Alright. I have been pussy-footing around with my blog for the last week or so and for that reason I decided to write something with a little more purely intellectual meat on its bones. Not that my previous posts weren’t robust, it’s just that normally I usually don’t want people to think I take myself too seriously by actually writing anything of real intellectual sunstance…..
Well that’s actually not really true at all but I had to say something witty just to soften the blow of what is coming next…
The body research on the effect of technology on human cognitive processes continues to grow exponentially as the world becomes more and more integrated with its machines, forcing us to confront the reality that all past concepts of how we viewed and interacted with the world have changed and that this technology has indeed had a profound effect upon our psychology and indeed what it actually means to be a human being.
Although there is a substantial body of literature on this topic that is widely spread these days, unfortunately because of the nature of this rapidly growing technology, which is constantly expanding and further intertwining itself with our very existence so that as research on the effects of some aspects of technology and psychology is concluded, new ones rapidly develop causing researchers to have to begin all over again
. For now the world sighs in contentment with the ease of accomplishing tasks thanks to these technologies and we smile at our own cleverness as we watch technology and its infinite applications slowly begin to rule us yet we still sit back and relinquish even more power to it and become more and more dependent upon it despite any number of potentially nightmarish scenarios.
There is a large gap in the research and this is in part because unlike other applications of science such as perhaps medicine, where before a drug is introduced into the market for human consumption it must undergo years of research and clinical trials before finally gaining the necessary government approval that it needs in order to be introduced into our world. Many technologies today do not have such restraints and as a result before we have tested it it to the fullest to see how it will affect our society, the moment a new application is encountered we are already interfacing it with our world.
If in time it becomes apparent that these applications are having adverse effects on our cognitive processes, or at least transformative effects, then unfortunately because this tech will have become so integrated into our world, at that point that we will be forced to live with the consequences.
Imagine if the creators of the Matrix were right, do you think humanity at that point would voluntarily disconnect from the Internet in order to save our species? Would the world believe it and disconnect if we were told that Microsoft Windows was damaging our health? I think not.
I believe further research is needed to examine how the effect of this symbiosis between man and machine has on our species and its future survival, there needs to be longitudinal studies on the physical effects of things such as Virtual Reality on brain function and the physical tissues of the body, and finally a great many more psycho-sociological studies on the long-term effects of technology on humanity, how we perceive the world, and even the very definition of what it means to be human. Because the fact is our evolution as a species is no longer a question of physical evolution, such as growing wings, but a cognitive change that has already begun to have far reaching effects on human society.
The symbiosis between humanity and its technology is so complete that it has become apparent that a very large portion of humanity could not survive without it. This is like how the use of fire was integral in our rapid development as a species. Fire gave us an advantage, it allowed us to see in the dark so that we could hunt, travel, and protect ourselves from predators, it allowed us to eat food stuffs that were previously indigestible and because we could now cook our meat, we were able to extract more protein from it, allowing us to spend less time hunting and gathering and more time developing human society as the extra nutrients allowed our bodies and more importantly our brains to evolve, even as our intestinal tract and our dentistry changed to reflect our new dietary habits.
With the advent of fire to keep us warm, we lost our thick body hair, because with the means to control fire we could keep warmer and also we remain at our settlements since we now had more time to spend on tasks other than searching for food. Clothing could be made, arts and crafts created, music developed, all of these things fundamentally changing not just the way humanity interacted with the world but actually physically changing humanity itself.
The present relationship between technology and humanity is defined by a relationship closer and more intertwined than any in previous history and it is apparent that it is a symbiosis. The research on this aspect has been slight, as if researchers do not wish to focus attention on the fact that this technology is changing us as a species so rapidly that if we are not careful in five or six more generations the species which will exist as Homo sapiens sapiens will be so very different than that the one which exists now. We need to know just how profound an effect this symbiosis is really having on us.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a reality, yet how much is really known about how it effects that most essential part of our being, the very thing which makes us human, our brains? Scientists are still trying to decipher the many layers of brain functions even today psychologists, and philosophers both still have trouble defining exactly what is human perception. Yet in mixing humanity and machine and changing the way we perceive the world through the use of VR and other interactive tech we must ask ourselves, how is it that this machine is able to achieve this and is it actually helpful or detrimental in the long run to our brains? Cell Phones have been shown to emit radiation and even immersing oneself in music through headphones after a while can be harmful, so what about full immersion in a computer controlled alternate reality, essentially allowing a machine to play with your brain? This cannot be be all positive. There must be much more research done in this field before the government allows the licensing of such technology to the general public. After all what happens if years after it has become mainstream, and since no longitudinal studies had been done, it turns out that this tech turns everyone psychotic after prolonged use?
Finally, we have to stop being so impatient as species and decide what it means to be human. By this I mean that technology allows us impatient primates to achieve more in a shorter period of time but at what cost? What does it mean to be human? That is itself a very difficult question, but we can ask ourselves others such as what part of what we now believe to be a part and parcel of being human are we willing to sacrifice in the name of “progress” because the long-term effect of computer technology on our very humanity is unknown and this is a very dangerous thing to have been allowed to come to pass. It is because of the rapid spread of new technology that bodies such as the Catholic Church, in the past suppressed new technology, because it worried about how it would affect society as a whole not because it feared the actual technology. And although this may sound dated but perhaps they were right, because without long-term research we may be invariably letting in the very instruments of our downfall and destruction as a species. After all, technology has given us the hydrogen bomb, the neutron bomb, and various lethal biological agents which could just as easily wipe out the species. Eventually cool heads, and in depth research prevailed and this technology was suppressed for the good of all mankind. So what is so different in this case? Absolutely nothing and just like with these other technologies it needs much more research before it should be allowed to further integrate with our society.
The research in this field is substantial, but the fact is that most of the scientists doing the research are researching a narrow field of focus within this topic and are not truly engaging in meta-analysis of their colleagues’ data which would give them a better perspective as to how this is affecting humanity as a whole in a wide variety of directions. It is necessary that researchers from all scientific disciplines come together using all their respective skills and technical expertise to further research on just how this new technology is affecting our species before it is too late and we lose the very thing we thought that this technology was created to preserve.
Oh I feel so much better now. It’s good to see that the intellectual juices are still flowing smoothly. Thus endeth the lecture. Enjoy it responsibly.