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Andy Clark on Human Mentality and Technology Essay

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Updated: May 2nd, 2022

Nowadays the human society lives in the unprecedented age of technologic development. Over the last several decades the technologies created by humans took a massive leap and started to progress rapidly. Technological inventions and products quickly found their places in human life and households.

Various advanced tools, devices and appliances were created to make people’s lives easier, simpler and more comfortable. Complicated procedures became more accessible, the time sent conducting them shorter, and their planning and practice more precise. Several decades ago the products of technological progress resulted in a massive passion for consumption and home improvement by means of adding various devices to it.

Owning technological helpers gradually became an indicator of good social status and high level of financial success. The general passion for technological devices was even reflected in the works of well known artists such as Jeff Koons. Today we cannot imagine our existence without the goods of technological progress such as coffee makers, washing machines, lawn mowers and cars.

However, the inventions that truly conquered our hearts are computers and, of course, the internet. For the majority of contemporary people leaving home without a smart phone equals to temporarily losing one of their body parts. People stripped of the ability to use their devices or the internet feel disabled, disconnected and left out. The habit of constantly carrying around laptops, tablets and smart phones is based on a quickly developing internet addiction that takes over people’s minds within days.

Every young person, who ever had to introduce their older relatives or friends to the internet, knows how quickly rejection and fear of this invention in people’s minds gets replaced by a total dependence on it. The speed of human mind’s adaptation to digital interface, online communication and all the opportunities provided by the internet and computers is marvelous.

Clark claims that not so long ago it occurred to him that humans were nothing but natural born cyborgs, this idea seems very meaningful in the light of the latest events and all the influences humans experience from the side of digital technologies and the internet.

Many researchers and experts today theorize about the possible causes of the technological progress the humanity experiences these days and about the various probable outcomes of this phenomenon. One of the main principles of the operation of the modern computers is the process of memory retrieval. In order to work with files we ask the computer to retrieve them from a certain memory cell where they normally are stored.

Human minds work according to the same principle. Basically, everything we think about is based on recollection of various experiences and facts, in order to address these facts, our brain retrieves memories about, and this is done voluntarily based on our own request (Donald 1993).

There is no scientific proof of the existence of such ability in the animal world, which means that humans are the only animals that have the capacity to retrieve their own memories voluntarily and signalizes about some mysterious happening that influences the evolution of human minds and made them so much different from the minds of other primates or mammals.

While the past of this ability is a big mystery, its present is outstanding – humans learnt how to create machines working in a similar way to their minds and are currently trying to improve these machines to make them even more human-like. This inspires many authors to think about the possible results of this work in the future.

One of the most common and famous demonstrations of a theory about an advanced artificial intellect is presented in a well known film called “Terminator” where the machines gradually start to exceed their creators. Another theory refers to a much closer future and explores the changes that could happen in the human world in digital technologies based on artificial intelligence and advanced software entered and started to dominate various spheres of our life such as health care, heavy machinery operation or manufacturing.

One of the logically possible results of the heavy use of artificial intelligence at the workplaces in the future is high rate of unemployment in the areas where the computerized work process would eliminate job opportunities for people (Lanier, 2013). The common replacement of human employees with machines would be most likely to lead to a massive disruption of middle and working classes’ economies and incomes, which may also lead to increasing gap between the rich and the poor, social division and poverty.

Besides, it would enforce a great cultural disruption, the roots of which can be observed today already – the digitalization and transformation of human minds from creative to analytical (Lanier, 2010). In the contemporary society artistic professions are highly not popular, while experts of IT, software developers and programmers are the preferred employees.

All-consuming digitalization of life would lead to the inevitable digitalization and computerization of traditional human ways of thinking, which would happen rather fast due to our predisposition to that and our initial being something that Clark (2004) calls naturally born cyborgs.

There is one more theory about the possible future of artificial intelligence and technological development. Many of the devices created by humans are directed at simplifying human life and helping us cope with difficult situations. Contemporary medicine employs robots that replace human surgeons during different procedures; it also operates a variety of devices made to improve the work of human bodies. Some of them are prosthetic and bionic body parts and organs designed to help damaged bodies to function fully.

The devices we carry around with us are becoming more and more essential in our lives, the scientists are now developing technologies that would allow attaching computers to people’s wrists, the experts are working on the technology allowing to insert sub dermal implants carrying out the identification function into human bodies.

The claim about people being naturally born cyborgs is supported by all of these facts. Besides, all of the changes and upgrading of the human body that the scientists are preparing to do inspire the argument that humans gradually are moving towards the complete merger with their devices and obtaining more qualities of cyborgs.

