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Joanna Cruz

Student , The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art

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Would you rather be an information producer, propagator, or consumer?

In my Bioelectricity class this week, we talked about the propagation of electrical signals in the body. We learned that sensory cells and neurons act like information "producers." As sensory cells in the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body generate the electric signals that stimulate neurons, "information" is produced by the body! This information is then transmitted in the form of action potentials (or "spikes") along myelinated axons which act as "information propagators" as they efficiently and rapidly distribute these signals. These signals may be received by the dendrites of other neurons which act as receivers, or "consumers" of the action potentials.

Learning this material has inspired me to ask: how can biology inspire us as we disseminate "ideas worth spreading?” or as we consider our roles as information producers, information propagators, or an information consumers? How can we best help propagate worthy and novel ideas?

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  • Feb 23 2012: There is something quite radical about considering that we are passing only information. When our brain receives data, it will simplify it by
    - deleting : some of the information received is forgotten, considered as not important and thus discarded.
    - distortion : some of the information received is modified in order to stick to a more familiar model we know of.
    - generalization : some properties of a part of the information is extended to some other or all the pieces of the data.
    When it comes to manipulating information, our first reflex is to simplify it in a way that it is easier to manipulate for us and us only. Other people might simplify it in other ways. The map is not the reality.

    Simplified information is faster to proceed with for our brains and easier to link to the collection of data our brains already know about. We learn new things by linking them to what we already know or have experienced. Information has no interest if we cannot learn from this, thus linking is essential.
    Context is often more important than raw information.

    Would people rather be producer, propagator or consumer ?
    I would say that people will just answer to the data they receive in their own personal way :
    - producing information if they need something that they don't know of already
    - propagating if they think the idea is worth spreading and added value to their understanding of the world or their lives for example though it might be for social proof purpose.
    - consuming so people can think of the next move in their lives be it adding some salt to their food or applying for a job.

    We all do the three things and choose what to do at the moment given our personal context and experience.
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      Feb 23 2012: Indeed excellent points - and because we are like this as individuals the vast, diverse network that all of humanity makes up becomes a brain. We need to see things from different perspectives, with different eyes and on the basis of different experience, so that we can explore all meanings of information and to bring out every last ounce of potential that is in that information. If we were all the same (like in the consumer dark ages when all we did was eat whatever we were fed by television) then we would be no more together than we are apart. Now, our collective efforts are more than the sum of its parts.

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