Technology and cultural evolution


I came to ponder an issue today while I was driving past a local Walmart, coming from my Sleep study consultation.  The issue I was considering: civilization previously advanced technology to meet it’s evolutionary needs, but has technology outpaced humanity’s evolution and now, does technology force our culture to evolve as a reaction to what it can do for us instead of what is necessary for humanity to survive? (by survive I mean satisfy basic needs of hunger, hydration, procreation; not fashion, iPhones or xboxes)

Humanity and it’s ancestors were nomadic, because agriculture and herding really wasn’t practical in our early existence and we hadn’t established ourselves at the top of the food chain yet.  Eventually our intelligence evolved and we harnessed fire and the ability to make tools, and after that learned how to graze herds and plant fields.  So began the massing of people in small areas, as opposed to small groups of people in massive areas.

Most of the people I know today. upon being lost in the woods, probably wouldn’t last longer than 36 hours either from exposure, predatory danger, or dehydration.  No sense of direction, no sense of “alertness”, essentially tunnel awareness; that is, if it isn’t directly in front of them and prominently displayed, it won’t be seen or heard (think: an animal hiding).  Marines were coming out of the School of Infantry as late as 2008 who could not use a compass and did not know how to land navigate with a map and compass.  They’ve been so tied to an electronic device giving them direction that they lost the ability to think for themselves and have a sense of spatial awareness.

Where I’m going with this line of thinking was kind of described in the game trilogy Mass Effect, in which an intelligent construct (like an AI) was created to figure out how to save organic life; in the story, organic life would advance technology so far that it’s creations would rebel and kill them.  The solution that the construct came up with was to create an army of synthetics to “harvest (read: kill)” species capable of space-flight every 50,000 years.  The idea was to prevent any race from evolving so far that it gets killed by it’s own technology, thereby preventing a xenophobic race of synthetic life from destroying all organic life in the galaxy.

Deep stuff, no?

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