Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bring it on

DISCLAIMER: It's a weird one.

"Speciation is the result of rare events in the environment, such as genetic mutations, a shift in climate, or a mountain range rising up." --evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel

Because there are so many of us, and we're a little bit too clever for our own good, the climate is shifting. There's no doubt that much of what we do, how we live these days, is creating genetic mutations.

And, too, we've reached the the end of the rope in terms of how we've evolved to this point. Our evolutionary strategy, increasing cranial size to accommodate ever bigger brains, has lead us to a place in which childbirth is dangerous and inordinately painful. Our heads literally can't grow any bigger. Hence we must learn how to use what's inside our freakishly huge skulls. Something's got to give!

I've been thinking about this for awhile now, noticing how ripe the environment is for change, looking for signs of an evolutionary shift.

Technology is the mountain range rising up, providing we homo sapiens a step-up to the change. The internet is, in its own way, a neural network. Through blogging, FB, twitter, even old fashioned email, a fairly hefty percentage of the seven billion of us on planet Earth are discovering ways to interconnect, to cooperate with each other in brand new ways. All together, through the internet, we are forming networks that have never existed before. This interconnection is physically changing our brains, also the way we think.

Any evolutionary leap brings with it chaos, at least initially. I see the fallout every day, don't you? Attention Deficit Disorder, for instance, did not exist when I was growing up. There was no such thing as multi-tasking. No one drove a car while texting or surfed the internet. There were no remotes, and only three channels on TV. To change the channel, you had to stand up, walk to the TV and manually turn the knob. Two generations prior to mine, there were no cars, no electric lights, phones or travel by air. Think about it.

When I was growing up, very few Americans did yoga or T'ai Chi or meditated. These practices, that steady the attention and help people feel centered and grounded, are an important anchor, a counterbalance, to the chaos of change.

It's happening fast!

“I’m certain that rapid evolution occurs. We just don’t know to look for it,” --evolutionary biologist Michael Travisano

Open your eyes, Dr. Travisano, and behold the iphone, an almost miraculous tool with which to further evolution. This device has become, for many of us, an extension of the body. I'm fascinated and thrilled, knowing that in my brain, there is a map that includes the iphone as part of my body/mind. I'm not at all embarrassed to admit it. Learn the technology, people! It will help us move forward, out of the era of fallout and chaos, towards what lies ahead.

Is what comes next the singularity? I have no idea, but if crazy dudes like Raymond Kurzweil are correct, it will behoove us all to learn the technology now, before it's incorporated into the body. Work with the algorhythms of Facebook, Pandora radio and such. Get inside the way these things work. It can only help.

Go ahead and multitask - safely, please! - because that practice creates neural networks of great complexity. Also, please meditate - you MUST meditate, actually. You must. Do yoga or take up a martial art; find a way to practice steadying your attention between bouts of multi-tasking. Stretch your mind in ways you've never stretched it before. Otherwise, the world will only become more bewildering to you. Eventually, those who resist this leap will die out, like the poor Neanderthals, the dodo, and all other species who could not, for one reason or another, adapt.

We can't keep doing what we've been doing. If we persist, it will be the end of us all. C'mon, y'all. It's happening, right now. Jump in with both feet, hey? Oh yeah.

We were so idealistic in the 70s - and may I say it straightaway? - dorky as all get out. But we saw something coming, we did.


Reya Mellicker said...

When I imagine the arrival of the so-called singularity, what I "see" is that the first recipients will be the military and police. Oof. That's not going to be a very fun period of time.

Next the super rich, celebrities and possibly some of the people who did the research will receive the implants.

Finally, they will become available for everyone.

What do you think?

Steve Reed said...

An interesting collection of ideas, as usual! :)

I agree that technology is changing us, and I agree the potential is amazing. I'm still worried about whether it's changing us for the better, though. Is the singularity a good thing? Is multitasking and building new neural pathways better than what we were before -- a species that could concentrate for long periods of time on a single task like creating an enormously detailed painting or writing "War and Peace"? I'm not saying "War and Peace" couldn't happen now, but I worry about our individual loss of focus.

Personally, even as I love the Internet and use it every day, part of me misses having three TV networks and being less connected. I loved it when I lived overseas and it took two weeks for my letters to reach my family. I felt like I was on an incredible adventure, and really in my own space.

I guess this is where meditation comes in!

jeanette from everton terrace said...

Oh you do stretch out my mind muscle Reya - good for me. Thanks.
I smiled at the old fashioned email reference because I thought it was going to say snail mail - outdated indeed.
Enjoyed the video. I never saw that movie! The singer had serious game :)

Reya Mellicker said...

The movie looks silly to me now.

Steve, we can't behave the way we always have, something's gotta give.

We can't fix what's wrong by continuing to do the same things we always have. Go with the flow!

When I come to London, we can talk about this. I would love to explore it with you!

nerima roberts said...

Oh it's too too true with "....the iphone as part of my body/mind..."
I can't live without my iPhone4, despite all its hiccups and issues.

When it comes to the Internet, I find myself reading in a shallow, superficial manner. I force myself to unplug so I can read for depth and understanding.

I encourage my Mr6 to do the same. He knows NOT to do homework or to read with the TV/computer on. It's okay to watch TV when doing little chores, though. Now it's time to unplug and read a book. Good night!

Reya Mellicker said...

Goodnight, Chris!

I see young,people all the time, walking and texting simultaneously, with yoga mats strapped to their backs. This is how it's flowing - stretching the mind. I am so into it.

Val said...

i keep feeling that if, for some reason, we lose our access to all this technology, would we still have the requisite instincts and survival tools? it could happen - via the oil crisis, or poles reversing or whim of super powers, and then? i stare into this man made portal with wonder, and love the access to information and my etheric network but the old ways are still valid I feel. thanks for the discussion Reya - always thought provoking x