The Blog of Curtis Chambers

Infophilia and the Convenience of Technology

with 7 comments

After reading Brad’s post on Infophilia, I can’t help but think that I have the exact same symptoms. I’m addicted to learning new things and acquiring information. I can’t stop and if I run out of things to read in my RSS reader, I just start reading anything I can get my hands on, even if it’s something as mundane as the back of a Lysol bottle. Here’s a few of the things I’ve been actively working on learning in the last week using a variety of books, news articles, software products, museums, and websites:

  • French
  • Japanese
  • Barack Obama’s history
  • JFK’s history
  • Random facts about Boston and Cambridge
  • How to alter the autocomplete functionality in Drupal
  • How to analyze football stats to produce the ultimate fantasy football team
  • Swarming algorithms involved in various methods of P2P file transfers
  • How to make applesauce


*The above picture is an artist rendition of how Amy makes applesauce

A lot of people joke with me about how much I’m on the computer, but it really is just a means to achieve this information overload in a more convenient and efficient way. I remember in elementary school and junior high, I would spend the entirety of my time after school at the library reading until it closed and then go home and log on to BBSes and the early versions of the World Wide Web to read more. I’ve always had this constant desire to consume information in its various forms and the Internet just makes it even easier, especially with news.

Google Reader tells me that in the last month I read an average of about 140 stories a day. While I believe that RSS readers such as Google Reader have made it so much easier to keep up with the news compared to traditional websites and newspapers, there is still a long way to go in the social news world before it is truly efficient. While I read an average of 140 stories a day, I only shared/starred an average of 6 stories per day. That means that only 4% of the stories that were delivered to me were good enough to share with others or keep in my stash of bookmarks. I don’t have any statistics on how many stories in an average newspaper that people enjoy, but I’d imagine it’s somewhere near there. But the computer is a tool that should make this process more efficient, and I’m hoping that with the coming generation of social news services that analyze your reading patterns to deliver more relevant stories, that the number will increase to at least 50%.

But it’s not just limited to news. Technology also makes other types of information more readily available. For example, Rosetta Stone makes it incredibly easy to learn a new language in the same way that you learned your first language and you can do it anywhere you have a computer. There’s also eBook readers that allow you to hold as many books as you want in a single device. I have a few books loaded into my iPhone so that when I’m standing around waiting for a bus or subway I can just whip it out and read right there.

I do have one fear associated with this Infophilia (disorder perhaps?). I notice that the more I learn and the more information I consume, the more my memories of the past seem to fade away. It’s as if my brain is a hard drive that’s running at capacity and keeps deleting old files to make room for new ones. While I love having all the latest and greatest information, there are some older memories that I’d really prefer not to lose. The fact that my digital photo library only starts at 2001 is rather disheartening, as I’m afraid that at some point in the future I’ll have to rely on it to trigger memories of the past.

So my challenge to Brad in his quest to unlock the secrets of the human brain is to find a way to unlock the other 92% of my brain that I supposedly don’t use. I could use the extra gigabytes.

Written by Curtis Chambers

October 9, 2007 at 1:56 pm

7 Responses

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  1. “So my challenge to Brad in his quest to unlock the secrets of the human brain is to find a way to unlock the other 92% of my brain that I supposedly don’t use. I could use the extra gigabytes.”

    AAAAHHHHH!!!! Nooooooo!!!!!


    October 10, 2007 at 9:19 am

  2. “the more I learn and the more information I consume, the more my memories of the past seem to fade away”

    Yeah, but that might have nothing to do with the learning. To think of it another way, as regular people get older they normally complain of early memories fading away. How can you tease apart normal aging memory fading from aging+learning memory fading?

    Science. That’s how.


    October 10, 2007 at 9:21 am

  3. interesting thought – what I learned, or at least choose to believe being that it’s not known as of yet, is that we don’t forget anything – ever. Everything we see and hear is stored in different levels of available recall. Take a memory which you seemed to forget all about. I don’t think it’s gone forever; but rather just harder to recall.
    Our brains do a ton of filtering and whatever is deemed unimportant is sent to a deeper level of recall. It’s just not needed. This isn’t to say it’s gone. Just harder to recall.
    This is probably why when you see a photo back from 01 in your photo library, you recall that event and say, “oh ya! I remember that” I believe with the right stimulus i.e. a picture, or familiar smell etc, you could recall just about anything in your life.
    Like I said, I don’t know how much of this is proven – I probably read it someplace, but… uh… can’t remember. (haha)


    October 11, 2007 at 10:19 am

  4. @Brad:
    Damn you and your scientific knowledge!!! I still want more gigabytes.

    As for the reason I think that it’s aging+learning, it’s mostly because I feel like people still have decently vivid memories of elementary school and early childhood, whereas I can’t really remember anything prior to 4th grade.

    Yeah, you’re probably right about photos being able to trigger hidden memories. Seeing old photos in my iPhoto does that for me, which is why I wish I had digital photos dating prior to 2001. If only the technology had been around then!


    October 11, 2007 at 10:58 am

  5. I agree with Brad…you just have to admit it Curtis, you are getting old. Do I really need to recite the oh so famous TS Eliot poem to you?


    October 11, 2007 at 4:09 pm

  6. recite it!


    October 11, 2007 at 4:12 pm

  7. Thought you might like that “forgetting to remember” article :)


    October 12, 2007 at 11:57 pm

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