Key Reading: “Seeking – How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting. And why that’s dangerous.”

This article written by Emily Yoffe, a journalist and contributor for Slate magazine, discusses the human desire for knowledge or rather, the process of seeking knowledge. In the first few sections Yoffe discusses how people today are constantly craving information, be it from google searches or a twitter update on a smart phone. Social media and the ease of use that the internet brings are all contributors to our desire to search for knowledge. Yoffe uses a good example, in which she explains how in 1954, scientists and physiologists tested on rats using electrodes implanted in their brains. The test was to shock the rats when they entered a certain corner of their cages, to see if they could learn that the corner was dangerous. One day they accidentally implanted to electrode in the wrong area of the brain, and the rats continued to return to that one corner until they collapsed. They believe to have found the ‘pleasure centre’ of the brain:

He eventually discovered that if the probe was put
in the brain’s lateral hypothalamus and the rats were allowed to press a lever and stimulate their own
electrodes, they would press until they collapsed.

The article continues to discuss how search engines are similar to that lab experiment, where we are constantly pressing keys to receive that jolt of electricity, this time in the form of new information. When put like this it seems to be true, I myself have sometimes spent hours on the computer when all I wanted to do was find one small piece of information. It’s addictive, and it happens to everyone.

He (Jaak Panksepp – Neurological Scientist) says that when we get thrilled about the world of ideas, about making intellectual connections, about divining meaning, it is the seeking circuits that are firing.

Yoffe uses the words of Panksepp to explain how the desire for information is what drives us to get up in the morning, in the same way that animals rise and search for food. It’s something that we can’t seem to live without and may be a product of our new digital age.

I agree with the comments that this article is making, I do believe that humans have a certain need for new information, and its the ‘thrill of the chase’ that keeps us clicking for hours and hours. It’s an addictive feeling, a craving, that all people share. I myself have spent hours and hours searching for the answer for something, and the more the answer alludes me the more searching I do, until I end up somewhere very far from where I began in the first place. I also believe it’s the nature of how we search that is addictive. The responsiveness of a smart phone, and the use of a touchscreen device is a pleasurable feeling for most people, and I believe it’s that that’s helping us to staying online, and on the search engines. Technology today has made searching for information incredibly easy, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the information we are seeking is useful. Whether it’s the information we’re looking for, or just how we got there, we’ll be searching away for many years to come.


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