HEWN, No. 334

"Not with a bang but a whimper"

This week's Columbidae is the Gallicolumba luzonica — the Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove. The bird, which is endemic to the island of Luzon in the Philippines, is listed as “near threatened” due to habitat loss. (Image credits)

Related: the origins of the phrase “bleeding heart liberal.” Related: “People Keep Spotting Pigeons Wearing Tiny Cowboy Hats In Las Vegas.”

I’d initially planned to write something in response to this very bad op-ed by “tech regrets” specialist Tristan Harris in The New York Times and an accompanying thread on Twitter — but then a bunch of crappy things happened this week (I’m looking at you, UK) and instead of writing, I just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep until the new decade. But a few, quick thoughts: The premise of the opinion place rests on a quip made by biologist E. O. Wilson: “The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology.” That is to say, Harris thinks that humans are mostly incapable of controlling themselves or controlling technology — and not just politically but physiologically. Our brains are ancient, he contends. And as such they are no match for new digital technologies. Humans’ brains just aren’t “wired” for this world, he says — as though our brains are somehow severed from the bodies and the practices and the histories that have brought us to this moment. Moreover, our cognitive capabilities have changed immensely in the past 2.6 million years — it’s silly to say they have not. And along the way, our institutions have changed; our technologies have changed; our cultures have changed. But in the formulation of the techno-solutionists — even the ones who apologize that their previous solutions were so bad — humanity is poised to swept away by technological forces that somehow operate outside the control of any human. (Elsewhere in terrible tech executives opining about brains.)

Other reading:

Yours in struggle,