For Information Overload, a Fast

Thinking isn’t about learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information. It requires concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea of your own. William Deresiewicz, "Solitude and Leadership"

Sometimes we can have simply too much on our minds to be creative. Reading this Douglas Eby post at The Creative Mind, I was reminded of an early morning mash-up at the IdeaFestival last month. Sitting on a panel with Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Joel Pett and Creative Capital artist Liz Cohen, Technology Review's Jason Pontin suggested that while a wide range of interests is essential to connection-making, it can be overdone. At Technology Review, he said, "information fasts" are regularly imposed.

He didn't elaborate at length but it's not much of a stretch to understand why. Given the pervasive nature of information today, I think the constant ping-pinging of contemporary life can overwhelm minds conditioned by the last couple hundred thousand years to notice the outliers. Is that rustling in the bush friend or foe? When seemingly every call, email or detail demands our attention now, our sensitivity to what might be essential or new or important is dulled. Information fasts are a perfectly sensible response to information fatigue; they might also pay a welcome creative dividend.