Write to burn excess information
On the similarity between a bag of chips and Wikipedia
Hi there and a warm welcome to new readers,
I’ll admit, I’m still bitter about Facebook’s decision to rebrand to Meta. In a few years’ time, people might think this is a blog about growing meta followers in FB’s metaverse. 🤷🏻 (could be a good thing?)
Every now and then I like to introduce what “Growing Meta” is all about: it’s a recurrent letter of timeless ideas & knowledge stories for the intellectually curious who like to connect dots, and there is no mightier dot-connecter than meta fields – fields that study all fields.
There’s wisdom, beauty and an identity in every field – philosophy
There’s knowledge in every field – epistemology (a part of philosophy)
There’s complexity in every field – complexity science
There’s a future for everything – futures studies
There’s a history for everything – history studies
There’s a language for everything – mathematics/logic
There’s a nature for everything – physics
By ‘growing meta’, a thinker would be able to sketch the similarities between stock markets and the Alps, between regional development and slime mold, and between designing a museum and solving climate change. Meta thinking is the drone for traversing the forest of knowledge.
I try to collect the best ideas and stories on meta thinking. For a taster on Growing Meta, there’s a story on ‘as if’ theories, and an illustrated analysis on analysis.
A sweet discovery I realized in 2021 is the overwhelming similarity between food and information. There is something very alluring in midnight reading sprees, quite like that 11:30PM sneak into the chocolate cupboard.
After a long day and a very grumpy back, I’d throw my body onto the bed and open up an essay or an article – by then time becomes a void. I’d read from the history of trade to the neuroscience of serial killers, and I’d get lost in the grandeur of interrelated knowledge. When the time hits 2AM, the reality of adult life dawns on me and I realize I’ve just lost three hours of much needed sleep.
But time is not the only cost to learning. It is information overload. Just like eating too much food gives you too many calories, learning too many things leads into information overconsumption. When over-eating is coupled with lack of exercise, we become obese. When over-learning is coupled with lack of action, we become infobese.
Here is a personal confession; I am as addicted to learning as I am to my daily dose of good chocolate. I read a lot of essays and books at random — a habit championed by Twitter influencers and frowned upon by scholars.
So of course, I suffer from the occasional infobesity.
Unfortunately, infobesity has the same effects on our mental health as obesity . The neural circuitry responsible for rewarding us when we indulge ourselves with high energy food is the same for rewarding us when we treat ourselves to information snacks (the ventral striatum). The brain craves rewards, so it rewires to ask for more snacks. This means there is an endless cycle of addiction to the subject of indulgence. This means we feel anxiety and a nimble form of depression when we submit to addiction.
So how do we treat infobesity?
Because I like to geek on value stream paradigms: the value of information can be upgraded into knowledge or even wisdom. This is made possible by analyzing, synthesizing and writing (or any form of communication).
There is research backing the similarity between physical exercise and writing. As I write this post I’m struggling to collect my mental stamina to put all of the information I want to communicate in a coherent narrative. By now I’m already drained and just want to rest – but my brain is experiencing the blessing of serotonin at the moment (the happiness we feel from hard work).
This is precisely what I feel when I jog after a period of physical stagnation. Drained but finally putting all those calories to use. Upgrading the value of a calorie into energy.
When I wrote this letter for 26 weeks in a row, my mental stamina and strength was able to consolidate all of my notes into a post just like a bodybuilder was able to bench press the usual weights. There is just so much psychological sense in the notion that consistency is everything that matters.
Writing gives us the same mental health benefits of physical exercise (nothing to cite here but my humble experience).
Take care of your BMI – the Brain Mass Index ™ (cliché?) 🐻
Until next week,
 Pearrow, Mark J. "Infobesity: Cognitive and Physical Impacts of Information Overconsumption." (2012).