The Nature of Intelligence
Item: Put people in rooms where carbon dioxide is more than 600 ppm and watch analytic reasoning and thinking decline. Higher levels – dumber answers.
If present trends continue, global levels may hit 1000 ppm at the end of the century. Everywhere.
Item: Cognitive decline is accelerated when people don’t physically move. An hour’s worth of some type of activity each day can markedly prolong life and prevent cognitive decline, especially Alzheimer’s.
According to the most recent research, 3.5% of Americans aged 18-59 do 150 minutes or more of moderate physical activity a week. For those over 59, the percentage is 2.5%.
Item: A high calorie, high fat diet can immediately spasm and then help clog brain arteries, leading to greater obesity, diabetes, and further health and cognitive declines.
With all the health advice dispensed and diet books flogged, Americans are eating 20% more calories each day than 30 years ago.
Stupidity and the Net
Some years ago Nicholas Carr, former editor of the Harvard Business Review, wrote an article titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The response helped prompt him to write the book “The Shallows”. That work argued many points including: people were “outsourcing” their long term memories to the Net; were so often interrupted by emails and tweets than serious thinking became jeopardized; that much of human creativity combines long term memory with exposure to new ideas – to which the Net’s popularity based search engines were a threat.
The result: a less inquisitive, innovative, analytically creative opulation.
I’ve argued that the Net will affects bodies, not just brains. Sitting is a risk factor for death, and using the Net may encourage stasis.
But human lifestyles are changing bodies, brains, and planet. The Net is merely one factor that may help make us slow and dumb. And we’ll need to be quick and sharp to preserve much of what we profess to care about:
our bodies and personal survival; and that of our cities and civilizations, environment and natural world.
Humans tend to act only when our backs are against the wall.
Feeling that wall, we need a new paradigm – now.
Nature is Not a Machine
Live with machines and you begin to think machines run the world.
For many of us the world – Earth and its environment – is a wonderful, complicated machine.
We have the same view of our own bodies.
If we can learn from present day physics we’d recognize that our bodies, environments, communities, and biological planet act as information matrices.
Information flows. Our world re-forms and survives through linked changes. And nothing in that living world stays the same – nothing. Not from any second to the next.
Our bodies and brains are supremely complicated information environments whose workings we hardly know. But we do know that everything in them is continuously updated. Everything is remade.
Most of you is new within 3-4 weeks. Most of your heart is replaced within three days.
The information which runs us has already updated before you’ve finished this sentence.
And we’re just talking about you. There are seven billion of us. Inside each of us are at least 100 trillion bacteria of hundreds of species; legions of viruses; fungi; ricketsettia; mycoplasma.
We survive as individuals – complicated ecosystems in a vastly more complex ecosystem we are successfully destroying. Six major extinctions of planetary life have occurred over the last 3.8 billion years.
We’re causing one of them.
Extincting the world around you is not a good move. Losing species all over the place makes it more likely you’ll extinct your own.
We don’t understand ecosystems very well – heck, how well do we understand economics? But we do know we’re doing things that are very bad. When you get dumb, survival is compromised.
As Bloomberg BusinessWeek put on their cover following Hurricane Sandy, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”
But it’s more than political and economic ideology that which will make us stupid. Our present machine models of biology – life as a series of machines – is aiding our environment’s accelerating failures.
So it’s time to get smart. We need to see our world as
A series of interlinked systems where all changes produce other changes
A place where we hold the cards – and can determine what happens next.
So one antidote to the present path is a different paradigm – regeneration. Seeing the body not as machine, but as a constantly retooled, renewed, updated and remade system.
Seeing the environment not as a machine, but a constantly modified, renewed, regenerated system.
The potentials of such a change in thinking is great. We can fix things we don’t think we can fix. Help save innumerable ecosystems. Teach ourselves to act more sensibly, responsibly and sustainably.
It’s a lot better than waiting – with our backs at the wall – for the tsunami to crash.
As Maxell the hapless secret agent put it – it’s time to get smart.
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