Thursday, December 17, 2020


I am on diet is a common phrase of our times. After all fast food, confectionaries, beverages (the addictive trio salt, sugar and fat) has become our way of life, over time. 

Industrialization of food, has resulted in the prevalence of microwave dinners, fast food, packaged and processed foods, food-consumerism culture, large-scale food production, grocery shelves stocked with microwaveable, super-sized, bite-sized and on-the-go meals, plastic-wrapped and frozen food. In essence, there is no gastronomic experience but rather efficiency and utility of food, just to re-fuel ourselves.   

Over time, we are suffering the negative consequences of obesity and lifestyle diseases, since the advent of industrialization of food.

Clay Johnson in his book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, draws a parallel between the industrialization of food and the industrialization of information.

So what is industrialization of information? 

Webster dictionary defines Information Age as a time in which information has become a commodity that is quickly and widely disseminated and easily available especially through the use of computer technology. 

With Information floodgates open, countless content irrespective of meaningful or not, keeps rushing at us in countless formats through our laptops, tablets, mobiles. 

Johnson points out, we modern humans are mindlessly spending endless hours everyday consuming information through screens (mobiles, tab, laptops) and speakers. "Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat and flour - so too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates and tweets." - Johnson.

Indeed a food for thought, to chew upon isn't it? 

There is so much of overload of information, many of it is junk, irrelevant, forced upon, distracting, devoid of any value, meaningless which does not cater to our wellbeing and growth. But we end up consuming them because we aren't mindful enough and we have got habituated to it over a period of time. 

In this context, if we see the term 'Information overload' is a misnomer. 

Clay Johnson argues blaming the abundance of information itself is as absurd as blaming the abundance of food for obesity. It's not that the fast food on it's own is coming out of the fast food joints and popping into our mouth. It is we who are making the choice to consume it over healthy food. (Makes perfect common sense isn't it? Ultimately it's about cultivating good habits and making healthy choices).

He proposes an alternative phrase, 'Information Over-Consumption' which is a truer reflection of the reality.

Parallels drawn between the industrialization of food and the industrialization of information is quite evident to us now. Eating too much food can lead to obesity, and consuming too much information can lead to cluelessness.

Just like over-eating leads to negative health outcomes, Information Over-Consumption leads to various negative outcomes across Physical (obesity, hypertension, sedentary death syndrome, diabetes, heart disease), Psychological (distorted sense of time, shallow social relationship, reality dysmorphia, screen addiction) and Social (agnotology, epistemic closure, democratic failure) dimensions.

In the background of this contemporary issue, Clay Johnson in his book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, makes a strong case of cultivating good habits and to become selective about the information we consume as we are about the information we consume.

Remember Maslow's Needs for Hierarchy? The pyramid model of hierarchy of human needs.

Extrapolating the idea of Clay Johnson's Information Diet, Future Crunch a weekly newsletter proposed an 'Information Pyramid' model in the lines of Maslow's Needs of Hierarchy model.

The Information Pyramid model gives us a visualization of what kind of information we should  consciously consume and what kind of information we should consciously minimize. 

We should consciously cultivate a good habit and make smarter choice to consume more of Consensual Information (newsletters, podcasts, specialist publications) & Humanistic Information (books, audiobooks, essays, documentaries) and minimize the consumption of Non-consensual Information (email, messages, notifications) & Algorithmic Information (news, social media).

Bottom-line, let's make smarter, conscious decision to stop Information Over-Consumption in today's Information Age for our own sanity, well-being & growth.   

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