We have an unprecedented opportunity as the first humans to be able to address our cognitive limitations consciously and directly, by using technology to increase our brain capacity and understand our interactions with the world in far more detail. All we require is the wisdom to make this our goal.
Mark Buchanan in his Bloomberg column, How Hacking the Human Brain Can Save Civilization. He explains:
Humans suffer from a mismatch between our thinking about what we do and the truth of what we do. Our brains make sense of a multifaceted world by ignoring much of its complexity — a trait Van der Leeuw calls “low dimensional” thinking. In engineering a dam, assessing how agricultural runoff influences an estuary or figuring out how automobile emissions might alter the atmosphere, our conceptual models (or those of our scientists and engineers) at best consider only a few of the true pathways of cause and effect.
That’s Buchanan discussing the view of Sander van der Leeuw, dean of the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, who suggests using technology in a fundamentally different way.
This is a profound insight. It helps explain why our innovations, even as they help us in ways that we see clearly and understand, also end up affecting our environment in ways that we mostly fail to recognize. Effects build up in the environment — and this includes the social environment, as well as biological or physical — over the long term. We’re unaware, until eventually we have the famous “unintended consequences” so familiar from technological history.
FJP: Very much worth thinking about.
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