|Chapter :||Scenario 1: The Internet and Evolution of Human Intelligence|
Participants in the survey were asked to “explain your choice and share your view of the Internet’s influence on the future of human intelligence in 2020—what is likely to stay the same and what will be different in the way human intellect evolves?”
Among the 2010 Future of the Internet survey respondents who took the opportunity to explain their answers to the tension pairs and “share your view of the Internet’s influence on the future of human intelligence” was Jamais Cascio, an affiliate at the Institute for the Future and a senior fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. He had challenged Carr’s views on the future in a 2009 essay in the Atlantic Monthly (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/07/get-smarter/7548/) and he cited this as his answer to this survey. In it, Cascio made the case that the array of problems facing humanity—the end of the fossil-fuel era, the fragility of the global food web, growing population density, and the spread of pandemics, among others—will force us to get smarter if we are to survive.
“Most people don’t realize that this process is already under way,” he wrote. “In fact, it’s happening all around us, across the full spectrum of how we understand intelligence. It’s visible in the hive mind of the Internet, in the powerful tools for simulation and visualization that are jump-starting new scientific disciplines, and in the development of drugs that some people (myself included) have discovered let them study harder, focus better, and stay awake longer with full clarity.” He argued that while the proliferation of technology and media can challenge humans’ capacity to concentrate there are signs that humans are developing “fluid intelligence—the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, independent of acquired knowledge.” He also expressed hope that techies will develop tools to help people find and assess information smartly.
What follows is a small selection of the hundreds of written elaborations to this survey scenario set. We begin with Nicholas Carr’s response and responses from Google insiders, then move to additional comments that are grouped to illuminate some common themes.