Sunday, September 8, 2019

Evolution, My Teacher, Where Have Our Pupils Gone?

The human animal is the first to have had fused within its early primate genome the complex allelic patterns of communication so capacious as to create a level of functional language so unique and effective that we are now the sole survivors, the sole progenitors, of this particular evolutionary trend… it's only natural, then, on the basis of survival alone, that this trait should have been selected. 

And the processes of evolution, having created the very scaffolding of our human psyche, confines the majority of our human experience to a sort of obligate social paradigm as is its preferential tendency toward survivorship of the species… thank God for the outcome - no, thank our primate ancestors; thank their fitness and their prototypical tongues on which the taste of death and life and fear are still carried, so that we might continue to be reminded of this cyclical burden that brought us to modernity in the first place.

No other animal hence has been capable of so intimately sharing the intricacies of its own mind with that of its kin, the “other,” so that even experiences themselves can become understood. These ideas are among those which have precipitated my worry with regard to the social declination via the digital disintegration of eye contact...

The extent to which we bury our eyes, one of our primary sensory organs attached to a sophisticated visual system - and perhaps the most important of them - into the ominous glow of a touchscreen has rendered one aspect of the social ape askew. We no longer seem able to look upon another’s face and find the bullseye of the pupils. Some might call this perspective of the current human condition alarmist, while others have hatred-laden words that they spit my way, aligned with their own caustic narratives, and yet I’m without pause when I say that I don’t warrant even the most superficial penetration of those embittered words upon my equanimity... for they seem never to be accompanied with eye contact; too few have come to realize that there exists a constant amid the communicative nature of our being: our tendency toward dissent, perhaps attributable to our countless differences.

Insofar as our interactions need be with another cognitive system capable of commensurate informational processing (the sapient, and so aptly named, homo sapiens), nuances therein exist that prevent the complete understanding of the other, mentioned above. But I think we can do better, because we are after all the cleverest of animals to have bipedally walked this world’s surface...

Yet the digital world siphons from us our gift of sight, so that when I address another in my physical presence - yes, even as I walk - I’m astounded to see that they do not see; I’m perplexed by the enormous quantity of visual stimuli that go unnoticed by the captured eyes of the other looking upon their phone’s screen.

My worry, I should make clear, has nothing to do with technological progress, but rather how that progress might perpetuate instead a perceptual regress of a technological kind. Namely, our mounting inability to make eye contact, and by extension our failure to put to use its functional purpose as a social tool that can detect, through their eyes and body language alone, those many nuances of the mind, which already make our understanding each other difficult.

I attempt to ignore the ubiquity of stolen eyesight, but a social sickness therefrom is being felt well beyond the proximity of the primary perpetrators, so that this theft continues on and fosters social disconnect between us all and furthers the already-existing divides, which I suppose is prone to be the case when this crucial reciprocity in animal so social like us is lacking; for us, the process of evolution almost mandates the maintenance of eye contact, lest we abandon the large quantity of non-verbal cues requisite for our understanding one another to the fullest extent possible.

My parting words for the dissenter who insists that no problem exists: point to me a time in history in which a primate with phone constantly in palm could be seen strolling along some primitive path - let alone one seen swinging about the jungle’s vines - in fact, it couldn’t even watch any Vines... 

There will always be repercussions for any behavioral phenomena rendered upon the world, not least those likely to be felt by an organism not quite ready to adapt to the cessation of its visual capacity so soon. We would do well to keep in mind that scarcely any slower process is known than that of evolution, and its mechanisms at work, which have gotten us this far. 

Once again, it might do me well to reiterate that technological progress is not to be demonized in any way by me - I mean, what hypocrisy it would be as I sit here writing this onto a computer screen. Instead, I want to convey at the very least an awareness of change, some here already, and much more impending; I would go so far as to say that change (technological or otherwise) is neither a positive nor negative quality in itself. Change is an outcome, consequence, or product of good or bad quality, which implies that action is necessary in the first place to enact it. And we’re the actors, empowered by the control we have over our actions, capable of making the changes that we wish to see - or not to see. 

Finally, I’ll close with challenge to humanity… let evolution be our teacher who tells us to look within ourselves, to introspect but a moment and see the other, so that we may better see ourselves. 

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