Humanity is the planet’s dominant species by virtue of tool use. Even primitive technologies allowed our ancestors to adapt the environment to their needs rather than adapting to the environment. We’ve progressed since then – each major technological advance accelerates our progress to the next. Today, we’ll take a moment to consider if the pace of technological advancement is outstripping our own capacity to adapt.
The advent of mobile computing brought a persistent digital presence to its user base, developing rapidly to include a nearly seamless connection and personalized assistant. We can sketch, type, or dictate notes and make them available across a multitude of devices. Even with this utility, we tend to remember best what we write down, on pen and paper. While we may later transcribe these paper notes to a digital format, writing forces us to summarize the information and helps build deeper conceptual understanding.
We feel an obligation to our connection to the digital world. As soon as the first phone comes out at a gathering, a plethora of others follow. We compose emails from the couch after dinner, take calls while driving, and share the highlights of our life while editing out the gag reel underpinning it. Yet, this connection itself does not add stress to our lives. Instead, it’s the additional personal connections it brings – the awareness of our species and the attendant human concerns – that brings most of the distress of the digital age.
And that’s the crux of the matter – We’re developing new tools faster than we can understand or effectively use them. Regardless, we carry on unfazed by the changes wrought in our lives, concerned, mostly, with the good will and well-being of our friends and family. We were never meant to travel at 60+ miles per hour, but we do it successfully, en masse, on a daily basis. We were never meant to have access to a repository of human experience that fits into our pockets. We’ll learn what to do with it. Whether our environment is the savannah or a wireless signal, we’ll adapt it to our needs.