Consuming information is a lot like eating. I eat roughly on a schedule, not compulsively. There is a limit to the information I can consume just as there is with the amount of food I can eat. With practice — stretching my boundary — those limits can expand and do for me in both areas. I have to decide what I want expanding. In the sense of food obviously I don't want to expand much. With information I often do, but not always.
When expanding the mind and body, it's not so much the quantity of information or food, it's the qualities it enables in me. So just as I do with food, I discriminate between what is good for my mind and what is not. Because what I consume will expand those qualities in myself.
In Old English the word wær meant cautiousness. From this, we get the word ware in modern English, meaning commodities. It is interesting to investigate the origins of our words, to be aware of how they have evolved to suit the expanding concerns of humanity.
Wetware is a word derived in a manner similar to the convention established for hardware and software. The prefix "wet" symbolises the "wetness" of biological brains. Wetware refers to both the structural aspects of brains, and the thoughts within them. It is used analogously with computers; if my brain is hardware, then my thoughts are the software. While computer hardware is literally "set in stone", my brain wetware can reconfigure itself — change its internal structure — and it's all driven by the thoughts I experience.
Language is the medium of communication and a tool of thought. When language enters my mind, through the wetware of my brain it acts as a kind of software. My thoughts run on the hardware of my brain, which is made of networks of cells called neurons. These neural networks move information around in the form of rebroadcasted electrical and chemical signals.
The plasticity of neural connections is made possible by glial cells which act as gardeners in my brain. Some kinds of glial cells support these neurons both structurally and nutritionally. Others control neuroplasticity by enhancing or destroying connections between neurons. Still others become neurons themselves in a process called adult neurogenesis.
How do these glial cells know what to do? The activity of my neural network tells them how to behave, in essence what I am thinking is what is happening. As thought patterns are used frequently, glial cells strengthen those patterns by causing the related neural connections to be faster and more efficiently connected. Conversely, as certain thought patterns or memories fall into disuse, glial cells are involved in the destruction of neural connections which causes you to forget.
I sometimes think about how much information I’ll encounter over my lifetime versus an individual from the ancient past. In the intervening time, humanity has constructed a global communications network to support the broadcasting and exchange of information. Beginning with print, radio, and television, these broadcasting technologies dominated the information diet. Now, with the internet, many more voices have been added to the chorus of information pulsing the globe. While print has been in decline, people are reading more than ever due to the internet and social networking. It is estimated that 100,000 words cross the average person's eyes and ears in a 24 hour period through these various media channels.
I ask myself this; if the information I consume plays an active role in structuring my brain, how do I enhance or even determine the quality of information before I consume it?
My brain is bombarded by signals from the five senses and it works to filter information from these signals. It can also inject invented information where none is available. The action of this filter is determined by the structure of my brain, and the structure of my brain is determined by the action of this filter. This feedback loop predisposes myself to certain thought patterns, and the more I nurture those thought patterns with the proper information, the stronger they become.
Externally, there is a filter built of software running on computer hardware that determines the most relevant information I consume on the internet. The more I interact with information of a certain quality, the more that quality of information is served to me in social media, or online search results — like wetware of the brain — it reconfigures itself for me. It reinforces my association to that information, strengthening the pattern of consumption. As I cease interacting with certain information it becomes less and less relevant in the content served to me through internet services.
Borders are conceptual shortcuts essential for language. The reality is that these borders used to label the mind and aspects of the environment are are "fuzzy" with feedback loops. Currently, feedback loops are attenuating and amplifying information exchange between a computer device and my mind and body. The information goes beyond just the physical, say the light from the screen, a touch of my finger or scroll of the mouse. I use my computer or my smartphone as an extension of myself. It's used to offload my memory or to extend my body through automation, to send my thoughts or to receive the thoughts others over long distance communication networks or to leverage the world wide web as a vast library of long term memory — and not just my own memories, but the memories of the collective works of humanity past and present. These devices I use for information processing as well as the information they process both contain and are contained by my mind.
But it doesn't end with computer devices. Other people can become extensions of my mind and body. Long term friends or my spouse, we often finish each other's sentences. We take turns relying upon the other's memory to recall details of the past such as names or dates. So my mind does extend beyond my cranium, beyond my body both technologically and socially through connections with other minds.
I ask myself if the information I consume is really enhancing the qualities in myself that are most important to me. I take an active role in the structure of my internal and external filters. These filters lock me into thought patterns and insulate me in informational bubbles. The media didn't create my bubble, I did. I built it myself in the associations I kept and the associations I destroyed due to contrary opinion. I wasn’t alone in doing this, we’ve all done it together. We all look at reality in the mirror of our mind. The information we filter from the environment polishes or distorts this mirror.
Relentlessly prune your sources of information until they do what they're supposed to do for you, sustain and grow yourself and others. There isn't really anything to know other than we are ritualistic creatures by nature. Examine your rituals and try and determine what information you need to sustain and which you need to grow. Again, relentlessly prune and garden your sources! When it comes to nutrition for the mind as well as for the body, spend time digesting after consuming a healthy and balanced diet.