Nov 2, 2010

Human Evolution from Biology to Technology, Brain to Internet

Below is an excerpt from a fascinating book I am reading called What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly. He sees technology and the internet as merely a continuation of the evolution of our minds:

"The extended costume of animals is the result of their genes. They inherit the basic blueprints of what they make. Humans don't. The blueprints of our shells spring from our minds, which way spontaneously create something none of our ancestors ever made or even imagined. If technology is an extension of humans, it is not an extension of our genes but our minds. Technology is therefore the extended body for ideas. With minor differences, the evolution of the technium--the organism of ideas--mimics the evolution of genetic organisms. The two share many traits: The evolution of both systems moves from the simple to the complex, from the general to the specific, from uniformity to diversity from individualism to mutualism, from energy waste to efficiency, and from slow change to greater evolvability. The way that a species of technology changes over time fits a pattern similar to a genealogical tree of species evolution. But instead of expressing the work of genes, technology expresses ideas."

This notion is also emphasized in a book by Jeffrey M. Stibel that I also recently read called Wired For Thought: How The Brain Is Shaping The Future Of The Internet:

"The internet as it turns out is very similar in structure to the brain. The internet is a massive storage and retrieval system. In practice, it is clunkier and smaller than the brain, but the fundamental structure is roughly the same. The brain has neurons and memories; the Internet has computers and web sites (these are connected together through Ethernet cables and hyperlinks instead of axons and dendrites). What makes the internet so powerful are the hundreds of millions of computers connected to each other, all sharing information, computing and working on your behalf as you sit in your house searching on Google. As with the brain, this means the internet, too, can process information in parallel. The internet is, hence, a replica of the brain: computers and microchips represent neurons; like memory in the brain, Web sites house information; links among pages build semantic maps; and like axons and dendrites, phone lines carry the information across multiple regions."

Now my take on this subject:

I agree with both Kevin Kelly and Jeff Stibel. The Internet is a product of human evolution and a mere reflection of our brains. That being said, I'd like to take it a step further and argue that the internet does not just mimic our brain structure but also characteristics, feelings, wants/needs as well as shortcomings. Let me elaborate. Take porn for example, it is the most profitable and one of the most active parts of the web. If we accept the notion that the internet is a merely a reflection of the human brain, then it makes sense that a major part of the internet is dedicated to sexual fantasies and content. Now let's look at social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace. They too reflect one of our mind's fundamental needs, the need for social connections. Humans want and need to be connected to other humans regardless of the nature of those connections, whether weak or strong. How about Google? Google is our brains answer to our natural curiosity to know everything anytime. It seems to me like the internet complements our brain, it takes off where our brains stop. It records memories (pictures and conversations on Facebook, email conversations, personal blogs, etc.,) exactly as they happened which complements our fading/changing memory of events. How about Second Life? it's a virtual online world where people can take on a virtual life with a totally different body, career, personality, friends, etc.. This seems to me like our imagination living on the internet. This is rather fascinating. The elegance of the mind-internet connection is fascinating and I believe studying/observing the internet and its trends will teach us more about our own minds and desires. I will conclude with another great excerpt from Kevin Kelly's book:

"With very few exceptions, technologies don't die. In this way they differ from biological species, which in the long term inevitably go extinct. Technologies are idea based, and culture is their memory. They can be resurrected if forgotten, and can be recorded so they won't be overlooked. Technologies are forever. They are the enduring edge of the seventh kingdom of life."

1 comment:

  1. Dear 7evan Seas,

    I always admire and read with great joy your hunger and zeal to conquer the frontiers of knowledge and understanding of the “life” itself , be it outer space or inner self. (And of course whatever comes in between…)
    I fully agree with the authors of the two books (I have not read them, but from your take) as well as with you, but with all respects due , I think it is defining the obvious and placing the cart before the horse.
    “Internet is a product of human evolution and a mere reflection of our brains”: Well of course. How could it not be?
    “It also mimics characteristics, feelings, wants/needs as well as our shortcomings”: definitely.
    Only what is not terrestrial can lack the above criteria. Even a surrealistic work of art must have some notions of its creator [maker] in it.
    It is not just us humans, and the environment in which we live [Earth] that evolves, but “Evolution” itself is “Evolving” and it not surprising that a tool making animal’s tools, language, communications and techniques not only advance but undergo an “Evolution” of their own.

    The blue bottle flies (Musca Vomitoria) by instinct must lay their eggs in rotten meat, but they mistake the blossoms of “Arun Dracunculus” flowers for their bad smell. And some parasites for reaching abdomen of animals, make great efforts to reach the top of grass for higher chances of being chewed.

    Now back to what I was saying: Can you make some time and contemplate on the workings of love and sex, and how the side effects of both can be remedied or guided and thought, for making better societies?

    Love you always,
    Afo Kerry