Mmmm….new data.

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Lee Gomes in today’s Wall Street Journal has a plausible explanation for why I can be so happy for so long wading through the endless streams of new information that the internet provides.

What is it about a Web site that might make it literally irresistible? Clues are offered by research conducted by Irving Biederman, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, who is interested in the evolutionary and biological basis of the human need for information… Coming across what Dr. Biederman calls new and richly interpretable information triggers a chemical reaction that makes us feel good, which in turn causes us to seek out even more of it. The reverse is true as well: We want to avoid not getting those hits because, for one, we are so averse to boredom.
It is something we seem hard-wired to do, says Dr. Biederman. When you find new information, you get an opioid hit, and we are junkies for those. You might call us ‘infovores.’

I remember having a similar feeling one of the first times I was in a no-kidding newsroom with a no-kidding clattering wire machine. It’s why I enjoy a classroom lecture where a new world is being opened up to me (that really didn’t happen that often in my so-called academic life.) It’s why in the early days of CNN, I’d go downstairs to the main newsroom and just feel comfortably at home amidst the buzz of new stories, satellite feeds, raw news on those ancient computer screens, pouring in.

Now, of course, I have an additional tap for that opiate source in my pocket.

Even this new self-awareness carries the warm buzz of a new-info hit. Mmmm.