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Only as old as you think

05/08/2014

Now what was that Ancient Greek mystic-philosopher‘s name again?
Was it Anaxamander? Anaximander? Anixamander?

And what about the nidanas?
Does vinnana give rise to sankhara or is it the other way around?

Did Wittgenstein get his notion that logic is tautology from Russell?
Or did Russell pick up his belief that mathematics is tautological from Wittgenstein?

And where does that metaphor about inductive reasoning and causality come from?
The one with the snakes going past a slit in a fence.

Surely I knew all this only a few years ago. Am I showing my age? I may not yet be mentally incompetent but I seem to be becoming mentally incontinent. The stuff in there keeps dribbling out.

Thank god for the internet. Memory prompts are just a few keystrokes away. I would never have got around to checking all this if I’d had to go through a library. I did that once when I first learned it. It would be too much if I had to do it all again. And again. And again.

Or is my reliance on the internet what’s causing all this? Have I just learned to lean on the facts at my fingertips and reassigned my memory capacity to more important things? Like what my girlfriend of thirty years ago looked like in the nude.

In his 2003 book Natural Born Cyborgs, cognitive scientist Andy Clark posits that part-human part-machine beings are not only already among us. They are us. (Or was that a 2002 book? And was it ‘Clark’ or ‘Clarke’?). We humans have adapted to our tools so well we have made them extensions of our bodies. We drive our cars as naturally and unthinkingly as we walk and the feedback we get from the controls bypasses our conscious awareness and goes straight to the parts of the brain that action it (Dammit! Which parts were they again?).

But there’s a cost. The more we rely on technology the less we can rely on our bodies.

It started with fire. Once we had an artificial means of keeping warm we began to lose our body hair more rapidly. When we learned to cook our jaws and teeth began to atrophy. And how many of us think we can walk as far and as easily as our car-less forbears could at our age? Heck, I’m only five generations away from nomadic hunter gatherers who could navigate vast distances just by singing! I could barely find my way around a mulberry bush that way.

We produce our tools and our tools produce us.

From the late 20th Century we have been using tools to augment not only our bodies but our minds. Well, I guess we’ve been doing that for as long as writing has been around – probably longer – but in the last few decades the rate of integration between our brains and our information technologies has been increasing rapidly. Not only has using computers and smart phones become ‘natural’, not using them is becoming ‘unnatural’. So when my computer’s on the fritz it feels like I’ve been mentally crippled. Sure I forgot things before, but now I forget lots of things. Or have I just gotten so used to ‘remembering’ so much with computers that it’s inevitable  more details will slip my mind without them?

How dependent on external technology has my mind become?
How dependent can it become?
How long will it be before there’s a power failure and I black out?

                                                                                                              

Postscript:
The WordPress editor just suggested I tag this post ‘mentally incompetent’.
I wish it would keep its bloody opinions to itself!

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From → confusion

15 Comments
  1. Watching my two young girls glued to a Kindle and my laptop for as long as I’ll allow it disturbs me in some ways. The Kindle and Mac actually do seem like an extension of their bodies and it’s kind of creepy! They can’t imagine what it was like for their 44 year-old mom when she was a kid: no computers, iPads, cell phones, Disney channel, Nickelodeon, DVD, CD, etc. I was happy with an honest-to-God book in my hand and visiting my local library!

    Like

    • Naturally I don’t think reliance on technology is a bad thing. Not even the most dedicated technophobe would advocate spending your life naked and tool-less in a forest somewhere.

      But I do wonder about some of the innate capacities we are losing due to our dependence on tools – particularly tools that can only be produced by advanced industrial societies.

      Civilisations don’t last forever and this one’s looking kinda shaky of late. How far will it fall? And when it does, how much of the older knowledge will be retrievable and usable? How abject will the generation of the fall become?

      Hopefully your daughters will never learn the answers to those questions. But your grand-daughters? Great grand-daughters?

      Like

      • Very intriguing, intelligent, droolesque, (and some disturbing) points!!!

        Look at the skyrocketing obesity rate in my country! I feel that our dependence upon tools contributes quite a bit to that problem….for one thing, if people walked more, they would be healthier. If Frankenfurrer foods weren’t manufactured, made readily available and sold on the cheap, people would also be at a healthier weight.

