Xtended Phenotypes ACTG^TCP/IP

by phil on Wednesday Nov 5, 2003 11:19 AM
Learning, Singularity

Acceleration of technology inspires more amputations of our existing functions in order to find better ones, which lead to more new appendages, which then accelerate technology further... more proof of the underlying mechanisms of Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns.

Excerpted from Laws of New Media

The Extended Phenotype
In genetics, an organism's phenotype is the outer manifestation of the tendencies inherent in the genetic material

The extended phenotype is the reach of genetic tendencies beyond the organism into the external world "e.g., a bird's nest, a spider's web, or the caddisfly larva's stone house"

Media As Man's Extended Phenotype
Media act as humanity's extended phenotype by extending our sense, motor, and mental capacities
Reify: from the Latin res, thing: to treat an abstract concept as a concrete object or entity.
Evanescence: from the Latin evanescere: the tendency to vanish like vapor.
+ Thought and experience are evanescent
+ Media allow us to reify (and thereby capture) them for later consumption

Examples Of Extension
+ Writing extended speech over space and time
+ Arithmetic extends our capacity for measuring and balancing
+ Libraries extend our capacities for memory and recollection

Excerpted from the Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media:

The Greek myth of Narcissus is directly concerned with a fact of human experience, as the word Narcissus indicates. It is from the Greek word narcosis, or numbness. The youth Narcissus mistook his own reflection in the water for another person. This extension of himself by mirror numbed his perceptions until he became the servomechanism of his own extended or repeated image. The nymph Echo tried to win his love with fragments of his own speech, but in vain. He was numb. He had adapted to his extension of himself and had become a closed system.

Now the point of this myth is the fact that men at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves. There have been cynics who insisted that men fall deepest in love with women who give them back their own image. Be that as it may, the wisdom of the Narcissus myth does not convey any idea that Narcissus fell in love with anything he regarded as himself. Obviously he would have had very different feelings about the image had he known it was an extension or repetition of himself. It is, perhaps, indicative of the bias of our intensely technological and, therefore, narcotic culture that we have long interpreted the Narcissus story to mean that he fell in love with himself, that he imagined the reflection to be Narcissus!

Physiologically there are abundant reasons for an extension of ourselves involving us in a state of numbness. Medical researchers like Hans Selye and Adolphe Jonas hold that all extensions of ourselves, in sickness or in health, are attempts to maintain equilibrium. Any extension of ourselves they regard as "autoamputation," and they find that the autoamputative power or strategy is resorted to by the body when the perceptual power cannot locate or avoid the cause of irritation. Our language has many expressions that indicate this self- amputation that is imposed by various pressures. We speak of "wanting to jump out of my skin" or of "going out of my mind," being "driven batty" or "flipping my lid." And we often create artificial situations that rival the irritations and stresses of real life under controlled conditions of sport and play.

While it was no part of the intention of Jonas and Selye to provide an explanation of human invention and technology, they have given us a theory of disease (discomfort) that goes far to explain why man is impelled to extend various parts of his body by a kind of autoamputation. In the physical stress of superstimulation of various kinds, the central nervous system acts to protect itself by a strategy of amputation or isolation of the offending organ, sense, or function. Thus, the stimulus to new invention is the stress of acceleration of pace and increase of load. For example, in the case of the wheel as an extension of the foot, the pressure of new burdens resulting from the acceleration of exchange by written and monetary media was the immediate occasion of the extension or "amputation" of this function from our bodies. The wheel as a counter- irritant to increased burdens, in turn, brings about a new intensity of action by its amplification of a separate or isolated function (the feet in rotation). Such amplification is bearable by the nervous system only through numb ness or blocking of perception. This is the sense of the Narcissus myth. The young man's image is a self-amputation or extension induced by irritating pressures. As counter-irritant, the image produces a generalized numbness or shock that declines recognition. Self-amputation forbids self-recognition.

Xcerpted from myself:

The pieces fit, kids... maybe 2012 isn't too optimistic of a date for the Singularity.

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