I saw this piece appear in March:  Too Much Facebook could cause Autism in Children.  A doctor in the UK suggested that social networking applications were encouraging dissociation, making it more difficult for children to engage in relationship.

“My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment,” said neurologist Susan Greenfield.

Social networking applications do seem to be changing consciousness, and it may be the case that the changes do exhibit some features of early childhood, but I would suggest that living in the moment, a moment characterized by massive amounts of incoming information offered in a fashion that makes integration of that information possible, is a good thing.

There have been other studies that concluded that there are correlations between watching TV and autistic behavior.  That may be the case.  Still, comparing social networking to watching TV is like suggesting a hike through nature collecting butterflies is equivalent to vacuuming the living room for dust mites.  I think professor Greenfield is confusing the two.

Getting up from watching a movie last weekend in a theatre still dark, I stood up and turned around and saw cell phones being flipped open and examined across the room, little glowing butterflies in the dark.  Some texting immediately ensued.  I was aware that I’d been away from my laptop for several hours, knowing I couldn’t go straight to bed with emails that were waiting when I got home.

As fast as we adults are making the transition to a simultaneous society, one where massive amounts of information is being shared and integrated, imagine what it will be like for our children.  Our kids are being trained in the technologies of “now” at so young an age as to suggest that they will speak the language of simultaneity fluently.  We olders will have only some idea what will be going on.

We are headed toward an integration of the unconscious and conscious minds.

Much like Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, we are experiencing a species transformation.  Having struggled with our ability to manufacture metaphor and story for hundreds of generations, we are finally coming to a place where we’ve developed technology that can provide massive amounts of high quality information so that the metaphors and stories we create can approximate the world we are surrounded by, instead of the internal world we’ve been wrestling with to understand.

This requires an integration of our conscious and unconscious selves.  Watch for a surge in reverence for associational consciousness.  Listen for evidence of dreams in the everyday.  Feel for opportunities for information to be communicated by touch.

Soon cell phones will be tapping our wrists with content, Morse code messaging directly to both our conscious and unconscious selves.  We’ll be able to receive information while in discussions, in movie theatres, while half asleep.  Touch is the vast, untapped territory of multitasking.  Watch for games that speak to children through their skin.

Neurologist Susan Greenfield has expressed reservations.  I believe she’s comparing apples and oranges.  There is no way to compare the world of our grandchildren and the world that my grandparents were born into.  Humanity is passing out of childhood.

To think and link like our parent Nature, we need both our minds.


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