Dave Pollard picks up on Elmine’s thinking on weblogs as communication hubs, extended by me into the Personal Presence Portal, and writes a worthwile piece. The basic distinction he makes is seperating between aspects of blogs that make it a communication medium, and those that make it a communication tool. Interesting stuff I’ll have to get back on.
One passage triggered a few threads and markers in my memory:
There have been some interesting articles lately by people who say that making and keeping huge numbers of dynamic lists and notes, instead of trying to keep all that in our memories, we can actually enrich our brain’s power, our intellectual effectiveness and even our intelligence by ‘freeing up memory and brain CPU’.
Actually this is a basic point in the ideas of evolutionary philosophers like Daniel Dennett. Man has been offloading cues, clues and facts into the environment since ages. I’m not sure if I’m right but I think Dennett somewhere argues that our progression in terms of tool-use and technology both has been possible due to increasing the ability to offload stuff into the environment, as well as has been fueling that ability. From markings on a tree, attaching symbolic meaning to natural objects, to paintings in caves, to writing on tablets of clay, books, maps of the world, to using databases and weblogs.

Interestingly enough I recently read a sf-novel (Oryx and Crake) that takes this as a startingpoint. What it takes to bring down the world as we know it is to break the chain of transferring our collective knowledge from one generation to the next. After that a new generation will not be able to start the same path of development as we took after leaving the trees because the basic raw materials needed to get from one technological step to the next have been depleted by us already (like copper, iron, coal, oil). At least in the book. Though I don’t think we’re far off.
In the book this disruption from one generation to the next is achieved by denying the knowledge of how to access our offloaded memorycues to the new generation, and killing of the earlier generation who does know how to do that. This means no more ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ as Isaac Newton did, but having to try and figure everything out on your own, but no raw materials to do it with (at least not the same raw materials).

One reaction on “Increasing Brain Capacity by Offloading to the Environment

  1. I think that brain capacity enhancement is possible only with creativity to do different things and to do things differently…

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