Some of the facts that support Clark’s idea that humans are naturally born cyborgs lie in our history and mental development. For example, the evolutionary development that allowed the invention of complex languages and speech was tightly connected with the capacity of voluntary memory retrieve, which took around two million years to occur. As a result, language represents a system of verbal codes representing and expressing abstract notions and thoughts.

This means that through the process of evolution human mind did not only develop an ability to memorize and operate notions, but also code them and pass them in a verbal form to other human beings. Later, the writing, another way of coding appeared. Computers and other advanced technologies were developed and designed t work according to the same principle of coding and decoding fragments of information and performing various operations with it.

The nerves in human body and the neurons in human brain have a function of contacts inside of the computers. Misfiring neurons lead human body malfunctions such as epilepsy, for example, while misfiring contacts produce a glitch in computers. Surgeons and scientists today work on studying the relationships between various nerves.

By means of their computerized stimulation the doctors can make our bodies perform functions such as movements and reflexes, provide communication between the brain an various body parts to heal paralyzed patients, reprogram or redirect various impulses to cure misfiring nerves, establish or destroy connections between them (Doidge, 2007).

We often forget how much a human body is similar to a very complex computer. By bringing more technologies to our lives and using them daily for decades, people found ways to improve and upgrade their computers, and at the same time they allowed the computers influence human way of thinking.

This creates a cycle of mutual influence between the natural and artificial intelligence. People modifies computers, computers modify people. It is a well known fact that digital devices are a huge part of human life in the world of nowadays. Modern start being children are introduced to the computers at a very early age.

Sometimes it can be surprising for the adults to see how quickly their toddlers learn to launch various programs on the computers, perform operations that they only saw once and within days become better with the devices than their grandparents, for example. The scientists have a theory that the generations of people that never encountered computers in their childhood and the ones that grew up knowing how to use a computer have very different kind of thinking (Carr, 2011).

Besides, today the development of technologies and the heavy use of them in the society produce multiple impacts. For example, writing starts to be practiced less and less, hand written documents, messages and letters are no longer popular. Such creative occupations as painting, composing music, or designing clothes are often done by means of using computer software.

This means that some functions of our brains start to gradually degenerate and get replaced with other skills and abilities, all of which have to do with the use of technologies. Our minds learn and adapt to various types of interface very quickly because they are originally comfortable functioning this way.

It turns out that people created digital devices and these devices served to digitalize human way of thinking, which came easy because we no longer live in the world that made our brains adjust and adapt to various situations and conditions created by nature. It seems to be that humans no longer need a creative mind ready to deal with unexpected circumstances, but they do need a digitalized mind storing data for all possible situations and ready to launch the needed programs as soon as they are requested.

Many writers and scholars keep warning the mankind about the unattractive future that the heavy use of digital technologies is likely to bring. They suggest people to struggle with the total computerization and try to preserve the remains of unpredictable and spontaneous creativity and emotionality because soon these features may become endangered by a new wave of mental evolution (Christian, 2011).

Clark’s claim that humans are naturally born cyborgs points out the fact that it is possible that we were never supposed to be spontaneous and creative, that easy adjustment process people go through with their technologies means that this is the natural way of our development and functioning.

Psychologically, this claim is deeper than it seems because digitalized way of thinking based on predictable programs and reliable data may actually help the humanity to defeat something people fear more than death – the unknown.

The phobia of this kind has been stalking the humanity ever since the beginning of times, it is the main reason of all depressions and anxieties, it is the source of stress for people of all ages every day. Artificial intelligence and digital devices can be the best way of removing this fear from human lives completely and creating better and more relaxed and enjoyable environments.

Human body is a highly complicated object that has multiple capacities and abilities, it can self-improve, learn, and develop. It daily performs many functions we are not always aware of or do not know about. Today, we live in the age of massive mentality shift that re-arranges many of our habits, and behaviors. Evolution of human mentality too millions of years before, yet lately its development speeded up rapidly. Evolving has never been so easy, maybe it finally is moving in a natural for people direction.

Reference List

Carr, N. (2011). The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Christian, B. (2012). The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive. New York: Anchor

Clark, A. (2004). Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books.

Donald, M. (1993). Human Cognitive Evolution: What We Were, What We Are Becoming. Social Research, 60(1), 143-170.

Lanier, J. (2010). You are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Vintage Books.

Lanier, J. (2013). Who Owns the Future. New York: Simon & Shuster

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