On his way to class, Greg accomplishes many things. Buried in his smartphone, he dodges fellow students, almost trips up a set of stairs, and ducks a low tree lying tree branch (remember that next time). During his ten minute walk, Greg is listening to a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson discussing how contemporary schools kill student creativity. The irony of this is not lost on him as he rushes off to class in the largest lecture hall on campus. Subvert the system from the inside! He checks the news. It is curated news, the kind that the “computer” chooses for him based on his past behavior and articles he “liked.” Why waste time on biased messages when he can get the bias he wants anytime? He tweets his support for a Red Cross earthquake disaster relief program in New Zealand, donating $5 towards the efforts. His friend, who noticed the tweet in her feed, immediately replies to him asking him thanking him for the support. She is on a service trip and sends him a first-hand picture of the devastation. Solving the world’s problems one tweet at a time! 5 minutes left. Greg checks the BlackBoard site from his upcoming class and rattles off a few replies on the discussion boards, as required in order for him to receive a decent class participation grade. One last quick text message (how quaint) to his mother let’s her know that his team won the Broomball tournament last night. She already knew from the video he posted to his Facebook wall. They are connected even when they are not! Class. At last. Time to put the smartphone away and bring the paper and pencil out.
Greg’s smartphone isn’t physically a part of him, but it might as well be. What’s the difference between clutching your phone in your hand and a direct connection via USB into the brain? Can this brain truly be said to be Greg’s own? It’s constantly connected to other brains both physical and digital, processing information, making choices, and determining paths. Today’s college student is increasingly looking like something other than human. Part human, part computer, an inseparable blend of the organic and the synthetic.When one’s brain is fused with others in such an intimate way, could it be possible that the development of that original brain is somehow qualitatively different from the isolated human brain?
What does this mean for human development?
What does this mean for human evolution?