With over 18 years of experience working in the Information Technology and Computer Science field, I have wondered how information can affect us as human beings and our brains. During the years, I invested a reasonable amount of time reading different brain models and how they interact with information. Unfortunately, no model measures the level of stress and distress information could put on our bodies. This article aims first to give a simple explanation of what the Internet is and how it could be connected to human brains and second to provide a sample formula of how information coming from different sources could affect our health.
This work uses some terminology coming from the works written by the following authors – Norbert Wiener, Freeman Dyson, David Bohm, F. David Peat, Peter Senge, John Polkinghorne, Edmund Bourne, Marcello Vitali Rosati, and Fredmund Malik. The ideas from these works helped me prepare this article and clear out my understanding of how the brain and information are supposed to work. I would suggest every specialist in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning read their works to better understand our reality and how it is supposed to function.
But let’s start with a couple of physics-based definitions:
- Continuum: The traditional mathematical model of quantum space usually involves matter and energy. As some of the listed authors state, the next step is to add the information into the model and finally get a unified model consisting of matter, energy, and information.
- Information: However, an excellent question arises – what is a piece of information? During the years, I read multiple definitions of the information, and it seems the scientific community can not decide which one must be the canonical one.
- Entropy: For this article, I shall use two of the definitions of information based on entropy – first, the definition provided by the standard quantum space-based model, where the entropy shows the amount of energy in a given system and second the one supplied by Claude Shannon, which could measure the amount of information transmitted in communication. Most researchers consider information entropy and quantum space-based entropy directly linked to the same concept, while others argue that they are distinct. Both expressions are mathematically similar. Additionally, we could theorize that the information size can represent the amount of quantum energy going through our brains.
- Dynamical system: In physics, a dynamical system is a particle or ensemble of particles whose state varies over time and thus obeys differential equations involving time derivatives. An analytical solution of such equations or their integration over time through computer simulation is used to predict the system’s future behavior.
In other words, we could use a dynamical system to describe the continuum, including all human brains and the Internet. At the same time, we could define the human brain and any computer-based device as a dynamical system (actually, a neural network is a type of dynamical system). And we could use entropy to “send and receive” information/quantum energy from the continuum to the human brain or a computer-based device.
Two additional definitions will help us to finish drawing the picture:
- Passive information: By definition, we could define passive information as the entropy of a system, which is in a stable state and there is no additional energy, but if we put more energy into it, we expect the resulting entropy to be that one. Such systems without additional energy are newspapers, books, articles, computer hard drives, flash drives, etc.
- Active information: On another side, if there is energy transfer into a given system, we could expect this transfer to come with the so-called quantum potential, and this potential contains information, which we could define as active information. Examples of such systems could be our brains reading books, watching videos, or listening to music. We could expect our brains to store information/energy the same way. Additionally, we could categorize most computer-based devices the same way.
After we have described all the needed definitions, let’s draw the whole picture using them as building blocks. We have the continuum and number of dynamical systems attached to it. Every system can receive and put energy/information into the continuum. Some systems are stable and only put energy/information in the continuum when other systems put some amount in them. Other systems are constantly in motion and emit and receive energy/information without breaks.
Many researchers categorize our brains and computers, such as reality engines – aka interpreters of quantum energy coming through them. However, these reality engines must be treated as emitters because human brains and computers emit energy via video, audio, motions, temperature, etc. Systems without additional energy are newspapers, books, articles, computer hard drives, flash drives, etc. could be called reality reflectors because they need a boost of energy to emit anything. In short, that way, we could connect the continuum to the virtual world “virtualized” by the Internet. But, let’s try to define some reality engines types:
- Brain: Brains use natural information/energy and work by natural scientific laws. The reality presented by them abides by the physics rules, and anyone could not modify these rules.
- Internet/Websites: The Internet mainly uses natural information/energy; however, the reality presented by the Internet could or could not abide by the natural laws. Many programming languages could define functions, which do not map to the rules defined by physics. Additionally, we could not know the quality of the information/energy stored on the Internet as passive information.
- Video games: There is almost no limit to what kind of information/energy you can put into video games. The systems defined by the data in the video games usually could not occur in Nature. Additionally, video game engines often do not abide by the laws of physics. The primary purpose of almost all video games is to give the user the sense of easy and fast power, so instead of spending years of hard work to achieve something in the continuum, the user can do it in a couple of hours and feel fulfilled.
On the diagram you can see a sample dynamical system representing the energy transfer happening in the continuum. Most transfers happen thanks to a sensor activity. Whether there are other means of energy transfers rather than these using sensors, we do not know yet.
There is an interesting aspect of how the information/energy travels through the continuum. To reach from one reality engine to another, it naturally has stable paths. We could furthermore call these paths reality bridges and define them the following way:
- Natural: By making a physical object (a passive or active information system), which travels the continuum using any transportation such as cars, trucks, planes, etc. The bandwidth depends on the capacity of the dynamical system.
