Commonplace Newsletter #99
A fascinating piece, Tom. The interaction between humans and their tools goes way back. My daughter's archaeology masters thesis, 'In the mind of the maker', was able to demonstrate that early humans' brains were shaped by the tools that they used and vice versa. This contributed to the development of our enormous frontal lobes. We now know that early repeated trauma affects the hippocampus and prefrontal and frontal cortex of the brain and this is reversible with psychological treatment. We also know that the memory areas of the brains of London taxi cab drivers are more developed than non cab drivers because before satnav, they had to learn every possible route off by heart. Who knows what the next round of new technology will do to our brains? We hold the seeds of our own advancement - or destruction.
All your essays are good, but I particularly enjoyed this one.
What a great article! Yes, the foundation needs to be kept strong. Hard and unpopular work, but important. And I'm probably wrong, but I believe and hope no AI can ever write a song that touches our souls like "Blowin' in the Wind" or "Both Sides, Now."
I can't recall where that discussion happened—perhaps in one of the cosy STSC chats—but someone mentioned how cars changed the world physically, in particular cities, reshaping the landscape so it has become built for them, around them, around the idea of having a car (in some countries it's more vivid), and how now the internet and smartphones reshape the world so it's now revolves around them. A tool intended to solve a problem, well... solved it, improved our lives technologically, yes, but also created a vast field of other problems, which have become tasks for us to solve, the aim of which is to create the environment for that tool. Thus grows our dependency on it. Pardon me, I'm almost repeating what you said but that was my thought process—I'm just channeling it. What I wanted to say is, it's fascinating how a tool—be it a car or a phone—can make us change the world for its needs, either on macro (e.g. cars and cities) to micro (e.g. writing apps and writing) levels.
Anyway, fantastic essay as always, great read.
Wonderful! Your commentary is exceptional. I just "upgraded to paid."
Your piece brought to mind the new artificial intelligence writing tools like jasper.ai and copymatic.ai. Bloggers and copywriters are already leveraging these apps to combat writer’s block, or to do most of the heavy lifting in their writing. Which makes me shudder. What separates us from machines is our humanity and souls. And the best writing channels our humanity and souls. I’m not opposed to technology to improve our lives and efficiency, but once we abdicate our humanity and souls, we trudge down a path towards mediocrity and irrelevancy.
"The desire to create for its own sake is what it means to be human."
Indeed Tom, the desire to create for its own sake is what it means to be human. Except of course this idea and conception is ever under attack by a mechanistic worldview that sees fewer and fewer reasons to do things for its own sake.
May I say I love reading your essays. They encourage me in the contemplative life. And fortunately for me I just concluded a series of essays where I touched on the intercourse between man and his tools. Something I am sure you will find interesting.
This link above has the links to the essays. I would be delighted if you would take a look at them.
Until next time Tom, as you encourage us to live well, I do the same to you too.