Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Human Evolution Out of the Internet Age
The internet has become daily life for some...me included. I live, study, work, and interact with like-minded people online (though, I'm not too sold on social networking). I'm a net junkie and I'm apparently paying the consequences. We are becoming less focused and proficient in specialized tasks. Yet, humans are an evolutionary species, and we will find a way to master this ever-changing information environment. The problem is accessibility will play a role in this "survival of the fittest."
Currently, the human brain does not have the ability to multitask successfully. We are able to have our attention on different things at the same time but we do not focus on each particular task indiscriminately. As such, we are performing our tasks half-way...paying more attention to some more than others...not performing them all in their entirety. According to Carr, online users are developing ADD because our attention is split by the multitude of tasks we perform while online and by information being presented diluted...unfocused.
In my experience, I use the internet for a myriad of things. I do homework, work, search for news, and talk to people. I multitask on several things at once without focusing entirely on one. More over, I search countless, and sometimes useless, things online from how much the rents are in a given city to how you can open an overseas account (I know!). I waste time and the information, even the newscast , I obtain is incomplete. Given that the internet is so far reaching this is unlikely to change.
Nonetheless, I believe that humans, as an evolutionary species, can evolve to a point where they can sustain their attention at more than one task and they can master all the information being bombarded at them. I disagree with Cascio in that prescription medication can be a good alternative to tapping into this potential. Pharmaceuticals have far too many side effects to be worth the "advantages." His futuristic vision that techie devices may allow us to use machine-like potential is far-fetched for the timeline he gives of 2030. I can't rule it out to occur within the next 100 years, though. It is doable and I'm certain humans will take advantage of technology in this way. Yet, this will make us dependent upon this technologies and in the event that we don't have them we "lose the abilities" unless we are able to change the world by then. Another issue I propose with this route is that this will only be accessible to those that can have the financial means and accessibility to do so...thus, leaving behind the financially disadvantaged groups. Sort of a survival of the fittest, but more like survival for the accessible!
Humanity has made use of technology to adapt to diverse array of environments. We have used the wheel, we have used crop rotation...we have also built machines to take us almost anywhere faster. In short, we have built adaptable niches to sustain our lifestyle using technology until today. The world is changing faster and more complicated so we must adapt in order to keep the species and our civilizations in this world. The question now is...what is the best course of action to be able to cope with all this information and to develop the mind focus needed for the multiplicity of our online lives? And, the bigger question...is it fair that accessibility to this new online niche will give us an advantage in the long term over other societies with less accessibility?