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Potential consequences of information overload on the human brain

In a world of information overload, how do we process what knowledge is relevant and what is not? In order to answer this question, we must first take a look at the organ primarily responsible for the cognition of that information.

The human brain is a complex organ. It takes information from multiple inputs or senses, which then generate a chain of electrical and chemical reactions that the brain interprets. Over time, and in various geographical locations, the things which humans consciously pay attention to in their environments change in concurrence with their needs for survival.

Working with excess information

In contemporary society, we have more information available than what is in our immediate surroundings or environment. In general, we have more information available for use than we have ever had before. Perhaps it is no longer efficient, necessary, or even possible to accurately process what knowledge is relevant (or could be in the future) and what is not.

In a world of information overload, we must learn how to go about finding various types of information. In a metaphorical sense, rather than our minds being an open book, our intellectual processing and cognition will be best served by figuring out which key will open the library door. As the platforms through which information is presented evolve, as the type of information that is useful evolves, and as the importance of remembering certain kinds of information deteriorates, how will our future be affected?


I believe that this change in information processing will have a substantial effect on the evolution of the hardware of the brain itself. The hypothalamus “acts as a memory indexer—sending memories out to the appropriate part of the cerebral hemisphere for long-term storage and retrieving them when necessary.” While there is much debate about the evolution of the positions of certain organs (e.g. the appendix) having an effect on their physical existence or characteristics, we can conclude that some organs and even parts of some organs have been more or less useful at certain points in human history. That being said, it is not implausible to suggest that the hypothalamus is one part of the brain that may experience changes in its usefulness or physical characteristics (e.g. size), if not both. 

We must remember that every part of the brain is interwoven into other parts surrounding it. The electrical connections do not simply stop and begin with each section of the brain. Where there are effects in one part, there are effects in another. Neuroanotomy is by no means physics, but one would not be wrong when saying, with regard to the human brain, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

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