There are too many stimuli and no way to unhook from the Delivery System. Every thirty seconds or so, TweetDeck chirps and notifies me that some Twitter entity or another has posted something to the web. Facebook is running and constantly updating itself with video, status updates, and one friend who is rebuking me for becoming part of the background noise. He doesn't know that I've downloaded the Twitter plug-in that updates my Facebook status whenever I write a tweet, nor does he know that Brief, my Firefox RSS reader, keeps flashing feed updates at me for no good reason. If I am constantly disseminating information, it is, perhaps, only as a form of purgation lest I suffer neuronal overload and slip into a vegetative state.
I can't help it. Neither can most of us who've fallen victim. That we will suffer enlarged prostates and blood clots in the leg brought on by our increasingly sedentary lives is of no concern. The needle must stay in the vein at all times.
If you asked me to trace this hideous addiction, to run all the algorithms and interpolations, I probably wouldn't be able to find the seed. I remember the old DOS games like Castle and Mosaic that I used to play as a kid, and I have a faint recollection of being comfortable with nothing more than a command line in front of me, but that was a long time ago, and all the years of wandering around in the GUI has effectively dulled those familiarities entirely. Even if I did have a better memory of the spark that lit this obsession, I can't be sure anything worthwhile would come of the knowledge. The age of Web 2.0 has so proven so immersive that it has inevitably catapulted us into the age of Human 2.0. Take a lesson from Lot's wife, and don't look back.
Our transition into the next world is going to be rough. The transcendence of the next wave of technologies will be hindered by shifting climate systems, political opposition, and religious fervor, and while that might only sound sane to someone who believes it, there is little doubt it will prove true. Success is not guaranteed. In truth, the next one hundred years could — and depending upon whom you ask, probably will — end badly for us and with the heinous, collective whimper of wasted opportunities. While the Green Movement is busy plotting our next generation of energy technologies, Washington and the rest of the world are moving slowly to curb emissions and create initiatives to house our future infrastructure, opting instead to plaster their cars with the right bumper stickers and their websites with the right banner ads. But the religious zealots and climate change naysayers will win because time is on their side. We have a couple of decades (optimistically) to stop this runaway train, and nothing short of total commitment will do the trick.
And now that I've been using Twitter regularly for a few months, and Facebook for years, I know what I've gained by the expediency of information. In some cases, it has been very valuable. I grab web design tutorials and typography blogs from users who post them to Twitter, and I've got enough stored up to last me a month. I have absorbed a tremendous amount of knowledge in a very short span of time thanks to the informational paradigms under which we operate. I get my fun fast and the news even faster, and there is always something to read, so much, in fact, that it is difficult to concentrate on any one thing for an extended period of time. Certainly, our attention spans have suffered en masse and to a great degree. Information will be our downfall just as it became our apex.
Evolution has a pretty good track record for creating efficient, sustainable organisms, but hidden in that long history, of course, are all the failures and extinctions, fossilized remains of beasts that couldn't keep pace with the paradigm shifts of our planet. When humans finally evolved, when that ultra-logical tweak entered the primate brain, the game changed entirely. All of a sudden, brute strength didn't hold the same currency in some circles and the increased efficiency of abstract thought put homo sapiens at the top of the heap, maybe for good.
That's not to say that animals don't possess similar abilities in some instances. I've long thought that we as humans have been unduly deferential to the intelligence of our fellow denizens, and yes, I'll even go as far as to at least partially agree with the theory Howard Bloom espouses in Global Brain: The Evolution of the Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century that organisms exhibit a certain level of altruism. I think this is especially true in more advanced mammals, but as Bloom argues, one can perhaps find echoes of this inherent empathy in single-celled organisms as well. [We won't get into this now.] While we are the most advanced species on the planet and do possess certain brain powers unparalleled by other animals, the Biblical idea that provides us dominion over other creatures is both narrow-minded and selfish, not to mention fatally short-sighted.
But maybe we've gotten too smart for our own good. Maybe we've overloaded our own brains with our technology, and yes, maybe we will eventually prove to be one of nature's mistakes — an overzealous attempt at a super-organism that went badly awry, that outgrew the planet's ability to sustain it. Humans are nature's most astonishingly efficient virus. We are resistant as a whole to most of it's control measures save for massive impact and our own forward progress, and after all, as our own numbers increase, so does the imminence of our demise. The first sign of species collapse barring disease in any given ecosystem is usually overpopulation, and we might reach that point soon enough.
Until then, as the constant flow of information continues to clog our synapses, corporations and governments will continue to operate more or less nefariously, confident that their dealings will be sufficiently drowned out by the din. They'll be right, of course, and they'll remain in charge until there is a mass extinction or another bottleneck in the human race, until the cards are reshuffled, if you'll pardon the phrase, and we'll keep running to the computer every time it chirps marveling all the while with masturbatory ecstasy at how far our technology has come since the bone knife.
If we're lucky, maybe we'll even eventually learn to use our advancements constructively and separate the notions of progress and excess from one another. Then we can remember Human 2.0 as an upgrade instead of a fatal error.