New Technology Rewrites Our Mental Architecture

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

I enjoy reading both Tech Crunch and Mashable on a daily basis. The bloggers, only a little older than myself, are insightful and make each post fun and a pleasure to read. Usually, stories I’ve read on the site stick with me for a day, and I share them with friends while they’re fresh in my mind. Yet a seemingly innocuous video about a toddler and a magazine has quite honestly blown my mind, three days after I read it.

Mashable writer Todd Wasserman posted a video of the 1-year-old girl flipping through the magazine pages. Her way of interacting with the magazine is not without a few peculiarities. She was touching all of her fingers to a few pictures and then spreading her fingers out. She stroked the page as if she was trying to push it down. At the end of the video, the creator writes, “For my 1-year-old daughter, a magazine is an iPad that does not work. It will remain so for her entire life. Steve Jobs has coded part of her OS.”

Steve Jobs has coded part of her OS. Wow. It brings my thought process back to the discussion of what embodies our mental processes. Are humans moreso the products of their natural genetics (nature), or the environment in which they were raised (nurture)? Psychologists are still heavily debating this question, but the fact remains that we are easily influenced by the technology with which we interact. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are not novelties to young children but the norm, just how cable television was to my generation and how color television was to my parent’s generation. The “lenses” though which we see the world are crafted by both the mothers who give birth to each child, as well as the brilliant engineers in Silicon Valley and other technological hot-spots.

Humans design the technological products that we use, but then the products “code” young human children as a result. It’s a never-ending chain. In this same vein, technological theoretician Ray Kurtzweil wrote an essay called “The Law of Accelerating Returns.” In it, he hypothesizes that technological change is exponentially increasing, and will continue to do so into the future. (Read his post here). In a separate study, Kurtzweil also hypothesized that singularity, the “hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means” as defined by Wikipedia, could occur as early as 2049. (More information on that topic can be found here.)

Putting these concepts together, it is shocking to think how quickly the technology “baseline” shifts, and what implications this trend my have on the future of our race. One day soon, social staples such as handwriting may become obsolete, instead replaced with millions of iPad-esque devices on which humans type away. More dramatically, we may be able to change how long we could live. In the Time article linked above, the headline reads, “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal.” How could this be possible? Would it not just lead to overpopulation and environmental degradation on a much greater scale than what we already experience?

While this trend raises a million questions and very few answers, I think it’s fascinating to contemplate. I feel as if individuals often believe their way of learning information and our experiences though which we learn this information is the only way it can be obtained. Nothing could be further from the truth. We live in a dynamic world, and technology is the medium through which we accomplish a wealth of tasks more efficiently than ever before. Rather than fear change and having to re-learn what we already took for granted, I think we should embrace the future with open arms and open minds. In the immortal words of Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World.”

View the Mashable post with embedded video here.

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