Hunks of Metal in my Brain

Took some extra keys off my key ring today… Actually, ‘extra’ couldn’t be accurate because I had obviously not carried multiple matching keys at any time I can remember. So if they aren’t extra, I could at least say they are unused keys. These little metal shapes had served a purpose at one time, but now I can’t seem to recall for what?

Now only three keys remain on a ring that carry every day. I have my house key, my garage key and a key to the restaurant. That’s it. I do have a car key also, but it has it’s own ring, with an electronic-door-unlocker-doohickey on it. So in total, I have 4 keys with me at all times…

Real freakin’ interesting, right?

Nope, not really. I am intrigued however at those ‘unused’ keys. I don’t remember when I officially stopped needing them for my normal activities. I look at them and beg my brain to recall something useful they could do for me now. I then pop open a junk drawer in the kitchen and find another older set of unused keys that I had saved years ago. I guess the ‘new’ unused keys can now live with the ‘old’ unused keys.

It does amaze me that this day in age, with all the technology that we possess in our portable super-computer communication devices, that these hunks of bumpy metal are so integral to our standard living operations.

To have the right key is a wonderful thing. To not have the right key, can mess up almost any plans. These objects hold great power, and yet they are dead simple, rudimentary devices. A key is just Data, and it is almost useless without the Information to operate it.

At one time I worked for a college professor. He shared some of his teachings with me almost every time we talked together. He showed me some differences between Data and Information. I thought about that today, when I dropped the extra pieces of metallic data off my key ring, since now the information about them is gone.

He explained that Data was like a compilation of numbers and letters. Tons of them maybe, all held together. This list could possibly be accessed and utilized, but not completely on it’s own. Their grouping of black and white shapes on paper, or zeros and ones in a binary format, couldn’t exactly accomplish anything just by existing.

Like a drawer full of keys, the raw Data, is almost completely useless without the ‘information’ that matches certain keys to certain locks. See the information is the thing that recognizes context. Information can make connections. Information is able to make a big wad of letters and numbers into an old-school phonebook. Information is the way in which we process the data of the phonebook, we read the letters in order, we understand language, we translate the numbers to another device and make a call to someone we love. That’s not just data, it takes the information to partner with it, to be useful at all.

My teacher explained that he wanted to use his brain for informational purposes. He wanted it to help him to understand context, see options, weigh out decisions and connect with people. He did NOT want to use his brain to store and retrieve Data. The data could be held elsewhere. A piece of paper can hold data, or a computer or a cell phone or a bar napkin. Technology is wonderful for storing data, waay better than our brains are.

Technology however, cannot to our informational processing like we can. I wouldn’t trust a computer to auto fill our restaurant schedule. It may try to anticipate a pattern of spreadsheet entries, but it takes my own noggin to process the multitude of factors that go into this important and delicate restaurant managing task.

The keys I pulled off my key ring today, have fallen outside of my information processing abilities. I don’t know what they are for. I don’t use them anymore at all. I may someday want to open the lock they match up with, but at this point, I don’t know what lock that would be. So there. They are rubbish.

A piece of data is trash, without the information that connects it to usefullness.

I wonder what else in my life, I carry around with me, that has lost all connection with usefullness? I probably have loads of facts and memories and impressions of experiences that I carry, for no good reason. I am past the point of remembering how they are serving me. I am talking about negative memories, self defeating re-run mental records and the like. I hope you don’t have heavy jangling janitor-sized keyring of this kind of metal crap swinging and banging around off your hip everyday. I’m sure I pick that heavy thing up and haul it around often.

Today though, in my real life, I cut it down to four total keys. That’s all I needed today. Probably all I will need for awhile.

I wonder how I could pare down my mental keyring the same way. I wonder about the professor’s advice to leave the data storing jobs to something besides my own brain. I think he was saying to have a place for the data, but don’t carry it everywhere. Use the mind to navigate and operate and decide and to powerfully move forward. Instead of mulling through files full of junk.

Good advice that I will remember for awhile, as I notice my keyring with it’s few useful keys, and nothing more… Except a flashlight, and a dogtag with my name and phone number… 🙂 Ha! Yes, other stuff that I have almost never used!


Aaron Nichols

One thought on “Hunks of Metal in my Brain

  1. Oh My!!! Loved this! I just relieved myself of some stuff off my key ring. It amazes me how you put all this together with a message every week!!

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