One Big Brain?

Robert Wright writing in the New York Times today starts by telling us to focus on the article and not to immediately flip to Facebook or e-mail – and then tests us by including links within his own article – and of course he could cry, “Gotcha” when once I succumbed and did. But the article is provocative in helping us reflect on where things are going.

We all ask the question whether technology is our friend or foe. He issues an immediate good reminder:

“Maybe the essential thing about technological evolution is that it’s not about us. Maybe it’s about something bigger than us — maybe something big and wonderful, maybe something big and spooky, but in any event something really, really big.”

He anticipates a new book by technology veteran, Kevin Kelly entitled What Technology Wants, to be released this fall. What Wright goes on to discuss is the advantages that technology offers in terms of linking us to a much wider perspective. By wandering around the technical universe we are increasing our knowledge in ways we could never have imagined and our neural connectors are benefiting from the new links and associations, – something that Mind Mappers have always recognized as a strength. The real issue is how to keep the balance between making those associations meaningful and simply descending into total triviality.

Wright does end on a positive note:

“But at least the superorganism that seems to be emerging, though in some ways demanding, isn’t the totalitarian monster that Orwell feared; it’s more diffuse, more decentralized, more reconcilable — in principle, at least — with liberty.

And that’s good news, because I do think we ultimately have to embrace a superorganism of some kind — not because it’s inevitable, but because the alternative is worse. If technological progress grinds to a halt, it will be because chaos has engulfed the world; and if we don’t use technology to weave people together and turn our species into a fairly unified body, chaos will probably engulf the world — because technology offers so much destructive power that a sharply divided human species can’t flourish.”

2 Replies to “One Big Brain?”

  1. The question is a valid one. And I note that your question asks whether “the world” would be worse off rather than whether human beings would.

    And I guess an interesting addendum is the fact that we are discussing this, though we have probably never met or never will. And we are discussing an article in a newspaper to which neither of us might have had knowledge of or access to.

    You have pointed out that the problem is not individual but systemic. I am particualarly fond of Otto Scharmer’s identification of the “blind spot” that makes us all see the world through an lens that by its very nature gives us an incomplete view. But I am personally on the side of the hope that awareness at least gives us a start in meeting the enemy that Pogo rightly identified as ourselves.

  2. A question that comes to mind is: Would the world be worse off if we didn’t have cars, planes, radio, television and computers?

    Our ultimate demise will come from a depletion of resources and the destruction of our environment. While technology exists to address these issues, it’s our brains that lack the collective capacity, will or desire to foster change for the better. We always try to address things after it’s too late.

    As with many things, we are our own worst enemy – with or without technology.

Comments are closed.