Data loss doesn’t only happen at the cellular level. The way we live our lives, and the way we engage with our world, can also contribute to us losing important information along the way. You may not be paying attention, so important details are overlooked. You aren’t keeping a close eye on those clouds in the sky, so you end up getting drenched. Or something else may be drowning out the messages, preventing you from picking up what’s coming across. While simultaneously unloading the moving truck and talking to a neighbor, you may not pick up everything they say. Your brusque reply about whether or not you have kids can be off-putting to our new neighbors, who don’t know you want kids, but haven’t been able to start a family. They may become defensive and jump to the conclusion that you don’t like kids at all. The actual content of your response is altered by their expectation. The information got lost in gaps of unfamiliarity – a kind of conceptual distance we experience all the time.
Any number of things can cloud our perceptions and make it difficult to pick up everything going on around us – medication side-effects, fatigue, or a fight-flight state of mind. We can’t control every single aspect of our lives or cut down on the signals/noise around us – all of which are competing with each other amid limited sensory processing resources. No matter how we try, sights, sounds, sensations, feelings – all the inputs from inside and out – are demanding our unconscious attention. There are plenty of ways that we can miss details that could provide a clearer picture of the world around us.
And then there’s the factor of data loss across literal external distance – not picking up all the details of the world around us, because we’re separated from what we’re observing by physical space. Just as our physical systems don’t receive every single neurotransmitter that’s released, our senses actually can’t gather every single bit of the sensory data in the world around us. Are there 38 sheep on that hillside, or are there 32? Are they all plump because they’re about to lamb… or are they just really well-fed, healthy sheep that need to be shorn? Are those clouds white or gray? Are they storm clouds for sure, or do they just resemble them? And what about that breeze? Does it smell like rain?
We’re at a distance from the data we need, and as a result, we can lose important details we need to act appropriately. It doesn’t matter much, we think, if we mis-count those sheep, but guess what – if the ewes are about to lamb, that means you can expect at least two weeks of round-the-clock BAAAAAAAAAAAAAing which drives you to distraction. And yes, those are rain clouds. The breeze does smell of an oncoming storm. Not only would it be a good idea to pack up the picnic and head for home, but you should also mentally prepare yourself to be woken up at all hours of the night for the next couple of weeks by the lambing ewes. Maybe now is a good time to go on that extended family visit, far from home… or maybe take that springtime vacation you’ve been wanting.