Do you know what you never see in bars anymore? A loud, long and hysterical conversation about a movie title or what actor played a certain character. No one is sitting together humming the words of a song out loud till they remember what lyric comes next, or the name of the artist who sang it.
That is because as soon as we encounter the moment of “I can’t remember,” someone inevitably pulls out their phone, producing the answer inside of the first minute. The topic changes, and thought is immediately eradicated.
If you have ever seen, “The Terminator,” “Robocop,” and most any of the “Star Trek” series, you know that when a part man/part machine needs to know or remember something, he calls up a screen, and cross references data. In “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” when the android, Data was at a loss for meaning, someone would offer him a word or phrase of reference, at which point he quietly cocked his head to the side, and then immediately understood. Conversation foregone
Of course, minor improvements facilitated through technology is an addiction we have had looming around for a very long time. Simple medicines are taken to keep us from having to experience our more extreme emotions; staples are put in our stomachs to remove our monitoring systems of self-indulgence; now lasers are shined in our eyes to counter poor vision; magic bracelets are worn to improve balance and reduce pain; and who doesn’t drink coffee to get going in the morning? They’re all just minor improvements to make us better than we naturally are.
But what happens if after a lifetime of dependence, the medicine runs out, the staple pops off, the magic bracelet snaps, or the signal bars go away? How easy is it to get back an instinct that has lain dormant for so long?
In the PIXAR movie “Wall-e,” a futuristic vision of mankind is portrayed when muscles have completely atrophied due to generations of relying on Hoverounds instead of legs. It is a humorous portrayal, but the science is sound.
Charles Darwin observed on the Galapagos Islands that the native cormorant’s wings had ceased to function for flight, suggesting an evolution due to lack of use. If evolution can occur in such a physical fashion, could we also evolve our brain to such a state where it requires medicinal inhibitors, implants, updates and apps from day one?
Such a culture could be devoid of emotion and conversation since a single word or two would suffice for full discussions.
Frank says, “Movie – Airplane; reference – surely.”
Joe says, “Processing… Reference found. Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah.”
Later that same night:
Wife says, “How is Frank?”
Frank says, “Data synch-up available.”
Wife says, “Processing… Surely. Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah. He’s so funny.
It is really too silly to consider, just like the overweight cartoon people in “Wall-e” buzzing around on wheels from birth. But when you look at your child from across the room tonight, wearing his polarized glasses, in his Heelys, dosed on Ritalin, while Googling and spell checking instead of thinking, will you, just for a second, wonder how many small improvements is enough? And how many we are away from developing atrophy?