One bit can change your life

Each second you’re taking in perhaps a million bits of information.  See here for the estimate.  Most of those bits don’t affect your brain or your life at all.  The information you take in just walking down the street is immense yet you probably ignore most of it.  However, a single bit of information can change your entire life.  A blood test that indicates that your LDL concentration is too high can cause you to change what you eat and how much you exercise.  A single yes or no answer can change your mood for a day or the rest of your life.  You could imagine how such sensitivity would arise if the bit were anticipated as when you wait for an answer.   The really interesting problem is how we are able to react to unanticipated bits of great importance such as when you feel your chair suddenly shaking.  Our brains are shaped to find those needles in the haystack.

One thought on “One bit can change your life

  1. Hi Carson,
    if I agree that one bit can change one’s life, I guess these are rather expected “bits”. Whether your blood test or your girlfriend’s answer is “yes” or “no” is something you expect. Not that you expect what the answer is, but you expect the answer. So those bits that are highly influential are not conjugated with a fine detection task. They may, but I guess it is rare.
    To make a bridge with neuroscience, you cannot discriminate between two (tactile, auditory…) stimuli as well in the case when the stimulus comes as a surprise compared to the case when you expect something to happen.

    And for example, “your chair suddenly shaking” corresponds to a lot of information (tactile, auditory, visual, vestibular…).

    In a nutshell, though you can find examples of unexpected highly significant bits, they probably remain rare.


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