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Head in the Cloud

February 15, 2011

What if I was to declare that humanity has evolved into a hive-mind?  Not in the sense of a collective consciousness, but rather in the sense that through our state of highly lubricated social interactivity, co-dependency, and access to digital information, we have begun to transcend our inherent biological limitations.  How about a cloud-mind?

Think about this question: when in human history has any human been able to recall and/or utilize the vast majority of the world’s knowledge at any time at any place?  Other than, say, the Neolithic Era, it would be impossible to conceive of such a feat of intellect, whether we’re talking about Nietzsche, Tesla, Einstein, whoever.  But any human/chimp with any smartphone can access Wikipedia and do basically just that today.  On the other hand, whether such a human/chimp is able to wield the world’s knowledge to any effect greater than settling bar bets is a question that has not (yet) been answered on Wikipedia.

I’ve often heard it said that, relative to the past, our knowledge retention is diminishing.  Whether or not that’s so in the actual biological sense, it certainly isn’t true in a practical sense.  We have digital storage space in which to save our memories and our thoughts.  Even with our atrophying biological attention spans all a-twitter, humans are empowered to multitask and rearrange time in conducting activities much more powerfully and easily when there are digital tracks to retrace and pause buttons to press.  These digital storage spaces and platforms need not even be located exclusively within our own control, as a matter of observed fact.  Whether or not this is desirable is irrelevant from an evolutionary standpoint.  Whether or not one should be afraid of Skynet’s self-awareness is similarly unproductive.  The fact is that cultural evolution has driven us to a more efficient point where we can and do outsource our brain-function to the machines.

We’re not losing our minds, we’re just storing them in the cloud.  What’s the harm in that?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2011 3:22 am

    As an aside, I really don’t see where you’re going with your “human/chimp” allusions. I presume (hope) that you don’t take the chimp component literally?
    Or are you using the term in a derogatory sense to apply to the great majority of our kind who have very little idea of what makes things tick? Or is it just intended as humor?

    Anyway, to address the more significant points of your comment:

    1. Our species has actually had a communal hive-mind ever since the advent of the exporting and external storage of imagination which we know as language.
    2. This shared pool of imagination has grown exponentially, functioning as the medium for the evolution of ideas. Particularly with respect to technology.
    3. There is good evidence to suggest that features of our external environment, most notably such materials as glass, copper and iron have properties such that this evolution has not only been exclusively enabled but, to all intents and purposes, has been made inevitable.
    4. This evolution of technology can most properly be considered to be contiguous with that of biological evolution and as just one phase of an evolutionary continuum which can be traced back as least as far as the process of stellar nucleosynthesis.
    5. Projection into the future implies not simply ever greater enhancement of human capabilities but rather the rather imminent transition to a new non-biological phase of nature’s processes arising from what is now the ever more cloudy Internet.

    Those who consider themselves to have the ability to kick the deeply ingrained habits of anthropocentricity and trivialism are encouraged to read “The Goldilocks Effect” which can be downloaded free in e-book formats from
    http://www.unusual-perspectives.net
    It is intended as a primer for this evolutionary model.

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