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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 22 2012: What I find so extraordinary about the times we now live in is that people - ordinary people living their ordinary lives - take on all three roles, as producers, propagators and consumers. We are only now coming out of the consumer dark ages and becoming propagators and producers.

    I consume information about the things that interest me.
    I curate that information for my friends and followers.
    I create information based on my own understanding of that information and pay it forward.

    The more people who enter this positive loop, the faster it spins.
    The more people who take part, the faster the human species learns.
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      Feb 27 2012: David,

      I find your thoughts very interesting, and I definitely agree. Out of curiosity, have you always been taking on all three roles, or this happened through entering this positive loop you discussed? What people made you interested in entering this positive loop?

      I found myself a consumer throughout high school. However, in college I have been surrounded by many people who have taken on all three roles. This has made me join this movement, and it has definitely been beneficial. Through consuming I believe I find the basics of information. However, only through the process of propagation and producing information have I found myself to truly understand information.
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        Feb 28 2012: I definitely agree with both of you. However, I see the “loop” having a specific order depending on the person’s age and educational maturity. For example, until I was about 15 years old, it was difficult for me to envision myself as an information producer. I was primarily an information consumer, and maybe to some extent an information propagator. However, now in college, I’m an amalgamation of all three. I feel like in my courses I am primarily an information consumer, outside of school primarily an information propagator, and while in a lab or doing research projects, primarily an information producer, although all three intertwine. It is interesting how I have evolved through these stages, but I would assume this happens earlier or later depending on the person. Regardless, this is not to say that one of the three is better than the other. As David said, the more people who enter the positive loop, the faster it spins.
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      Feb 28 2012: My sentiments exactly. Well said!
    • Feb 28 2012: I think that, while the effects of reducing the barriers to entry into each of the information processing categories have largely been positive, there is added responsibility associated with each of these roles. The more freely information is available, the greater the need for some sort of prioritization scheme to allow one to get to the relevant information in any reasonable amount of time. This leads, for example. to the problem of so-called "filter bubbles" discussed by Eli Pariser here:
      http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html
      And also see a talk by TED Fellow Evgeny Morozov on the issues with the internet as an instrument of democratization:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk8x3V-sUgU
      While, by and large, the effects of increased participation in these fields has overwhelmingly been positive, and I believe that people have risen to the challenge of their roles in the new paradigm (take the general civility and professionalism of Wikipedia articles, for instance), we need to remain conscious of our responsibilities in a world where anyone can be an information propagator or producer.

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