on the Brain, the Internet, Privacy, Happiness, and why I am NOT closing this blog!
sometimes i feel like getting off the Internet. yes, you heard it right. i get up in the morning, check twitter, facebook, blogs, newspapers, email, RSS feed aggregators, etc, etc, etc, and i start feeling a sense of urgency, predestination, direction, expectation about what i should do next that bothers me. at times it feels as i have outsourced thinking to the cloud and with that, i have lost part of my freedom.
when i think about my brain from a computer scientist point of view, i basically think about a memory, a CPU, and a bunch of algorithms that help process information, feelings, make decisions, structure the data, and more. if you take memory, it is becoming a commodity faster than you think. today you can buy at the supermarket a hard drive that has as much memory as your brain for $1000 (10 TBytes). CPU is also going the same path and becoming a commodity. for instance, computational capacity can be easily outsourced to a cluster of computers in the cloud. in 2020 you will be able to buy CPU equivalent to your brain capacity in the cloud for less than $1000.
In summary your empty brain CPU and brain memory cost no more than a couple of thousand dollars, and it is coming down… what makes our brain interesting is not the hardware — the memory and CPU–, but how we use it, what we keep, what we throw away, what we process, the connections that we make, etc. in essence the Software and algorithms we use.
and you would think that the Internet and technology would help with this last bit, however, they can actually make our brain function less efficiently. our brain come become more interrupted by lots of small nuggets of info, sms, email, the web, advertising, thus, making our algorithms function less efficiently. in terms of the brain as a computing platform, this is creating a constant burst of short interrupts that prevents us from doing the long term thinking we need to be who we are. basically our brain is trashing all the time and only manages to keep some very superficial thoughts, trends and fashions.
i recently heard from Ferran Adria (elBulli) that the only difference between what he does and what other cooks do to become so creative is to make “time” to think and create. in this sense, it is the only restaurant in the world that closes 6 months a year to create. and now i think: when do you get off the internet to create and think. when do you close your brain from the world to create, do deep thinking and decide what you want to do and where you want to go next, to be in control of the boat…
i have been saying for a while that Hardware is becoming a commodity and Software is where the value is. well that is only partly true — i am also thinking that TIME is where the value is. Software translates into a number of algorithms that help your brain do two things: a) quickly filter out all the info that you are receiving in real time, keep whatever you think is useful, compare it with whatever you already know, summarize it and store it, and b) run background algorithms that help you do creative thinking, innovate, delete things you have duplicated, summarize things to different degrees of granularity, and create new connections of hunches which could become the next big idea.
The first set of algorithms act on real time and require agility and speed. The second ones, require TIME to process, in the same way that Google requires time to process Terabytes of information to help you find what you want.
PRIVACY and HAPPINESS
but more and more we happily give all our information away. we easily become naked on the Internet, share where we eat, what we do, where we are. the risk of this is that we may end up in a situation where with all this info, companies or governments will be able to steer you towards taking certain decisions. i fear a lot of people may be happy taking this road and we may end up living in a society like Huxley predicted in a Brave new World, where people became happy at the cost of not having any privacy or control of their life, just redeeming privacy in exchange of pleasures. i fear that as a society it is already too late to change things and that we are going that road faster than you think, but not as individuals.
and it is as an individual that i vindicate the joy of pleasure reading, of wasting time, of art, literature, philosophy, getting bored, taking time to do some thinking, of focusing on one single thing, of contemplation, of stepping back, of having a private life and decide when and why not making it public, understanding the cost and value of privacy, in summary, of being free.
if you don´t control technology, it will control you, and that is why i am not closing this blog, vindicate blogging as a way to reflect, talk about random things, and moving away from a “twitted” life — it may just take me a bit more TIME to update it