You are what you read


On two occasions I have been asked, “Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?” … I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
–Charles Babbage

The output of a system depends on its input. A scientist can’t find solutions using faulty data. An Olympian can’t win a gold medal eating Cheetos and gummy bears. In computer science, this is the principle of garbage in, garbage out, and it applies to ideas too.

For thinking machines, i.e., we humans, “You are what you read.” What can a brain produce if it consumes mostly Reddit comments, arguments on Twitter, and whatever-it-is that is happening on Tiktok? (He sighs, to himself, in the mirror.)

If you choose to undertake the task of meaningful creation, you must be intentional about the ideas you put in your body. Rage bait, glurge, and insincere contrarianism are the corn snacks of modern discourse. They fill you up for the moment, but they are nutritionally bare.

Be frugal with your attention. Knowledge is not the same as information and neither is chatter. Intellectual protein may be harder to digest, but it unmistakably affects what comes out.