        I actually feel that the internet has encouraged my latent tendency for (and I sigh and loathe writing this label) ADD. That cannot be good. But of course I love it too.

        I’m already grappling with the girls asking me if they’re going to “get” bipolar – a very reasonable question, and one I asked my father when I was growing up. I hope my girls, granddaughters and so on don’t experience the end of this civilization.

        Your post stimulated my brain as opposed to the horrible trash I admit I read occasionally (people.com) Keep ’em coming! My IQ might actually increase if I read them all. 🙂

        Like

  2. Delinquent Angel permalink

    How long before there’s a power failure and YOU black out?

    What part of your indigenous descent do you not understand….

    Like

  3. Delinquent Angel permalink

    I think there’s a cream for that.

    All stirring the possum aside,, I really like your prose and how you are
    language your Beloved afflictions. May I frack your psyche?

    Like

  4. Delinquent Angel permalink

    Okey dokey.

    Like

  5. Delinquent Angel permalink

    Primate pimp? I was a masseuse with a football club once,
    does that count?

    Like

  6. Hmm..i missed this one..yes i like it..and i am completely convinced that not only technology but culture overall is a source of functional disability for modern humans..

    But from my own experience documented ‘rather crudely’..in real time..i do know that much of this is reversible..even in old age like us at 54..if i remember correctly that you are the same age as me…

    i savor the insights of all culture..and the US culture to put it bluntly sucks..as far as cultivating innate human potential…

    Whereas the way of the Tibetan Monk..although still somewhat restrictive.. as it too..can be part of restrictive culture..shows what modern human potential..still can be..

    As an example..caught behind the stress of a desk for five years..after and active job for over two decades..interacting with thousands of people..and mostly a computer interface behind the desk..i moved from around 28 on the AQ empathy/systemizing ‘Autism Quotient’ test..to 36 at the end of the stay at that desk..and then to 44 or 45 after being a shut-in for five years..

    And then..kinda like the big bang..the Kundalini rising..awakening..enlightenment experience last Summer like the one i had at 21..moves me almost instantly way back to an 11 on the AQ ‘test’….

    The key is..maybe natural DMT..not sure..who knows maybe that’s what Kundalini rising even is..a natural epigenetic sudden change with natural access..precipitated by extreme biological/environmental/emotional stress..but most people think i’m own Molly even now..as i’m always floating on a cloud..even in actual physical movement..and connecting to everyone i see..effortlessly with no dark preconceived notions anymore about the other ‘one’….

    And now instead of being chilled in 100 degree temperature at the height of human exhaustion..i can enjoy nature naked in 18 degree temperatures..yes documented as such too..crudely less…

    Salient causal factor is see there..is i move baby move..in all directions..in the TAI CHI way innovated by me..over 2000 miles this year..even in stores..

    Big difference i’m not a marshmallow robot anymore..i’m robust now..neuroplasticity obviously applies both to the illusion of the separation of the so called mind and body..and what i mean by this..is..as my body becomes more robust so does my mind..as my body becomes more balanced and calm so does my mind..etc..yes Eastern philosophy understands this much better than the sitters of the western way..with pills and such to cure every ill…

    What i do know for sure is human instinct and intuition is highly underrated in our western culture..that becomes one more of mechanical cognition rather that flesh and blood social cognition everyday..

    Text is limited..

    The eyes can say so many things..that words will never relate alone..

    And then there is the rest of non-verbal language..clothed by culture too..yes literally clothed..where this greatest of all human communication device..around way before we develop complex abstract language..is out of vogue..haha..bull shit..one can’t fool mother nature..what i like to call GOD2…

    But yes..one can figure GOD out..if one looks within..aka..as human instinct and intuition..

    Basically the GOD we’re born with/as..

    Not the one we are fed….

    The true source of all enlightenment in my opinion..

    from within…

    Rituals..meditation and all of that by lesson plan..
    are the paths of others..

    but only we can determine
    the true path for us…
    one at a time..
    with ALLITIS as friend..
    not foe…

    The hard part is escaping
    what we are fed…

    For me the shut-in pain for five years..
    is a blessing..beyond all ‘cultural beliefs’..
    but thank GOD it’s gone..

    hope the same for your reported ills as well..friend..:)

    Like

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