The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload" by Daniel J. Levitin
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Its not just you. There is an ocean of information that humans simply cannot fully absorb. Five exabytes (5 x 10 pwr 18) of new data were produced in January 2012 alone and the monthly amount has grown exponentially.
Life has been so incredibly busy lately. That is part of the reason I have not posted in quite some time. I am sure many of you can relate. Here is just a standard day:
6:30am Wake up for work
7:30 – 8am Drive to work (Maybe I will listen to podcasts. Maybe I just need some quiet)
4 – 4:30pm Drive home from work (often this time is also used to make or rescheduled appointments or dispute charges on a bill over the phone)
4:30 – 8pm (it varies by the weekday but this 3.5 hour timeframe includes cooking, serving and cleaning up after dinner, helping with homework, evening activities for the kids, switching laundry and maybe a little house cleaning… oh right I need to go to the grocery store!)
8 – 8:30pm Get kids in bed
8:30 – 9pm Serve a separate meal for my husband and I (he gets home around 8:30)
9 – 10:30pm Hopefully some uninterrupted “adult time”
Go to sleep and do it all over again.
Adding to the standard day, I had a court case to prepare for to gain full custody of my children. My husband is working on his PhD in Technology and I proudly serve as his official proofreader. My ex often provides some unwelcome drama. Recently we had “school concert week” during which we had concerts three weeknights. I have two older children who often need help with car trouble, apartment hunting, moving or personal issues. My youngest has mild Autism requiring quarterly blood work and medication management appointments and regular, long phone conversations with the school counselor. I am expected to squeeze in teaching my children to do chores, manage finances, build character (thankfully my husband is fully vested in these endeavors. I could not do any of this without him). I should exercise more often. I haven’t done my own annual appointments yet. How long has it been? I have a list of books I have been wanting to read. Something came in the mail about my last doctor’s appointment not being paid for by insurance?
You get the picture. Been there?
I felt exhausted. Overwhelmed. I wanted to hide in a hole for a while just to try to recover. Why couldn’t I manage life? Everyone else seemed to do it just fine. What was I doing wrong?
My ingrained reaction was to point the finger at myself. I must be doing something wrong. I must be mismanaging my time. Maybe I don’t do enough. I haven’t had enough character conversations with my kids. Am I failing them? I wish I could exercise more. I would feel better about myself. Why haven’t I read that book? I keep eyeing it as I pass by it each morning while getting ready for work. I leave it on the top of the dresser as a visual reminder. Why don’t I have time? Why can’t I keep up?
I recognize this reaction is a result of my religious upbringing. Whenever things go wrong, and I ask why, the answers always pointed to me. You aren’t praying enough. You aren’t studying Scripture enough. Your actions are not pleasing to God. You don’t serve enough or sacrifice enough.
Enough of not enough. I work my ass of damn it! This is not my fault!
I wanted to do something that would make me feel more like a human and less like a work horse or a hamster on a wheel. I started by reading the book. The title probably sounds boring to most, but something had drawn me to it. “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload” by Daniel J. Levitin. Maybe I am reading it out of frustration.
It has been instrumental in showing me that I have done nothing wrong. I was right… this is NOT my fault! I am human and our society is not kind to the nature of a human. Here are a few facts from just the first chapter (I really only have time to read about 3 pages at a time before becoming distracted with something else that needs my attention).
The human brain has a processing limit of about 120 bits per second. Speaking to one person requires 60 bits per second. (Levitin, 7)
In our hunter-gatherer days, humans would perhaps encounter 1,000 other people in their entire lifetimes. Today if you walk the streets of Manhattan for 30 minutes, you will pass 1,000 other people. (Levitin, 7)
The average American owns thousands of times more possessions than a hunter-gatherer, each requiring some form of management. Our brains were not biologically intended to keep track of so many things. (Levitin, 12)
In the year 1550, there were 500 known plant species in the world. Today, we know of 9,000 species of grasses alone, 2700 types of palm trees, 500,000 plant species. (Levitin, 13)
Three hundred years ago, a person with a college degree in “science” knew about as much as any expert of the day. Today, someone with a PhD in biology can’t even know all that is known about the nervous system of the squid. Google Scholar reports 30,000 research articles on the topic with the number increasing exponentially. (Levitin, 15)
The amount of scientific information we have discovered in the last twenty years is more than all the discoveries up to that point from the beginning of language. (Levitin, 15)
Five exabytes (5x10 pwr 18) of new data were produced in January 2012 alone. (Levitin, 15)
We need to slow it down, people. We need to think about human nature and live according to it.
I am going to take some time to rest and think before finishing this book. When time and circumstances allow. I can pick it up again.