Somewhere upon the way of evolution, humans lucked out. We developed language. And we grew hands and fingers that allowed us to manipulate our environment.
But a bigger brain didn’t make us smarter or more conscious than our other animal friends.
Neanderthals had larger brains than humans, as too do dolphins and whales to this day. Despite their cranial superiority, the former died off, homo sapiens thrived, while the fish are confined to the water.
Meanwhile, humans built intricate tools. Says American neuroscientist Christof Koch, “human civilization is all about tools, whether it’s a little stone, an arrow, a bomb, or a computer.”
Given the advancements in technology and artificial intelligence, we may be too smart for our own good. By exploiting tools to think and to operate for us, we’re outsourcing our neurons and developing a kind of robotic consciousness.
Humans have turned into broken machines.
Our jobs make us feel important and shape our identity. What are people going to do when we no longer have to work and have bundles of free time instead?
Some of us may procrastinate and lounge while others will want to play like children with crayons again. We just might art ourselves back into life.
Since the dawn of market society, owners and bosses have revelled in telling workers they were replaceable. Robots lend this centuries-old dynamic a troubling new twist: employers threaten employees with the specter of machine competition, shirking responsibility for their avaricious disposition through opportunistic appeals to tech determinism. A “jobless future” is inevitable, we are told, an irresistible outgrowth of innovation, the livelihood-devouring price of progress. (Sadly, the jobless future for the masses doesn’t resemble the jobless present of the 1 percent who live off dividends, interest, and rent, lifting nary a finger as their bank balances grow.)
I doubt the rise of technology obviates the need for human brains and hands. We are thinking machines while the automatons themselves excel in action, at least for the time being.
The bigger problem seems to be the perception of jobs. Most people allow work to justify their existence when really it’s the things we do outside the office that should make us feel needed. There’s more to life than a paycheck!
The machines are going to be there like they’ve been all along, helping people get their work done more efficiently. The bots versus brain chasm is a non-zero-sum game.
But if it just so happens that all we do is push buttons all day, perhaps it’ll give us a chance to do other things like making better art.
“After World War Two, artists and advertising agencies wanted to sell a bright and hopeful future. But they were also working to produce something that their audience would recognize and find plausible. As H. G. Wells said: “Anyone can invent human beings inside out or worlds like dumbbells or gravitation that repels. The thing that makes such imagination interesting is their translation into commonplace terms and rigid exclusion of the other marvels of the story. Then it becomes human.””
But is it time or our habits that permit time to slip into the future?
Today’s perception is irreality. We spend more time looking into our devices than we do looking up at the world. What seems like 2 minutes pecking at the phone turns into 20 minutes of squandered time.
Meanwhile, the child just lives in the moment. They are driven by novelty instead of worrying about tomorrow.
Adults mull over the possibility of death and permit regret to poison their hopes. They also have the responsibility — for work, kids, their health etc. — that constricts their freedom of play in the present.
Time holds steady, adherent to each tick. It is humans who panic.
[bha size=’120×120′ variation=’01’ align=’alignright’]Smart devices are getting smaller and smaller. The Xenxo S-Ring (Kickstarter) could be the latest in wearable tech to turn your hand into a phone, operate as a flash drive, act as a credit-card for on the go payments, track your steps, and more.
It’s a Bluetooth enabled remote control for your smartphone that allows you to interact with the world without staring at the rectangular glow.
We are not too far from implanting these types of smart devices into our bodies.