On a camping trip rafting down a river out West, top brain scientists were to discuss how the using technology affects the brain, its chemistry and functions. the brain receives 15 % of the body’s cardiac output, uses 20 % of the body’s oxygen intake, and consumes 25% its glucose. But what the discussion missed was obvious and under their brows.
What is missing here is the raw and rather naked need for humans to be social and the cultural influences that impact and shape what social means. The cognitive connections to the outdoors–the clear field of stars, the changing sounds of the wind, the casting of the light’s silent moves–are all a part of the social scape appreciated by non-technological cultures who came up with the locations of the constellations in a changing sky or the ancient wisdom of the I Ching to connect the qualities of human actions and attitudes to the expressions and experiences seen within the interactions ofnature. In Africa, the Dogon organized rituals and focused on the energy of a star not found by science until 1937!
Taking the long view of social behavior, seeing its imprint in the traditional dances of non-technical communities, in the proverbs and stories that were their entertainment, in their economic cycles tied to land and the changing seasons that influenced food production, obviously shifted the way the inner brain worked when compared to the immediacy of texting and e-mails.
I was struck by the demand to know about the grant award–by analogy, no different than the hunter diligently tracking a wounded prey to see if it falls or gets away. Yet there is a definite biological and brain impact in the differences within the similarities. As nursing children once provided birth control that natural spaced the ages of children based on weening, so technology has removed many of these close, inter-influencing relationships by which we markedly engaged the world in total around us, using a harmony natural to the world within and without.
Now the engagement is there, but fed more intensely, more discretely and more directly–with less interpretation and processing, or pondering, or awareness of nusances. The real work for these esteemed researchers is in how we set our own limits, manage our own fields, socialize ourselves, and imprint our own brains, masking that singular experience in combination with others of the tribe, creating a new biology from the culture of technology. Did anyone carry an IPod?