Evolution: Technology vs. Humans

A visit to the Galapagos Islands is an eye-opening experience for the old and young alike. The fact, for example, that there are unique sea creatures in that one place that are quite unlike anything else in the world seems amazing. How come they never evolved?

In the mid 1800s Charles Darwin observed that scene carefully for a number of years, thought about it all for several more years and then finally pronounced his theory of evolution to a world of skeptics. Today, about 150 years later, most educated people have fully grasped the theory, understand it well and fully accept it.

One of the cornerstone pieces of the evolutionary process is that all species slowly but surely adapt to changes in the world around them that impact their existence.

How humans’ bodies and brains react to the changing world is a critical factor in how society works. For a very long time the changes in how the world around us works occurred slowly enough that an average person was pretty able to adapt to those changes as they occurred.

For example, dating from the first printing presses in the 1400s, humans have maintained a vastly growing universe of knowledge and information. For most of that time, the rate of change in humans and technology remained pretty much in sync.

In about 1900 the pace of innovation and life suddenly began to speed up exponentially. The automobile, the airplane, the telegraph, the telephone, movies, TV and now the Internet and social media have dumped a tidal wave of vast proportions unexpectedly into the laps of humans.

Of course, there are benefits from that, but whatever they may be, they are still quite invisible. It strongly appears that humans’ brains have yet to evolve enough to be fully able to deal with today’s very different world of data and information about everybody and everything.

On the one hand, The relatively few people who may have mastered the overload from those new technologies also may have become much better informed and smarter than people used to be.

On the other hand, the gap between those people who have mastered the new world and those who have not has widened along the same lines of growing income inequality.

And — here is the real rub — both groups of people have become fractionated, confused and politically disoriented, which has led to serious breakdowns in the workability of our governance processes.

We tend to blame our elected officials for the breakdown in our political system, because they are where the failures become most visible and appear to hurt many people. By definition those people are easy to blame because people already think they are overpaid and underperform. It seems that voters do not recognize themselves in the mirror.

Politicians complain that they are only reflecting what they are feeling and hearing though all the vast media, which, of course, is amplified, distorted and often disorienting.

Either we have to wait for humans to slowly evolve to be able to cope with this overload of information — and that could be a long time — or we have to focus on this, the problem, and see if at least there can be some transitional steps to help cushion the problem along the way.

Until we do that, we have to accept that we are destined to live with a defective governance system for quite a long time.

A recent biography of Adolf Hitler by a distinguished British historian, Ian Kershaw, reveals, among other things, how Germany’s defective political system in the 1920s and ’30s was a very important factor that enabled Hitler to worm his way into power.

I am not suggesting that something that bad awaits us. But if we remain as passive as Germans did then?


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