Tag Archives: food for thought

Fact: Our Brains Can’t Handle So Much BS At One Time

Does Twitter give you a skull-shaking headache these days? It seems that nowadays there is always a lot to take in. Take last week: the disgusting Transgender Military Ban, Scaramucci’s WH meltdown, the fight for the Skinny Repeal, and now ballistic missile strikes from North Korea. How is it that I nostalgically miss when Twitter was just everyone freaking out over Amanda Bynes asking Drake to murder her vagina. Those were simpler times.

Now, the minute two events happen simultaneously, people are so quick to yell, “Distraction! This is a distraction from [insert clusterf*ck of the week here].” I’m sure another one is happening right now as I type this.

Please.

The amount of information we now have thrown at us in our fingertips all day is too much for one brain to fully comprehend. No, really.
A couple of months ago I read a book called Thank You For Being Late by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Ignore how snobby that sentence sounds, and focus on this. The only thing enlightening and relevant thing I found in its 461 pages was a concept known as Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law is a theory from 1965 from Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel, and it was used to exponentially chart the growth of both speed and processing power in a microchip. Moore theorized that about every two years the speed and power of the microchip would double, and so on. The accuracy of Moore’s law in the course of the next 50 or so years, led it to be a term used to describe exponential growth in a changing landscape, and essentially the rate of which the market churns out things, that in which, we process.

Maddie, what the f*@k do microchips have to do with anything right now? Let me explain.

In the book, Moore’s law is best illustrated by an annoyingly repetitive metaphor about a king and a peasant wagering on some grains of rice. A king meets a peasant, who is conveniently the inventor of chess, and is so amazed at the game that he bets the peasant he can win. The peasant agrees, but says he only wants to feed his family, so he bets that the king reward him with a grain of rice for each square of the chessboard, except double the amount on each square moving forward, so one on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on… The king agrees without realizing that double yielding the rice over 63 times, actually adds up to about 18 quintillion grains of race. Well, Friedman asserts that we have now entered a “second chessboard” of innovation/acceleration, meaning that the “rice” we now have at our disposal is beyond quintillions of what we once started with. Stay with me. I’m getting there. Friedman met with Eric Teller, the CEO of Google’s X research and development lab, to discuss Moore’s law and its relevance to acceleration in technology and social movements. Teller, who rode into their meeting on roller blades, enthusiastically created a graph to illustrate the how accelerations in Moore’s law and in the flow of ideas are together increasing the pace of change that is challenging the ability of humans to, well, adapt.


What we are seeing here in Teller’s graph, is that, “even though human beings, and societies have steadily adapted to change, on average, the technological change is one accelerating so fast that it has risen above the average rate at which most people can absorb all these changes.” The result, is well, cultural angst and those Twitter-induced headaches. We simply cannot adapt as fast as what is being thrown in our direction. It is impossible to wholeheartedly and fully focus on all of these concepts at once, in a news cycle, on a Twitter feed everyday.

So, if you’re feeling like you’re constantly playing catch up, you’re probably just operating at an average level of adaptability. Next time you’re at a party and someone complains how “they’re so out of the loop” explain Moore’s Law to them, maybe even bring some prop rice for some showmanship; you’re welcome.