Coevolution Leads Us to Collaborative Intellect

// Posted by on 01/24/2012 (10:58 PM)

Overtime we have changed our relationship with technology. Cybernetics has changed technology’s role from a tool to an extension of our personality and life. We have become so dependent on the network of services that technology and various software programs provide us that the line between computer and human is beginning to become blurred in our everyday interactions. For example if you received an e-card with flashy designs and graphics you may become just as focused on the electronic packaging as on the message itself. This follows with previous statements that the medium is just as influential as the message.

It was not always been this way because it was our culture that turned these oversized calculators into personalized networking machines. What intrigued me most about this weeks reading from Turner’s book was the theory of the human and computer coevolution. It was first mentioned by Licklider in his 1960 paper “Man-Computer Symbiosis” as he predicted a future where “human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought” (109). Today I believe this is a reality as we have begun to blur the line between machine and human when it comes to our online communities and systems. Sometimes people define us more by our alter-egos online than our real-world personalities – the differences can become confusing.

Since 1960 there has been a “coevolution” as Brand termed our development with computers overtime. The military machines of the Cold War were manipulated by the freethinkers and hackers of the New Left to share information and collaborate socially. I believe this is one of the most successful. The medium has evolved with us overtime to fit our need to share information. An article in WIRED discusses a convention that took place in 2008 to celebrate “collective intelligence”. I found this article to be proof of how the cyberculture revolution has been successful in bringing people together and improving the ability for us to share knowledge. Some of the original contributors, such as Wozniak and Engelbart were present at the conference. The advances we have made are evidence of the coevolution that has taken place between computers and ourselves. We have manipulated technology to better communicate and disseminate knowledge to the masses. It has become a tool geared with connecting and sharing. We have taken control of the medium and made it an extension of ourselves. I think that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are the most relevant example of this. We embody this idea of collective intelligence because for the most part we are eager to share what we know and not hoard it. The internet is one of the few communities where it is cool to exchange ideas and not claim total ownership. Concepts such as TED provide us with outlets to promote new ideas to the entire online community -providing new insights and exchanging responses.

My favorite part of this article was the map/timeline that was included. It was made by Engelbart and begins with inventions, such as his mouse. The mouse is emblematic of the first symbiotic device that connected machines to humans. The map continues and follows the sequence of events that make up the coevolution of humans and computers over time (at least until ’08). At the conference members were allowed to fill in missing gaps and add to the timeline. It would be interesting to see what we could add timeline today if were extended to 2012. Has the pace or volume changed? I definitely feel that the amount of people contributing to the evolution has increased and make the evolution more dynamic than before.

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