Shaurya Agrawal



Evolution Devolution

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Evolution Devolution

Gone are the days of patiently waiting

Shaurya Agrawal's photo
Shaurya Agrawal
·Oct 18, 2022·

5 min read

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The world has evolved considerably over the past million years but it was only recently that the pace of evolution accelerated. The zoomers may not recognize this because the pace has been so unimaginably fast that most of us fail to comprehend the changes taking place around us. If we decide to observe our planet in intervals of perhaps 100 years then the development seen during our past five observations would be staggering if compared to all our previous ones. Humans have indeed come a long way, starting from the cognitive revolution influenced by the agricultural revolution to the scientific revolution into the present. But the real question to ask in this case is: Is the present synonymous with a gift? Have we evolved during the past 50 years?

Any biologist would say that evolution of our species cannot determine whether we have evolved. The amusing point here is that it is only we who can determine the state of the world right now. It is we humans who are predominantly responsible for the developing changes occurring but it might as well be us who will lead the world to its end.

Let us take the example of the technology sector itself. From the rise of silicon valley in the 1940s to the most recent iPhone release, there have been over a thousand gadgets developed with the primary purpose of enhancing our lifestyles. And this is by far an understatement. This period has also given rise to revolutionaries like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, Antonio Neri, and many more. With the invention of the iPhone, there was a staggering growth in the easiness of our lifestyles. You had everything in your pocket, from the latest music album by your favorite author to the answer to the most fundamental philosophical questions. The world has indeed become shorter and the trend is continuing. The consequences of this are right in front of our eyes, which sadly have been blinded by the merits the technology we see around us offers. This has led to a tremendous decrease in our ability to focus.

As Johann Hari says,

"Your attention didn't collapse. It was stolen"

And who are the thieves? The developers of the same social media platforms which we are fond of. But it isn't their fault for it is we who are the ones using it. But how true is that?

In "The Social Dilemma" starring Tristan Harris and other silicon valley residents, they speak of how society has been victimized by the so-called revolutionaries. The moment we step into the world of social media, that exact moment we become victims of "Surveillance Capitalism". Each step we take, from the time taken and the images seen on Instagram to the videos we watch on youtube, is been tracked. How else do we get the recommendations which seduce us to stay on the platform a bit longer? Let's take the concept of the infinite scroll for example. Why don't the images we see on Instagram ever stop as we scroll down? Well, the credit for that belongs to Aza Raskin. The infinite scroll prevents us from leaving the platform. While the intention of Aza might have been for the betterment of society, it sure didn't work out that way. He realized that and took the initiative of correcting himself by partnering with Tristan Harris and finding the Center of Humane Technology which, according to its website aims to "shift technology towards a more humane future that supports our well-being, democratic functioning, and shared information environment."

Technology has indeed come on a long path, and that path cannot be reclaimed. It doesn't need to be either. Such innovations are out there and it is impossible to prevent them. The real question which we must tackle now is: Now that we have the appropriate tech, how can we make the most of it? How can we use it to shape a better future by not completely forgetting our past? For that to happen, initiatives such as finding the Center of Humane Technology must be taken. And such ideas must be spread around the world. We can make use of the technology to spread solutions to the best way to use technology by starting blogs, podcasts, clubs, etc. So what has prevented us from doing so?

The issue is that despite knowing about this, people are only responsive to an imaginary order called "money". As mentioned earlier, features like the infinite scroll, advertisements and surveillance capitalism force us to not leave our chairs and stay on the platform for a longer time. The reason for installing them is simple: more watch time = more revenue. People are blinded by money.

This doesn't apply everywhere, for eg, Steve Jobs never cared about money, he wanted to make devices to evolve technology and our lifestyles. And so he did. He is therefore one of the most impactful and influential personalities in the tech industry. He had the intentions right, but the outcome was not so merry. And as sad as it may sound, he was one of the few out there who wasn't seduced by capital. There have been numerous advancements in sectors other than tech as well. In genetics for eg, there has been an increased knowledge of rare diseases like cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease. Or perhaps the recent discovery of two black holes. In the field of chemistry, there has been constant research on catalysts like an artificial enzyme that splits water. And the research has had its share of success. Research on enhancing the longevity of a human has been going on for the past several years. Where we might be headed now is a mystery to all of us. Perhaps we may experience a future where people stop aging or perhaps in the next 100 years our neighbors might as well be another species of sapiens such as the neanderthals!

But there are other factors we must look at while predicting our future. The unsustainable use of energy, global warming, and other factors might lead to our end. Space explorations are underway but we need a solution and we need it fast. Planets such as Alpha Centauri have been spotted. The planning for expeditions is underway but the time required to execute them is unimaginable. We have indeed evolved into the most powerful species inhabiting our planet. I am not saying that we must decrease the pace of evolution, we must charge forward but with breaks in between to get a sense of where we are headed.

As Malcolm X puts it,

The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.

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