Even now they want the new digital natives being born today to wander in a ubiquitous world of data, a ubiquitous matrix of interconnected and surround systems of data forming and cocooning them on all sides: – enveloped in communications systems that will secure, protect, and serve their every need while at the same time entangling them in the techno-commercial empires of profitability from which they will never again escape. This is the true dark side of our future cryptosociety, a realm where humans serve the machines as companion species, organizing the world to meet the strategies and goals of an emerging technological singularity of inhuman intelligence all under the guise of democracy. A benign tyranny of smart contracts and infotainment based on pleasure and jouissance from which the very thought of escape or exit is to become disloyal to the machine you serve so willingly. The only escape from such a world will be disconnection, and that means only one thing: suicide or madness, else mass murder on a scale we’ve only begun to notice at the heart of our theatres, schools, and corporate enclaves.
This is actually a commentary on both Hesiod and Protagoras’s appropriation of the Epimetheus and Prometheus myth in which through forgetfulness and an addition (technics) humans were the creatures who were an afterthought, a forgotten species. One that had to be compensated for its nakedness and its lack of power within itself, so that it was given the gift of art (technics and artifice) to which it has been a slave ever since. Humans (mortals in the Greek conceptions) were the exception not by design but rather through the dark instigation of a tale told by an idiot (Epimetheus) and a thief (Prometheus) so that the human is the fruit of a dark and terrible truth. Mythology is but the mirror of Reason in its stage of fear and trepidation, the causal links attributed to the gods (Concepts) to speak of that which had no meaning in itself. Humans in their terrible plight invented themselves out of this lack, externalized their apprehensions, their foibles, their darkness in the light of warring gods. In the secular age we would reduce the gods to concepts depleted of their personalities, paraded as linguistic attributes and properties of the mind’s own dark house of Reason and Affect. What has this given us? Only this: instead of the gods warring with each other on Mount Olympus, we’ve seen these very dark progenitors descend into the streets, nations, worlds of us mortals and take up residence as Eris: the love of war and competition. We call this new estate, global capitalism.
In this interview, Gary Hall argues that if we are to move to a post-capitalist society, we need to experiment with new ways of being and doing that are based less on ideas of self-centred individualism, competition and celebrity, and more on openness, collaboration and the gift.
Among the alumni of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth are (left to right) Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, musical star Stefani Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) and prizewinning mathematician Terence Tao. They were admitted after scoring in the top 1 percent on college admission tests at a precocious age. Credit: David Ramos Getty Images (Zuckerberg); Kim Kulish Getty Images (Brin); Adriana M. Barraza age Fotostock (Lady Gaga); Steve Jennings Getty Images (Tao)
“Whether we like it or not, these people really do control our society,” says Jonathan Wai, a psychologist at the Duke Talent Identification Program, which collaborates with the Hopkins center. Wai combined data from 11 prospective and retrospective longitudinal studies, including SMPY, to demonstrate the correlation between early cognitive ability and adult achievement. “The kids who test in the top 1 percent tend to become our eminent scientists and academics, our Fortune 500 CEOs, and federal judges, senators and billionaires,” he says.
There’s a reason that the most tech-cautious parents are tech designers and engineers. Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.
But it’s even worse than we think.
We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex.
Humans are probably not the greatest intelligences in the universe. Earth is a relatively young planet and the oldest civilizations could be billions of years older than us. But even on Earth, Homo sapiens may not be the most intelligent species for that much longer.