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Coconut Trees

Bob Houghtaling on the next iteration of man: Technomanicus

Credit: The Kinks
Credit: The Kinks

We have all heard the adage “use it or lose it.” These words are often evoked when encouraging exercise and or working one’s brain. If Darwin was correct, beings adapt and evolve. Climate, disease, mutations, food supply, etc., all play roles in the evolution process. As man proceeds into the future what will he/she become? As we rely more and more on technological gadgets will there be “adaptations” that occur? With all respect to the Leakey family, I offer this theory on mankind’s evolution. My book, yet to be written, will be titled Man’s Ascent Or Descent Into The Future or Boy, We Sure Look Like M&Ms .

Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Neanderthal Man, Cro-Magnon – these all represent mankind’s line of development. But, what of the future? What will we evolve into? While nobody can be sure, I would like to take a stab at the topic. So, let us use our imaginations and pretend it is the year 2818 (804 years from now). What will human beings be like then?

Technomanicus will soon become the next strain of our species. Having some things in common with his ancestors, Technomanicus will also be unique in many ways. Due to the fact that he/she will be spending a great deal of time sitting and staring, future man (Technomanicus) will have little need for legs and to a large extent arms (except for them being attached to button-pushing thumbs). Eight hundred years might not be enough time to selectively eliminate arms and legs, but significant atrophy will be clearly evident.

Another feature of Technomanicus will be large and rotund bodies. Again, this can be attributed to a lack of physical activity. Because of this, humans will most likely take on an M&M shape (both female and male, except for plain and with nuts).

Culturally, Technomanicus will live his/her daily lives in a far different fashion. Due to great advances in technology, mankind’s diet will no longer include consuming animal flesh, fruits and vegetables – today’s common fare. Technomanicus will sustain himself on a diet of vitamin-type pills along with fruit flavored anti-anxiety meds. The medications will be necessary to offset the cubicle-type isolation, along with the fear of interacting face to face with other human beings. In short, no clogged arteries, poor social skills and medicated into acquiescence. The average life span could reach 250 years of age.

Technomanicus will most likely have fingers that have mutated into thumbs and one forefinger due to centuries of texting, etc. While “being all thumbs” might hamper sports that require fingers, future athletes will take on new forms. Cyber sports might take the form of computer fishing, virtual wrestling and Water Polo 3D. Fans need no more than just sign in to their favorite sport (anytime, any day).

Man of the future will have new spiritual beliefs as well. In addition to what we have now, George and Elroy Jetson will be seen as saints for ushering in a new religious revival. St. Elroy’s Day will be where everyone gets a new computerized gift. Steve Jobs will also be viewed as a prophet, for buying and selling technology will drive future economies.

It should be noted that those we consider poor today will not exist in the future. Due to the elimination of the middle class, along with the marginalization of the socio-economically disadvantaged, these folks will not be able to purchase tomorrow’s technology. When this eventually takes place, those with advanced technology will survive. Those without, they will be forced to work, eat vegetables, procreate sexually, problem solve, play outside and talk to each other face to face. They will have to make do with limited resources.

The Kinks wrote a song titled Apeman way back in the 1970s. It is basically a spoof on modern man and his anxieties. Those without technological advantages will opt for a balanced approach to the techno world out of necessity. Many disenfranchised might find themselves “swinging up and down in the coconut trees.” Chances are they will be forced to live on the fringes. It is not a pretty picture for those folks. No more M&Ms for them. Even Alvin Toffler would never have expected this.

With all of this said, we are asked to live in the present time. I decided to write this piece after going to a Prince concert and watching the old science fiction movie Forbidden Planet over the holidays. Prince’s song about 1999 got me to thinking about the fuss created over the new millennium. Forbidden Planet depicted an advanced race (the Krell) whose emotions could not keep up with technological advances. Prince and the Krell, blame it on them.

I have been accused of being a technophobe. The term dinosaur is often evoked. As most folks know, the dinosaur reign lasted millions of years, while we humans have been around a fraction of that time. In truth, I am not really afraid of technology. I am more afraid of how it is used. Nuclear power can offer the world energy. Nuclear power can also be used for destructive purposes. Just because we might be smart enough to create new technology does not mean that we have the wisdom to use it correctly. There are huge differences between information, knowledge and wisdom. Will we be able to create a balance that respects the need for change with empathy, love and fairness?

The recent debate about technology in the East Greenwich Public Schools is an interesting one. Some assert that additional technology is necessary to keep up with Barrington. In doing so, I wonder by what measures is Barrington so successful? Tests? The number of AP Courses? I am sure Barrington is an excellent school system for more than those two measures. If the argument is about the accrual of numbers and the addition of a few higher-level courses, that can be remedied by money and pumping kids up with test prep measures (along with keeping up our high socio-economic status). If it is about developing creative thinking, pertinent instruction, transferable skills – well, we are looking at something else. I am hoping that this discussion is not about keeping up with the Joneses. I believe that those behind this push truly feel that additional technology will help kids learn. I also believe that they want to address the culture of the school. Hopefully, money will flow this way as well.

Man will always seek to innovate. Technological advances can lead us to new worlds. Providing teachers with tools and kids with the latest learning equipment could make future classrooms more effective as well as exciting. Along the way we should also recognize the importance of how we relate with each other. How we use what we learn and create is often determined by this. Who will teach us how to use our tools well? This is a question our leaders should be asking.

To some extent we are all dinosaurs in process. Things change. Creatures evolve. People, well, they no longer live in caves. The tools we create today suit the service of the moment. New tools will be needed tomorrow. But, the intuition that creates those tools will last as long as man does. Unless of course we begin to serve technology as opposed to its performing for us.

Fast-forward to the year 2,818 and Barrington along with East Greenwich will be things for the history tablets. Will mankind even exist? What will future scholars think of their ancient ancestors? Will we be referred to as dinosaurs, cave dwellers, or ancient/early man? Hopefully intuition, critical thinking, problem solving and relationships will matter in the future as they do now. You can learn a lot from your past. That would be a wonderful legacy for future generations to consider. Has anyone seen my remote? I do not feel like getting up to look. Even ancient man knew that for every action there was an equal and opposite reaction. Enjoy the winter. God save the Kinks.

 

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