by William Green
by William Green: 7
staring down predators, not staring at computer screens. Our ancestors
ate bone marrow, not donuts. Grok the caveman followed game, not
twitter feeds. These kinds of "disconnects," between the primal
lifestyle our genes evolved to expect and the digital lifestyles
we live, stress us out. But here we are. And as I argued in Will
humans become obsolete?, the exponential growth in technology
means we will be forced to assimilate it or be out-competed by
it in the labor market, just like Grok was forced to throw out
his stone ax for iron. So how can we stay competitive
and yet happy and healthy at the same time? Either we match the
technology to our genes and/or we modify our genes to fit the technology.
We can't genetically engineer ourselves yet, so here's my three
step plan for staying on top of the food chain: 1) Identify technologies
that can enhance my performance, 2) Assimilate them in such a way
as to maintain or enhance my health and happiness, and 3) Repeat.
This is a
twist on Mark Sisson's approach in Primal
Blueprint, which is to identify the behaviors and environments
that turn on ancestral genes and generate biological responses for
health and happiness, and find ways to incorporate them into modern
life. We can't hunt woolly mammoths like Grok, but we can eat mostly
meats, fats, and vegetables, spend lots of time outdoors, and rise
with the sun every morning. This is what folks mean by "going primal,"
and I can testify to it's effectiveness: The Primal Blueprint has
made me fitter, trimmer, and happier for about a year now.
twist on the primal approach: I don't really want to go primal.
I want to "go Borg" to as large an extent I can and as fast as I
can while still retaining, or better yet, increasing the health
and happiness of myself and others. We can't stop technological
progress. Either we assimilate it, or it will assimilate
us. Not that I want to stop it--it enhances our health and well
being, but we need to assimilate it intentionally and carefully
to avoid negative side effects. So here are the details of my two
steps to assimilating technology while maintaining or enhancing
my quality of life:
new technologies that can do activities I need or want to do better
or for less cost than my body and/or mind alone. I'll use
the law of comparative advantage here: I may be able to cook
burgers better than a robot, but if the robot can do it for
me cheaply while I do something only I can do that's worth more
to me, then I give the task to the robot.
the new technologies in such a way that they do not adversely affect
my health and well-being, and look for new activities that can replace
the role these activities may have played in generating health and
happiness in my life and. In his latest book, The
Primal Connection, Mark Sisson shows how technology can
substitute for the behaviors and environments that produced optimum
health and happiness for our ancestors. One study found that simulated
windows (digital screens with outdoors scenes) had a positive psychological
effect on people. Likewise, I can testify that waking up to digital
birds singing on my Android (Gentle
Alarm) is much less stressful than being jolted by screaming
beeps. There is probably a potential technological solution to every
primal disconnect created by technology.
as often as possible to be the fastest, smartest, healthiest, happiest
human possible, realizing that the definition of "human" may change
somewhat along the way.
some examples, just ten to get us started. Please help me add more.
The first one's easy: Step 1) The days of memorizing facts are over.
My memory is easily expandable, through the internet, to all published
"facts" in the world. The time it takes for me to type in a Google
search is all the time it takes for me to "recall" a fact from my
internet "memory." Step 2) I will try to replace rote memory tasks
with the internet in order to free up mental resources for tasks
that Google cannot replace (yet). Just as calculators allow
me to spend less time calculating so I can solve more and harder
problems, switching from organic memory to Google will allow me
to spend less time memorizing and more time problem solving.
Is there some
potential negative side effects of this? Does rote memorization
have some beneficial in my brain that affects my health and well-being?
I don't know, but I doubt it. In fact, I think it probably reduces
stress not to have to worry about memorization. But I need to be
on the look out for such negatives and address them. For example,
while it seems like a no-brainer (pun intended) to replace rote
memorization with Google. I want to be careful I don't let it think
for me. And there is an obvious caution here: Don't get distracted
from your task. The internet is a tremendously distraction-rich
place. But hey, there are tech
tools for staying focused as well.
Step 1) Commuting stinks. It takes too much time and fuel, and increases
the time I spend sitting on my rear end staring at asphalt and the
backs of cars. It can be replaced by remote/online work. Meetings
and classes can be attended remotely using Google Hangouts or Skype.
As a teacher, I can collect assignments and deliver content through
Moodle and Youtube. Drawbacks? While remote work may decrease face
time with colleagues, it stands to increase face time with the people
most important to me. Conclusion: Try to work remotely/online as
much as possible.
Replace paper planner with Google Calendar. Reminders are
awesome, aren't they?
As an avid hiker, I like this one: Replace orienteering courses
with GPS (but carry a compass just in case).
This one's obvious, but I have room for improvement on this: Replace
paper filing with scanning, online forms, digitial memory and DVD
Replace some reading with listening to audiobooks or lectures while
commuting (yeah, I haven't implemented Example #2 yet). This has
been my secret for years.
Replace stores with online shopping. Be careful here. I'll lose
face time with people and need to be sure to use some the time saved
to increase time with other humans in my life. But I don't mind
trading time with stranger for time with loved ones. Another caution:
Make sure you don't waste MORE time online than you would have in
the store. Amazon is fantastic, but a potential black whole for
Online banking, automated bill pay, payroll, bookkeeping and billing.
This is a work in progress for me.
Texting, while not safe on the road, is quicker than the phone and
a great way to keep in touch with real people in your life. My students
keep in touch with parents like they never could before. In fact,
despite all the whining to the contrary, I think Facebook and Twitter
can draw us closer to real friends and family, especially distant
ones, as long as we don't get distracted by all the extraneous "friends"
(acquaintances) scrolling (and trolling) down our feeds.
In school, why even bother with long division anymore? Why memorize
derivatives and integrals? And let's not stop there. Wolframalpha.com
can do everything a calculator can do and much, much more, let's
take advantage of it. Are we worried we'll lose basic math skills?
So what, if we gain greater, more advanced skills? How many of us
can do long-hand square roots, for goodness' sake? And how many
kids knew what an integral was in high school 50 years ago?
Your idea here. (Please add your ideas as comments.)
I'm waiting for a Hyperion-style
direct brain interface, so I don't have to type in Google searches
and can run WolframAlpha in my head. That will be cool. And when
I can write a blog post with my thoughts, that will be really cool,
too. And of course, the Star
Trek Transporter will be awesome (not to and so will Bones'
So my plan
is to repeat the 3 steps as often as possible until I am as "borg"
as I can happily and healthily be. Grok is great, but if he stays
Grok, he won't last long. He'd better switch to Cybergrok if he
wants to be happy and healthy in tomorrow's technological world.
And to tell you the truth, the primal life is not really my "ideal"
life. If I could avoid it and still be healthy, I'd rather not kill
animals for food. If I could do so and still be healthy and happy,
I'd eat donuts. I love donuts. As yet, we don't have a technology
that will allow me to eat them healthily, but I will rapidly assimilate
it when it comes.
[send him mail] teaches chemistry
and biology at a government
school and operates a private
tutoring service. He writes as the Hartford
Libertarian Examiner and at williampgreen.com.
© 2013 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.