the best quality sleeping time I can get, as Sleepyti.me bedtime calculator taught me over the course of time.
And that was it! That was my discovery journey into figuring out that I needed to start working my way on not only how I would consume food, but also how I would burn it all, or a large chunk of it, and how I would need to get better sleep which helps oneself, as you all know, fully charge your own batteries ready for the next day. Right now, as I write these few words, I’m at the stage that I would call on maintenance mode, having lost 19 kgs / 41 lbs; and if I were to describe how I feel at the moment, both physically and mentally I would probably be able to do so with a single word. This one: liberating!
Indeed, feeling and being healthier altogether surely has got its traits and whatever other perks, and it’s just the beginning on to, hopefully, a better good quality life. To me, it’s just that experience in the last year that I have found strikingly close to what JP mentioned throughout his talk about how we should be looking into information, not from the perspective of what we produce, or see others produce, but more from the point of view of how we consume it. That’s what matters.
That’s where we need to realise that in such a world of over abundance of free information flowing back and forth, and just like we ourselves continue to be more proactive on looking after our own health promoting and living further along with a good number of healthier habits, we should probably be equally religious as well on figuring out how we are going to best consume the information that’s available out there that would matter the most for us and our needs. And I suspect that the key magic trait that would probably make it all work for us is, as JP brilliantly mentioned, how we are going to put in place not only those various different (information) diets, but, much more importantly, how we are going to exercise the mind into figuring out what works and what won’t work as part of that healthy and nurturing mental activity.
In that matter I suspect critical thinking is going to play a key role, just as much as endorphins play it when we engage on some kind of physical activity. The key challenge though is whether we are going to be able to put a stop to the always tempting, increasingly everlasting, and irresistible urge of information gluttony. Because I can imagine that with the huge amount of information and knowledge available out there our brains, most likely, will continue to be enticed by that massive flow of abundance that’s probably going to be far too tough to tame, if at all. Collaborative filtering, as we all know, may well help out, but we may as well be much more effective if we start training our brain(s) about when to strike for the balance of consuming the right info, figure out the right portion, and exercise it well enough so that we can make the best out of it, without having that pernicious feeling of empty saturation. We probably don’t need it any longer. We will be, most certainly, much better off without it, don’t you think?