Here is what happens.
Human invent technology.
Then technology re-invents humans.
According to NewScientist, most humans were pretty lousy at using hand tools when they were first invented 1.7 million years ago.
The reason: primitive wrists that were “good for hanging from branches, but too weak to grasp and handle small objects with much force.”
But by 800,000 years ago, humans had great hands for tools using.
What happened between those years?
A newly discovered set of bones – from between those eras, 1.4 million years ago – gives us a clue.
The 1.4 million year old bones reveal human hands that were better for using tools than human hands from 1.7 million years ago, but not as good as hands from 800,000.
The 1.4 million year-old-hand had “a small lump at its base – the styloid,” that allowed helped stabilise wrists, allowing the hand to grip smaller objects.
The middle period hands reveal that, over time, human hands progressed along an continuum of evolution.
Human bodies evolved to better use human-invented technology.
The New Scientists puts the theory this way: “As stone tools became more widespread, those who had the wrist structure to use them would have had an evolutionary advantage over their weaker-wristed kin.”
What does this mean for today’s humans?
It means new technologies like the Internet, Google search, and miniature, portable, powerful computers such as the iPhone are inevitably going to change us as species – re-wiring our brains and moulding our bodies.
You can already see this happening.
First of all, a person and a people’s technical literacy and economic prosperity are obviously linked in a cycle where one improves and reinforces the other.
Secondly, there is the impact that Google is having on our brains.
In 2011, Science published a study called: “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips.”
The study showed that humans who used Google a lot were becoming worse at remembering certain things. To many, the study seemed to suggest that Google was making us stupid.
But what the study actually showed was that humans have simply learned to remember differently – in a way that allows us to actually remember, and use, much more information.
Ars Technica nicely summarized its conclusion: “People are recalling information less, and instead can remember where to find the information they have forgotten.”
Our brains are, relatively quickly, moprhing to adapt to a world in which we can store and find information in a centralized brain.
It’s pretty amazing. It took our hands 900,000 years to grow fully accustomed to physical tools.
Google was invented less than 20 years ago, and it’s already re-wiring our bodies.
Imagine how human brains and bodies will work in another 20 years, when computers will have been next to, on, or in bodies for generations – providing constant connection to each other and all the information in the world.
Now imagine how untold advances on those technologies will form our bodies and the brains inside them after 100 or 100,000 years of use.
The human body, as you know it, is over.
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