Food, Data and Modernity

Food, Data and Modernity

People are driven by scarcity. Things of value, with limited availability, drive a strong desire for more. Information used to be like that. We had very few channels for accessing knowledge. It used to be difficult to find esoteric content. But once we found it, it was usually of high quality. But information in today’s world has done a complete turn around. Now it’s easy to find on any topic, but much harder to rely on the quality.

It’s as if we are so thrilled to find information on our topics of interest and existing opinions that we rarely stop and consider what we’re feeding our minds. We are bingeing – we are becoming addicted. And sometimes, it’s an all you-can-eat buffet of informational bullshit.

While information can be wonderful and powerful, it’s a lot like food. If we consume the wrong stuff, it can have a massive impact on our well being. We’re now entering the era of ‘digital obesity’: a world full of people consuming the wrong information in copious quantities. Often facilitated by those who profit from the distribution of bad content.

It’s not the first time we’ve faced a problem like this.

Up until about 100 years ago – very few people had more food than they could eat. But once food became heavily industrialised and super cheap, we indulged in excess calories. For the past 70 years, humans in developed economies had access to much more food than they needed. The net result is more shocking than surprising. Around the world today, there are more people who eat themselves to death than starve to death. The problem of course is that we’ve been programmed over the past 200,000 years to eat as much as we could, whenever food became available, to simply stay alive. Our DNA evolved to cope with periods of feast and famine. Today, it’s just a feast, for most people in developed economies. Now the biggest health problems facing our species are the results of over-eating.

The good thing is now we’re aware of the downsides of having too much to eat, we’re adapting. We’re re-educating each other on what good food looks like, how to resist the junk and how to resist eating more than we need. So many processed foods are calorie-dense and nutrition-poor that they trick the mind to crave the wrong stuff.

Maybe it’s the same with ‘processed’ information? We are getting sugar rushes with every click, but we are not providing our minds with the nutrients it needs to grow and sustain itself. We also need to learn to leave some information on the table. It seems the shift from scarcity to excess (in many forms) is an endemic problem of modernity. We’ll have to keep adapting to resist the excess, and find the quality. While it’s not our fault we’ve reacted this way, if we are at least aware of it, we can make a concerted effort to feed our society and our brains the nutritious content our mind really needs.

A version of this article first appeared here

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  • Kieran Morgan

    One of the few warriors for truth.

  • Jenny Rawson

    If no one can critically think, the media will just keep using even more powerful propaganda

  • David Oliver

    We need more people like you who will give us the truth!

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Steve Sammartino 

Tech Guru

Australia’s leading Futurist and International keynote speaker, Steve has a deep understanding of disruptive technology and the wider economy. He is the author of 2 best-selling tech strategy books: The Great Fragmentation and The Lessons School Forgot. As a media commentator he is a regular on National TV, Radio and Print providing expert commentary on all things future. Last year he spoke to over 100,000 people, in 14 countries. He is invited around the world to deliver inspiring keynote speeches which excite and motivate the people about the future. As a technology entrepreneur, and hacker he has an intimate knowledge of the tools re-shaping our world and the way we do business. He has done many experimental projects with emerging technology (3D printing, drones, IoT, Autonomous transport and Blockchain to name a few). He consults at a C-Suite executive level for large corporations and selected startups. He is currently working with the Australian Government on designing future proof transport and education infrastructure. As a speaker he has delivered to audiences in stadiums in excess of 10,000, as well as intimate board room settings for the Fortune 500. He is primarily focused on the hard economics of the future, exploring changes in business systems, capital flows and consumer behaviour. Steve likes to work with companies who require an unbiased view of impending technological shifts, startups reinventing industries and Government bodies. He is consistently rated as the best speaker of every conference he attended. His work has been featured in internationally reputed media including; The New York Times, Wired, the BBC, The Smithsonian Institute, The Discovery Channel, Mashable, Tech Crunch and has also been featured in major documentary films. His Youtube channel has over 10 million views and he has a number of viral videos to his name. As a technology strategist he has provided direction, which has transformed organisations in the throes of disruption to future proof their position.

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