Building One Big Brain

Does being a part of a giant superorganism scare you? (DD)

Failing to focus — succumbing to digital distraction — can make you lose your mind, fears Nicholas Carr, author of the much-discussed book “The Shallows.” At least, it can make you lose little parts of your mind. The Internet, Carr suspects, “is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.”
But maybe the terms of the debate — good for us or bad for us? — are a sign that we’re missing the point. Maybe the essential thing about technological evolution is that it’s not about us. Maybe it’s about something bigger than us — maybe something big and wonderful, maybe something big and spooky, but in any event something really, really big.
it might help to understand what technology is marching toward.
On balance, technology is letting people link up with more and more people who share a vocational or avocational interest. And it’s at this level, the social level, that the new efficiencies reside. The fact that we don’t feel efficient — that we feel, as Carr puts it, like “chronic scatterbrains” — is in a sense the source of the new efficiencies; the scattering of attention among lots of tasks is what allows us to add value to lots of social endeavors. The incoherence of the individual mind lends coherence to group minds.
Could it be that, in some sense, the point of evolution — both the biological evolution that created an intelligent species and the technological evolution that a sufficiently intelligent species is bound to unleash — has been to create these social brains, and maybe even to weave them into a giant, loosely organized planetary brain? Kind of in the way that the point of the maturation of an organism is to create an adult organism?
If we grant the superorganism scenario for the sake of argument, is it spooky? Is it bad news for humans if in some sense the “point” of the evolutionary process is something bigger than us, something that subsumes us?Read more at opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

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