Thursday, August 07, 2014

how the web became our external brain and what it means for these chirrens...,

wired |  Recently, my two-year-old nephew Benjamin came across a copy of Vanity Fair abandoned on the floor. His eyes scanned the glossy cover, which shone less fiercely than the iPad he is used to but had a faint luster of its own. I watched his pudgy thumb and index finger pinch together and spread apart on Bradley Cooper’s smiling mug. At last, Benjamin looked over at me, flummoxed and frustrated, as though to say, “This thing’s broken.”

Search YouTube for “baby” and “iPad” and you’ll find clips featuring one-year-olds attempting to manipulate magazine pages and television screens as though they were touch-sensitive displays. These children are one step away from assuming that such technology is a natural, spontaneous part of the material world. They’ll grow up thinking about the internet with the same nonchalance that I hold toward my toaster and teakettle. I can resist all I like, but for Benjamin’s generation resistance is moot. The revolution is already complete.

Technology Is Evolving Just Like Our DNA Does
With its theory of evolution, Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species may have outlined, back in 1859, an idea that explains our children’s relationship with iPhones and Facebook. We are now witness to a new kind of evolution, one played out by our technologies. 

The “meme,” a term coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976, is an extension of Darwin’s Big Idea past the boundaries of genetics. A meme, put simply, is a cultural product that is copied. We humans are enamored of imitation and so become the ultimate “meme machines.” Memes—pieces of culture—copy themselves through history and enjoy a kind of evolution of their own, and they do so riding on the backs of successful genes: ours. 

According to the memeticist Susan Blackmore, just as Darwinism submits that genes good at replicating will naturally become the most prevalent, technologies with a knack for replication rise to dominance. These “temes,” as she’s called these new replicators, could be copied, varied, and selected as digital information—thus establishing a new evolutionary process (and one far speedier than our genetic model). Blackmore’s work offers a fascinating explanation for why each generation seems less capable of managing solitude, and less likely to opt for technological disengagement. 


BigDonOne said...

...because folks can't handle PRR...

CNu said...

lol, still waiting for the day when one of your purported PRR submissions isn't a crackpot shard culled from a backwater media outlet. Please be sure to let me know when that blessed day arrives.

BigDonOne said...

That was just a quick test to see if ALL bd's comments were being auto-DELETED...

CNu said...

I manually deleted that off-topic isht you pasted up yesterday. You should save all your SBPDL outgassings for SBPDL.

Naive Tom said...

But ... but ... but ... Peer Review makes it all better!

Constructive_Feedback said...

Brother CNu:

I understand that the story did not say as much BUT I want to absolutely confirm that neither you nor Dawkins believes that our human consumption of technology HAS NOT produced any EVOLUTION at the physiological or genetic level................YET?

A "meme" is purely in the realm of BEHAVIOR. No?

Since these technologies represent "Environmental Stimuli" - am I off base to assume that just as the "atomic animal" evolved the capacity to take in "light waves" because - it - being a body who was immersed in electro-magnetic waves - eventually saw a competitive advantage over lesser beings and thus it formed the necessary vision senors to leverage these light waves to find FOOD and SEX, thus insuring the perpetuation of the species......that one day we will see a PHYSIOLOGICAL reaction to the technology that is around us.

Where am I off base? Is there any "biblican viewpoints" in the above passage that render it a non-credible assessment?

Constructive_Feedback said...


While there has been "climate change" from day one in the formation of this earth - IF THERE IS "MAN MADE CLIMATE CHANGE" yet as a collective we refuse to "unilaterally disarm" because we enjoy our creature comforts - then it stands to reason that MAN'S ACTIVITIES are going to FLOOD LARGE PORTIONS OF THE EARTH and eventually destroy the SUPPLY CHAIN that Man now uses to fuel his CARBON BASED ECONOMY AND LIVING STANDARD.

In other words - "NATURE" is going to heal herself by DESTROYING the infection upon her - WHICH IS "MAN".

Why then should we worry?

CNu said...

lol, neither/nor together comprise a double negative - so I'm not sure what you're asking, and, I would never presume to speak for Dawkins. My own opinion is that the Interweb IS a very serious material change in our species extended group phenotype and must therefore necessarily induce significant biological changes over time.

See, Dawkins gets a bad rap because of his old metaphor the "selfish-gene". He got lots of non-deep thinkers believing that the gene is the primary unit of selection, hell, he even had the truly credulous believing that genes have agency. That lengthy set of academic debates I mentioned yesterday, well, the subject is multi-level selection and what that means in simple terms is trying to specify the "unit" level at which evolutionary selection is taking place.

The sorrowful little cats who came in initially so strong with the assertion that the gene is the fundamental unit of selection have been blown to smithereens by the cats hip to contemporary biology and the many layers and systems at which adaptations can take place.

CNu said...

Your species gets one chance to get its relationship with and stewardship of nature right. If it succeeds, then to the stars and beyond - if not, then something different will be picking through our fossils several epochs of geological time hence.

umbrarchist said...

Because people can't evaluate evidence. Usually can't even figure out the right questions.

But what is the ultimate cultural significance? I just checked the website of a certain engineering college I once attended. The tuition is now $20,000 per semester. Has Newtonian physics changed in the last 30 years? But computer simulations are now possible on home computers that the olde IBM 370 could not do.

But they can't do a simulation of a skyscraper collapse, though they expect to be paid $40,000 a year for not mentioning an obvious structural engineering problem. That is so funny!