TED Conversations

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: I love to consume. Actually, I explore, consume and communicate. Its a fantastic experience. I tried creating. But I found that the process is very slow in terms of learning and evolving. So, now I consume a lot of variety, propagate/communicate it to diverse minds, and sometimes facilitate creation/production by supervision. I am enjoying this thoroughly.

    The reason I am more comfortable with consumption is probably because I feel fascinated by everything, and thus cannot probably stick to one or two things. Sticking to a thing or two is probably necessary for creation. I find it also easy to propagate/communicate because I remain fascinated by what I consume, and thus remain in the urge to infect others with that fascination.

    I propose here a simple model of the world/society where one third produce/create, one third propagate/communicate, and the remaining third consume/comprehend. This model (division of labor) may be interpreted to be based on complex network/complexity, since we need minimum of three o the other t(A, B & C) nodes to get a "closed" system, and if each node is complementary two, the system would survive (evolve with stability).

    Fanciful thinking, but food for some. :)

    • Feb 27 2012: I think of myself as mainly a consumer. However, I would rather be an information producer and be responsible for amazing discoveries such as that of the related TED talk in which Ed Boyden figures out a way to turn on and off specific neurons to great medical benefit.
      Of course, being only a consumer is not really helpful to humanity in creating new ideas. I think it is a great that you are propagating the information you consume to others while actually enjoying doing so. In fact, you even support information creation by overseeing it. This shows that even if one does not want to be a creator that they can still support producing meaningfully.

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