On 26th July we asked on this MBF Blog: Is the Web Bad For Brains?, in which we wondered if Google, Facebook and all the other powerful internet based technology was destroying human memory or enhancing it?
On 18th July, we published the blog story below:
THE LIMITS OF TECHNOLOGY, KNOWLEDGE AND THE HUMAN BRAIN
As things get faster in life, it’s tempting to ask if there is any limit? Will the day come when the brain can take in no more?
A University of Southern California study in February 2011 showed that everybody is hit with enough info and data daily to fill 174 newspapers. They reported that Mr Average now creates 6 times more data on emails, texting, networking and digital photographing than two decades ago, and it’s growing.
They put a figure on it: 295 exabytes (295,000 with twenty one zeros following) of digital data have been created. Yet, as this is still below 1% of what is held in the DNA of a single human being, then human capacity for storage is far from exhausted, they believe.
What About the Machines?
If mankind’s brains (but not patience) can go on expanding to absorb, digest and act on these amounts of data, will technology keep up? Office equipment retailer Pixmania-Pro compiled a 2011 list of endangered gadgets from the office that will follow VHS, cassettes, typewriters and floppies.
They believe we are looking at the final hours of CDs, USB ports, data/memory sticks, landlines and desk phones, diaries, calculators and PCs themselves. Cloud computing is rapidly making obsolete so much of what has become part of the IT landscape, and that also can only escalate.
From time to time, a wave of nostalgia sweeps over some, like a rediscovery of the joys of vinyl records and a niche market is created. But whether anybody will make VHS or cassette players again, is another matter. Once most technology is gone, it’s gone forever, though some gets recycled, reinvented and restyled.
A US study in June 2011 claimed the wallet was doomed, as fewer had been sold. Similar predictions were made about cash. Could still happen, but cash is still king in most communities.
Where to Next?
If you could answer that, you’d be rich. Some pundits of modern life have suggested things. Mary Portas told the Telegraph in February 2011 we will see ‘mindful consumption in better shops’; Kevin McCloud guessed people would own fewer houses and less land, and will share communally, while Bunny Guinness visioned future technology-controlled hyper-productive gardens.
James Dyson wondered about our balance between cyber worlds and reality. He wanted investment in tangible science-based, mechanical technology. Wired magazine editor David Rowan reckoned smart devices will ‘augment humanity’. Sounds great.
In the meantime, while everybody else struggles to keep up with advances and updates, built-in obsolescence and the predictions of all and sundry, politicians rack their brains to dreams ways of regulating and taxing cyberspace.
On 31st July 2011, The Sunday Times carried a front page story: ‘That’s it – our brains are full up’.
Jonathan Leake, their Science Editor quoted research from Cambridge University that suggested ‘the human brain may have reached the limits of intelligence, with the laws of physics preventing us becoming any smarter’.
Scientists thought that human brain evolution has hit two barriers now. One, miniaturisation of brain cells and interlinking connections is near physical capacity. Two, the brain is about 2% of body weight but consumes 20% of body energy, and that is near the limit of what the body can produce for the brain function.
So, now we know. Remember (if you have enough memory capacity available) that you read it first, here on the MBF Blog!