Do you often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that you encounter daily? Even without seeking it out, we are presented with a LOT of data: news stories, travel information, mail, advertising, recipes, bank account numbers… computer screen after computer screen of information. If you resonate with this, you should know that you are not alone and that there is a good reason for one to develop a feeling of being overloaded when confronted with all this information at this point in our human history.
This saturation with data is something we all experience. We live in the age of technology, the digital age, the age of the internet, the Information Age. The onset of the Information Age is associated with a shift in the economy from being based on industry and manufacturing to one based on information computerization. So, like it or not, our livelihood is linked to our ability to participate in this new economy based on computerized information.
It is estimated that over the course of one’s life in the 18th century, the amount of information one would be exposed to would be equivalent to the amount of information an individual may be exposed to in one week in today’s world. Can our brain keep up with all of this? We often hear people say that they feel like their mind is cluttered or unfocused, that they cannot stop thinking about things going on in the world around them.
Does the human mind have the capacity to process this quantity of data? Considering that in the last 50 years there has been an explosion of information, not just produced, but made readily available, one might wonder if we as human beings are able to adapt. This question is in the realm of the human mind and not the physical body (where evolution can take generations to show adaptation). The human mind has great capacity: “Most computational neuroscientists tend to estimate human storage capacity somewhere between 10 terabytes and 100 terabytes, though the full spectrum of guesses ranges from 1 terabyte to 2.5 petabytes. (One terabyte is equal to about 1,000 gigabytes or about 1 million megabytes; a petabyte is about 1,000 terabytes.)” from MH Magazine article, “AI Impacts,” 2015.
So, the issue is not about the evolution of a new human brain with greater capacity, but how to develop skills such as: improving mental clarity, silencing the mind, becoming more mindful about what matters the most and ultimately the expansion of consciousness.
There are ways to balance the demands on mental activity and seeking out such balance is why more people are looking to include mindfulness and meditation in their daily lives. People are looking for a way to take a “time out” form the phrenetic pace and the barrage of daily data consumption characteristic of life in the new millennium. This hyper-paced existence has become the standard for surviving in today’s business environment.
Gustavo Oliveira is a prolific entrepreneur who has devoted more than 14 years to the study and teaching of mindfulness and meditation.
Timothy Whiteside, MD is a physician who has practiced meditation and mindfulness for more than 24 years and has been teaching it for the last 12 years.