It Is Possible To Imagine That Human Nature, The Human

1844 WordsApr 25, 20178 Pages
It is possible to imagine that human nature, the human intellect, emotions and feelings are completely independent of our technologies; that we are essentially ahistorical beings with one constant human nature that has remained the same throughout history or even pre-history? Sometimes evolutionary psychologists—those who belief human nature was fixed on the Pleistocene Savannah—talk this way. I think this is demonstrably wrong. Consider ancient technologies, for example: cooking. When ancient hunter-gatherers discovered that firing their meat would not only make it tastier but could make their food easier to digest, it had a number of knock-on effects. It made parts of an animal carcass that were previously inedible edible, and also made…show more content…
Writing also fostered the ability to produce and follow long chains of argument that could be criticized and expanded in an iterative way. All this helped draw out the timescale of thought from seconds and minutes, to week and years, to eternity (it is possible to read Plato’s dialogues today or even listen to it on your iPod, and thus commune with the ancients). Writing allowed us to ever more effectively redirect and reinvent our cognitive abilities. Many think a particular inwardness of mind we take for granted today and certain forms of imaginative projection were only really made possible by writing. So cognitive technologies—I have given two examples—have freed up tremendous cognitive power by giving us the time and the leisure to turn our minds away from the brute exigencies of life and toward more liberating things as well as tools to extend, restructure, and amplify certain modes of thinking. Writing especially, by offering human beings new facility to shape and mold our cognitive abilities, changed the nature of human beings. We became in a novel sense, self creators. But this raises a question: if technology can do all this to change the way we think for the better, might it not similarly work for ill? According to Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember” (2010), the internet is such a technology. It may appear as a

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