Individual Entry

People Who Still Have Blogs:

  • Me


August, 2018
July, 2018
December, 2017
September, 2017
August, 2017
May, 2017
March, 2017
December, 2016
November, 2016
August, 2016
July, 2016
April, 2016
January, 2016
December, 2015
November, 2015
October, 2015
June, 2015
May, 2015
April, 2015
February, 2015
January, 2015
December, 2014
September, 2014
August, 2014
July, 2014
June, 2014
May, 2014
April, 2014
March, 2014
February, 2014
January, 2014
December, 2013
November, 2013
October, 2013
September, 2013
August, 2013
July, 2013
June, 2013
May, 2013
November, 2012
October, 2012
September, 2012
August, 2012
July, 2012
June, 2012
March, 2012
February, 2012
January, 2012
December, 2011
November, 2011
September, 2011
August, 2011
July, 2011
June, 2011
May, 2011
April, 2011
March, 2011
February, 2011
January, 2011
December, 2010
November, 2010
October, 2010
September, 2010
August, 2010
June, 2010
May, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010
November, 2009
October, 2009
September, 2009
August, 2009
July, 2009
June, 2009
May, 2009
April, 2009
March, 2009
February, 2009
January, 2009
December, 2008
November, 2008
October, 2008
September, 2008
August, 2008
July, 2008
June, 2008
May, 2008
April, 2008
March, 2008
February, 2008
January, 2008
December, 2007
November, 2007
October, 2007
September, 2007
August, 2007
July, 2007
June, 2007
May, 2007
April, 2007
March, 2007
February, 2007
January, 2007
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006
June, 2006
May, 2006
April, 2006
March, 2006
February, 2006
January, 2006
November, 2005
October, 2005
September, 2005
August, 2005
July, 2005
June, 2005
March, 2005
January, 2005
December, 2004
November, 2004
August, 2004
July, 2004
June, 2004
May, 2004
April, 2004
March, 2004
February, 2004
January, 2004
December, 2003
November, 2003
October, 2003
September, 2003
August, 2003
July, 2003
May, 2003
April, 2003
March, 2003
February, 2003
January, 2003
December, 2002

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional
Valid CSS

The Perfect Drug

While few people have high praise for K-12 drug education, to me I think the most damning aspect was that it took the "these specific things are super bad!" route, rather than explicitly describing the larger meta-problem, that while we seem to enjoy free will, life is full of potential closed cycle reward loops that can entice us like meat moths to a Foreman grill.

From my twenties to my thirties if you asked if I had any addictions I would have proudly told you what an awesome straight-edge lad I was, and how neither cigarettes or alcohol really seemed to hold any sway over me. I would probably say this to you with a fourth of my attention while the rest of it was concentrating on obsessively growing carrots in a virtual representation of ancient Egypt.

XKCD's most recent blog post is on an interesting form of addiction that I hadn't ever really considered, addiction to novelty. Much like how I sometimes find myself walking, on auto-pilot, to the snack pantry, similarly I find myself opening and reloading. It isn't a conscious act and it has always somewhat bothered me.

Randall calls it "Addiction to Novelty", and it explains so much. Not just why I find reddit so compelling, but also why I used to spend hours as a teen flipping through cable channels, or how I always thought the new video game I got was going to fulfill my entertainment needs forever. The promise of newness far more exciting than the actual result. The pre-Christmas giddiness. Novelty and unlimited potential swirling together in a heady aroma.

What I find most compelling about the XKCD Blag post is how he mentions that the promise of immediate reward always short-circuits his motivation to work on longer term projects.

The Internet is an amazing place. I have wanted to learn more about electronics for years, mostly unsuccessfully, until I came upon these Arduino Tutorials that offered simply the perfect amount of information in digestible packets to really make electronics "click" for me.

I find the fact that the Internet provides virtually unlimited knowledge and distractions from that knowledge an interesting problem for humanity as a whole to get a grasp on. If you provided internet kiosks in slums in India, would the kids use them to learn to be architectural engineers or after the novelty wore off would they eventually only use them to watch Lady Gaga videos?

Whenever I fly and look over the scale of what we have created, read bbc world news or watch Carl Sagan's old Cosmos series it occurs to me that our brains just weren't meant to process information at this scale. We're designed to absorb and collect information about our local surroundings, which when a laptop with a browser open now encompasses everything.

I don't think that is healthy for our minds, but I don't know what to do about it. Advocating for ignorance of large scale world issues bumps against several other values I hold dear.

Of course, there is always a middle ground. Saying "don't eat donuts all day" doesn't itself demand that you starve yourself. The difference is that people generally know what eating donuts does to them longterm, whereas I'm willing to say that it isn't well understood what gorging yourself on rich information does, or even how one differentiates from "good information" and "unhealthy information".

But as is, I think that we need to start that sort of conversation, and get people to understand that just as we are what we eat, we are, possibly more so, what we spend our time reading or watching.

The "nutritional" content of information I find to be an interesting metaphor, I wonder how far it could be extended...


This is one of my favorite blog posts ever. It hits on so many issue of interest to me.
1) I do this! Compulsively checking the news is something I thought I picked up in debate, and a habit I've been trying to kick ever since. I check your blog 5 times a day, for example!
2) I absolutely agree with the "nutrition" metaphor. Have you read about the concept from psychology of "priming". I think I first read about it in blink. Since then, it has held the same place my mind as the placebo effect. Absolute fascination.
I've often thought that there is a product to market for people trying to kick the "distraction affliction". A little app that runs on the background of my phone or pc which shows a message "go back to work" instead of whatever website I try visit. The app would 'allow" me to visit the sites in a predesignated time window.
Also, have you watched the Ted talks video regarding the internet consols in India? Its amazing.
by: Mike (contact) - 22 Feb '11 - 11:50
Interesting slashdot article talking about a guy who lowered his ebook from $2.99 to $0.99 and ended up selling 20x as much!
by: Kyle (contact) - 09 Mar '11 - 08:42


Meta Information:

Title: The Perfect Drug
Date posted: 22 Feb '11 - 10:47
Filed under: General
Word Count: 628 words
Good Karma: 97 (vote)
Bad Karma: 48 (vote)
Next entry:  When in an Industrial Park in Rome
Previous entry:  Book Piracy Redux