The 40 bits

It is said, scientifically that our brains are processing 4 billion bits of transactions per second. Out of these 4 billion we are consciously aware of only 40 bits at any time. Just 40 bits. The whole body working, the awareness of mind about it’s surroundings, everything is taken care without even us being aware about it.

It’s a very efficient design. Our mind gives us exact information we can process (if we mind gives us info to process – who is processing? That’s another blog post). But, as you can make a guess there is amazing amount of info that is being either discarded or filtered. And this is not always a good thing.

40 bits is our cognitive upper limit. 40 bits is metal awareness limitation. This in-place limitation affects our daily life. We tend to think that these 40 bits are “The Truth”. And over a period of time these Truth’s are turned into Beliefs and belief systems. All this happens even without our knowledge. These 40 bits are the thin veneer pulled tight over our eyes.

Just because we have a limitation, it doesn’t mean we can’t break it or over come it or at least use it smartly. Here is where the Creativity process comes into picture. There are 2 steps to over come this limitation.

  1. Becoming aware of it
  2. Replacing, reusing the 40 bits

1. Becoming aware of it: I have talked about this here, here and here. I don’t want to go into more details, but the gist of it is – you need to be aware of your own thoughts. The inner chatter that happens is where all the action lies. There are a bunch of ways to become aware of it.

  • Just being still
  • Being in the moment
  • Meditation
  • Being in Nature
  • Taking a stand whole day – Like “I will not judge anyone or anything all day today” and keep watching yourself over that stance.

Recently I have came across a great book which does this process but with Questions. It’s Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’. It’s a very simple 4 questions inquiry process which is tremendously powerful once you start to use it. I would highly recommend that to adopt a inquiry process if you don’t have time to meditate. Another thing you could do is to read ‘Bhagavad Gita’ every night. I know I sound so totally Hindu here. But, I am recommending Gita not from a standpoint of religion but from the point of view of Philosophy. It drums this whole thought system which, if used, is very powerful. I would recommend Jack Hawleys – Bhagavad Gita for Westerners (not much on mythology and a small book)

2. Replacing, reusing the 40 bits: Well this has been my day to day thing all my growing up years. I always thought that there exist some system out there by which we can be more creative. I have ready and used many many systems – but the whole idea behind it is – you need to stretch out your mind by opening yourself up with new information. In this age and day there is no dearth of information – but if you always seeking the same info- they you are always keeping the same info in that 40 bits you got.

So, 2 books come to mind. Any book by Edward De Bono – he might come out as dry and simple. But trust me try the tools. Another one is by author Dan Roam – He has a visual problem solving framework. His books are here and here. The advantage of using a visual model as compared to textual model is you can put those 40 bits to maximum use. Like if you draw a picture – you can refer to it probably using just 1 or 2 bits – like a pointer for all those computer guys.

I know it’s not easy being aware of our own 40 bits. Awareness is scary and processes are hard. But again it’s something you do on a long term learning basis. You can’t get this done faster. It doesn’t work that way.