Humans, version 3.0

July 16, 2011

Mark Changizi argues that while we'll ‘soon' see radical changes to humanity, those changes will have more to do with "neuronal recycling"--i.e., the harnessing of the brain's innate capabilities for altogether novel functions--than with our preconceptions about how we'll interface with future technologies.

I generally disagree, if only because the current state of technology (and its mostly accelerating nature) is so far advanced that I think any "harnessing" that hasn't already completed (or at least hasn't been set in motion for millennia) likely won't be able to compete with whatever we--and ultimately the machines we create--come up with.

In any event, it's a good read.

In [the view that our brains and bodies are sub-optimal kluges], natural selection is so riddled by accidents and saddled with developmental constraints that the resultant biological hardware and software should be described as a "just good enough" solution rather than as a "fine-tuned machine." […]

So it is no wonder that, when many envisage the future, they posit that human invention--whether via genetic engineering or cybernetic AI-related enhancement--will be able to out-do what evolution gave us, and so bootstrap our species to a new level. This rampant overoptimism about the power of human invention is also found among many of those expecting salvation through a technological singularity. […]

In this transition from Human 1.0 to 2.0, we didn't directly do the harnessing. Rather, it was an emergent, evolutionary property of our behavior, our nascent culture, that bent and shaped writing to be right for our visual system, speech just so for our auditory system, and music a match for our auditory and evocative mechanisms. […]

Culture's trick… was to harness by mimicking nature. This "nature-harnessing" was the route by which these three kernels of Human 2.0 made their way into Human 1.0 brains never designed for them.

The road to Human 3.0 and beyond will, I believe, be largely due to ever more instances of this kind of harnessing. […]

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