Humans are in a symbiotic relationship with another species. Without this relationship, modern people would not exist.
The only thing that really separates us from other species is our shapeshifting survival strategy. Most animals have a survival strategy that sets like concrete into a virtual job description. The job description includes what food you eat, how you acquire it, how you shelter, mate, and raise young: A strategy.
Survival strategies are like an idea that grows into an organism. The organism fully commits to the idea by adapting; physically becoming the technology (the claws, teeth, running muscles, etc.) needed for the job. These adaptations improve success within the strategy but it’s like evolving into a corner. It’s like gambling the house on your betting system.
Humanity substitutes tools for adaptations, we don’t morph into a specialized form and narrow down. Tool use isn’t exactly what separates us though. There are numerous “generalist” species such as birds and other primates that cleverly use tools. The difference is that these species are elegantly solving problems posed by tasks in their job description and surviving better as a result, but never innovating to the extent of “leveling up” to a different job.
We have a sort of default simple job of walking around in a group picking up food. We have a second sense for noticing useful stuff and trying it. It’s as simple as understanding that that stick will help us knock down more fruit. When faced with more complicated problems like catching fish, we try all sorts of half-assed ideas before getting a flash of insight like damming up the far end of the pool in the stream to trap the fish for easier capture.
So far this isn’t different from clever crows and monkeys, we are all just using found objects to achieve simple goals like displacing water with rocks or catching termites on a blade of grass. Our step-up in complexity is dreaming up and building new tools that require much preparation and various parts. A complex tool is a substitute for a physical adaptation without the dead-end commitment of your body becoming the technology. If there is a human trait comparable to extreme physical adaptations in other animals it might well be innovation itself. There’s no doubt that creative problem solving is a pro-survival trait.
We’re getting hot but this still isn’t it. Our strategy is a meta-strategy. What sets us apart is simply dumping one survival strategy in favor of another and another and another. Humans invented HAVING a job rather than being a job. Many animals use tools, we alone have technology itself, a strategy of tools. Our adaptations were situational and optional: Warm clothing rather than thick fur, and spears rather than bigger claws and teeth.
Each of these is speciation change. If these were physical adaptations resulting in a comparable change of food gathering, etc there is no question we would no longer group this type exactly with the earlier one it came from.
Technology that changes our strategy, that changes our relationship to the world around us subtly changes our species. Technology that radically changes our strategy deeply alters us internally. It changes our nesting, mating, family and organizational structure: Our strategy towards each other. It changes our cultures, rewriting behavior in ways that would never happen otherwise. Ready or not, this is a transformation to a new species.
This is the 2 step cycle in an upward spiral of increasing complexity
- Human beings create new technology.
- That technology creates new kinds of human beings.
An early human was a stone ax’s way of making a bow and arrow.
We make the tool, then the tool remakes us.
A modern human was the computer’s way of building an A.I. but what sort of human will the A.I. make?
Technology behaves like animal survival strategies, it begins as an idea to exploit an opportunity. Then it becomes a physical (manufactured) expression of that idea that may continue to adapt and evolve (by user feedback and redesign) generation after generation. We play the part of both the animal with the adaptation (using the tool), the environmental pressures that test it and the resulting modifications. Technology is the created child species of Homo Sapiens.
Technology is a virtual species. We live in symbiosis with this species and we mutually evolve. We take turns building the next rung for the others’ ladder. We are each other’s access to evolutionary change.
Our evolutionary strategy absolutely depends on this relationship. In fact, it is this relationship. That is why we never seem to have a choice about whether to adopt a technology even though we think we do. Our agendas, philosophies and common sense have far less power here than our survival strategy. We pop the new pills the moment they show up. Agriculture, the industrial revolution and the Internet are three tech blooms that morphed us radically. All were painful and stressful. For agriculture, we surrendered our freedom, for the industrial revolution we surrendered our fathers, our environment and pastoral, seasonal time in favor of factory whistles. What we are surrendering to the internet is still being tallied.
New tech reinvents us, changing our environment, economy, and expectations. It dissolves cultural foundations, creates new ones and we just salute and quietly wait to find out what new sort of drug, poison, or candy we have taken this time.