Monday, December 26, 2016

Synapse Pruning & The Signal to Noise Ratio

First of all, I know I never finished the hitchhiking updates from November. I made it home safely and felt bad about not finishing until I remembered: no one's reading them anyhow! So...who cares? Literally! If you happen to be an anomaly, I apologize. I'll finish them , eventually. Then you'll be able to hear all about the Russian trucker watching porn as he DROVE, or more accurately swerved, down I-80 in Iowa. True story. Good times. But, not why I'm here this early morning...

This link is about how motherhood changes women's brains.

Interesting read, sure, but pay attention to the part about "synapse pruning". It's the brain's way of, as I like to put it, "getting rid of that which does not fucking matter to make room for that which does." And make whatever remains more efficient.

There's a related theory pertaining to how having too many "choices" is, counterintuitively (only because we were raised Capitalist), a bad thing. Leading to anxiety, confusion and potentially paralyzing indecision: the fear of "choosing poorly". I'm constantly, and acutely, afflicted with this. One or two of you have personally seen it play out!

Expand that general idea out to information and the general data overload each and every one of us experience every day. Social media, "news", propaganda, entertainment, advertising. All of it.

I think it's incredibly important, especially today and exponentially more so moving forward, to manually prune our own obsolete and/or outright malicious electronic "synapses"; proactively protecting our own cognitive efficiency by filtering the Cacophony of Nothing; eliminating the random " noise" thereby allowing facts or, absent that, at least the reflective and meditative Sounds of Silence to return.

The idea wasn't exactly trademarked by Simon & Garfunkle. It's ancient. The foundation of Buddhism and tenets of most other religions. Cutting the noise to actually hear the signal. In the Buddhist narrative, the "divine" which resides inside everyone. The Signal to Noise Ratio. You'll be hearing more about that. Are you excited?

I believe this loss of "noise" was at least part of what Thoreau was after as well. Perhaps it's what sent him to Walden Pond. Maybe that's what sent Muir into the woods? Eliminate the noise to hear the "truth".

Not a new idea at all. In fact, I think it may be quietly coded into the DNA somewhere. When I began my stream of consciousness writing in 2004, at the age of 33, I had no idea what I was doing. I did know I was increasingly miserable chasing a "career" in radio and woefully off my existential track. Even if I couldn't define "existential".

Almost immediately, my mind instinctively went there: I had a ghostly vision while writing: me, a backpack, tent, on a random, quiet back road. Unplugging. Paring down. Walking "out there" to eliminate the "noise" so as to find out who I was as middle age approached. The "signal". This faint vision was years before I'd heard of Chris McCandless, read The Bhagavad Gita or any other eastern philosophy, and led me to where all 21st Century things begin: Google. I went looking for people who'd done something, anything, like this. I found Chris. From my SOC journal. 8/04:
Stayed up till seven this morning reading the web journal of this guy who walked from Savanna to Seattle. There's part of me, that would love that. He did it, but stopped three or four times; plus took the winter off--in Denver. Yeah, I'd like that. Backpack, tent, radio and a few books here and there. That would help clear the head. Need something; that may be a bit drastic.

That morning, I had no way of knowing what had happened, but my life had instantaneously, and radically, changed. The tangible effects would take a while. Why doesn"t matter at the moment.

The idea of balancing out that Signal to Noise ratio has taken root. It began with Nevada's Digital Detox struggles and, since the election, it's only solidified. This week, after again losing fundamental respect for someone I really liked, simply because they insisted on exiting the bubble and "showing their ass" as they say down south. Announcing some bizarre, borderline asinine beliefs to everyone linked to what's become our little ideological & spiritual billboards. I'd devised the basic idea before this blip, but as a direct result I completely revamped my online presence and, more importantly, who and what has access to my screens.

Cable: fucking gone in favor of Netflix and HBO Now. The cable news networks proved themselves, once again, to be little more than advertising-based whitenoise on the morning of November 9th. I was offering better insight and analysis than these fucking out of touch experts. Literally! And I was paying for the "privilege" of listening to their elitist bollox? Ha! Not anymore.

Of course, as 2017 looms the loudest transmitter of that "noise" is no longer TV. As for social media, my neglected Twitter account was mercifully euthanized (good riddance), Instagram's dormant most weeks, and my Facebook structure's been completely revamped. There are now exactly 10-people who can "share" things with me. And their "friends" and family are all carefully sequestered away. There are another 40 righteous souls able to contact me via Messenger. And another 125-150 whom I can contact if I, and only I, choose; it's a one-way line. Yes. Butts were hurt.

Both accounts holding these "friendships" are now deactivated. My new Facebook profile has zero friends and only about five news sites that I've followed as I try to recalibrate my data/information/propaganda stream. The ten people I've handpicked to have access to my home and smart phone? I've added them to a closed group that I, and I alone, administer. It's a three-tiered intellectual/social security system and, so far, it's worked wonderfully. It's not ideologically pure yet I'm not finding myself struggling to swat away the non-stop unsolicited preachings of those infected with Cyber Stupid.


So yeah. The signal now drowns out most of the noise. I force myself to try to remember that we are the pioneer generation on this informational superhighway; we're the ones figuring things out by trial and error. Collectively, we've been carelessly gorging on whatever we find inside this Matrix for several years. Perhaps we're finally beginning to realize the need to treat data and information like food and with at least an adolescent's understanding that some of this garbage, if ingested like we're carelessly rambunctious toddlers, will poison us. Then maybe I'm ahead of the curve. Again.
I have much so more to say on this "social"media thing. It really is both The Matrix and a fucking disease, kids. Stay tuned.

Is this really what I'm doing at 5am? I miss my nest in the desert. Fuck winter. Now that Christmas is over, is "fuck winter" a fundamental American value that will "bring us together "™ again?