Sometimes you just have to wonder about where the human brain and body’s adaptability will hit its limits. We keep pushing those, and the more there are of us the more outrageous and …
Sometimes you just have to wonder about where the human brain and body’s adaptability will hit its limits. We keep pushing those, and the more there are of us the more outrageous and outlandish those limits.
I’m not talking here about putting people on Mars or colonizing the moon or even negotiating virtual worlds with goggles.
I’m referring to the limits that migrate into our everyday lives — everything from the complex human-machine interface that happens every time we get behind the wheel of a car to the demands of using (now) everyday household appliances.
Imagine if one of our great grandparents was resurrected and plumped down in one of our average homes. Imagine having to explain and teach them how to not just use all the machines that inhabit our homes but how to mentally and physically cope. Imagine the radical lifestyle and mental adjustments that would demand.
Because it would be so challenging, it’s a favorite subject for science fiction and fantasy writers, one that allows the writer to delve into the human-machine interface. We read their stories and find ourselves nodding.
So much change has happened to us. One-fifth of Park County’s current population remembers when the valley echoed with the roar of internal combustion engines as tractors and trucks belching black smoke worked the farms and used our two-lane roads. They recall when our farm produce rode train cars to their ultimate destinations instead of to ports where “grown in Wyoming” competes against “grown in the Ukraine” on far foreign shores. There was no need in those years to know much, if anything, about markets in Asia or Europe nor were there the resources to learn.
The idea of actually visiting Tokyo or London? The concept of a Google, of knowledge at our fingertips? Of using more and more of our brains as our world gets more complex?
Even our homes have morphed, leaving far, far behind rooms with open fireplaces that kept your front or back warm but never both. Talk about undreamed of change! We can reasonably expect our homes to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer, and we tell Alexa or Siri or some other bit of artificial intelligence — learning programs — to handle that for us.
Our houses keep getting smarter and smarter. If that’s not enough, we have all those applications for our handheld devices.
Grocery shopping (at our local stores with practically every food item known in the world) is too much trouble? Let your fingers do the walking via an app on your device.
Can’t be bothered to cook a good meal? Well, heck. There’s an app for that.
Need just about anything? It can be on your doorstep in 24 hours.
People keep finding new and inventive ways to push the limits with resulting changes in our brains, our bodies, our behavior, our understanding of the world, and our expectations.
We don’t “see” what this is doing to us, to the way we live and think. We don’t “feel” our brains becoming more active. We can’t “touch” change. Most of us don’t waste time worrying about it, either. We just get on with our lives, adapting as we go, taking the good with the bad.
The fact is that we’re using more and more of our brains all the time. Recently, someone commented that the young people she was mentoring were noticeably more confident, more knowledgeable, more capable than her generation had been. “It’s almost scary to see,” she said, giving examples of ways in which her junior colleagues came into the workforce better prepared, in short using more of their brains.
She added, “What will that mean for their futures?”
Good question, and we haven’t even talked about direct artificial intelligence/human brain interface as we keep pushing limits and how that will shape the future.
What’s all this doing to us? We don’t know, but for sure ... it’s fascinating ... it’s scary ... it’s the future.