- Broad-casted: The information/energy travels using paths that are not bi-directional. So the energy is only transferred in one direction. However, multiple reality engines can receive this information/energy at the same time.
- Peer to Peer: With the emergency of the Internet, now we have an even more connected topology, where one reality engine can receive and emit information/energy from/to another reality engine. Me writing this article is doing precisely that – emitting information/energy. My brain using the keyboard sends information/energy to my computer, which sends the information/energy furthermore to many computers.
After finishing the architecture presentation of our collection of dynamical systems connected to the continuum, let’s formulate two definitions used in the Information Technology field, which we could transfer to our collection of systems:
- Bandwidth: The amount of information/energy that could be transferred for a time unit using a reality bridge. On the table, you can see the bandwidth which different reality bridges offer.
- Latency: The delay of receiving the information/energy after the initial emit. We could expect that the longer information/energy travels, the more energy would be lost. However, the reality bridge would preserve the information.
After having all of these definitions and rules, let’s analyze in this current setup how information/energy could affect human health. We already perceived that the human brain may be working as a reality engine, and it looks like it is a dynamical system. At the same time, we can put and remove information/energy from this dynamical system. And every dynamical system has its capacity of states. Two questions arise – what happens if we keep pouring information/energy into the system but do not remove any from it, and could we expect to have some filter where the information/energy intensity could be decreased.
On the first question, in case of computer configuration, the computer will malfunction. In the case of the human brain, the short answer is – we don’t know. Based on the different theories I read, I could assume that pouring too much information into our brains could lead to psychological problems and psychiatric diseases. Another interesting fact related to our brains is that most psychological problems and psychiatric disorders could not be related to physical brain damage. The condition is entirely on a reality perception level, or we could assume it could be a problem with dynamical system capacity overload.
On the second question, in the case of a computer system, filters are already in place; however, these filters work too low level. On the so-called application level, things become more complex, and the computer needs human help. Regarding the brain, the situation is much more complicated. Based on our life experience, we could expect the intensity of the received energy to be based on how emotionally close to us is the reality engine emitting it. If it is our child and we receive negative news about it, we could expect the information to be with the highest intensity; however, if we receive negative information/energy for an unknown kid on the Internet or the TV, we could expect this to hit us with less power. Based on this observation, we could assume that there is an information/energy filter in our brains. It seems that this filter is based on the social distance (which is partially based on latency) to the reality engine emitting the information/energy.
And finally, let’s combine all the upper statements into a single formula:
Bandwidth is the raw bandwidth of a 1-hour video and audio data chunk, calculated in bytes.
Stress is the level of stress which we could attach to the information/energy transfer. Check the different levels in the table, coming from the beautiful Edmund Bourne’s work on psychological problems and psychiatric disorders. I modified the table slightly to support more common daily events.
Social Distance is the social distance modifier, which we could find in its table. The modifier tells us that if we are experiencing the information/energy transfer from the first-person view, it will hit us the strongest, and if we hear that someone we don’t even know has a problem, then it will hit us ten times less.
According to Bourne’s book, the typical yearly amount of stress for a human being is around 150. Some people could endure higher levels, others less, but the median is around 150. We could calculate the number of information/energy an average human being can survive for the year using that data. After passing this limit, we could expect the person to start feeling the effects of distress. Another interesting assumption is that we could expect the level of stress to be reduced automatically over time. It seems our brains are designed to lose energy/information over a given time period and thus reduce the stress level to some predefined level.
If we play with the formula, we could see the following observations:
- One could endure 1 hour and 30 minutes of information regarding the death of his/her kid per year
- One could endure around 15 hours of the information regarding the death of someone unknown’s kid per year
- One could take about 1500 hours of active office work per year
- One could do his/her hobby about 3000 hours per year
Surprisingly the formula looks correct for most real-life social events. There are some edge cases with what happens if you read about your kid’s death in the newspaper. Will this information/energy hit you with less intensity than the video/audio equivalent? For sure, no. Probably, we could add a modifier based on the stress level per reality bridge type. However, the needed work to make the formula work for every edge case is far outside this article’s scope.
In conclusion, I would say that I do not pretend this work to be entirely scientifically correct. There are many scientific holes, which we could not prove adequately. Additionally, this article is my understanding of the listed authors’ works. I am not a physicist, nor a psychologist, and some of the nuances of the mathematical models used in these works could be too complicated for me to understand entirely.
However, for sure, the following questions need answers:
- How does the Internet affect our brain?
- How much information/energy can one put in his/her brain before burning out?
- Could we relate the burnout symptoms to too much information poured into our brains?
- Is the World moving faster or just the information/energy in it?
- Must the amount of information/energy stored on the Internet be frightening to us?
- Could getting this information/energy on a daily basis affect us in the long term?
- Could the mindful and wellness techniques listed everywhere help us remove part of the information/energy from our brains?
- Is the information/energy from our brains removed, or is there another mode of working where the active information is stored on standby?
- And many more
I am convinced that some day, we shall receive answers to these questions, but with our current knowledge, the answer is – we don’t know.