With the advent of the modern entertainment industry, human beings are exposed to a myriad of images each day. Many of the images or sequences of images would have been impossible in the distant past. For example a picture of your grandmother as a teenager, next to a picture of her as an adult approaching senior years. Seeing images of the same person as simultaneously young and old would have been an extremely foreign experience to our ancestors. This luxury of being able to see, compare and contrast an individual’s change over decades, at a glance, is new.
We also encounter an over abundance of gruesome images, sexual images and computer enhanced images. Our evolutionary environment bared only a passing resemblance to the things we see every day on the screen and real life.
Almost everyone reading this will have witnessed a murder or brutal act of violence via television. Yet only a small, small fraction of people would have witnessed such things in primeval times (during peace time). To witness such things they would have had to see them in person. What was once reserved for the unfortunate few who witnessed violent acts, is now seen by nearly all, at least monthly.
Humans also evolved to be in villages of only a few 100 people with tens of potential mates to see and choose from over the course of their entire lives. Now the average person will see 1000s of members of the opposite sex by the time they are 25. What effect does this have on our mating practices?
Our minds did not evolve experiencing many of the conditions that are so familiar to us now in modern society. We still have the same brains our ancestors had 1000s of years ago. How do these new types of conditions effect the way our brains operate and evolve?
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This is a fascinating article. If we can now see decades in seconds what is it going to be like in another twenty years or so when new images are available to us. I strongly believe that we do not use the full power of our eyesight yet because certain things have not yet been invented, so I am very excited for what the future of imaging has to offer us!
I actually think our brains are nothing like our ancestors, there brains were more advanced. We tend to think that people in times before us were primitive but that’s not the case. Some studies have shown that before television children’s test scores and IQ’s were way higher than kid’s today. Ancient Egypt was responsible for the structure of most of our civilizations today. The things we’re exposed to can enhance our intelligence or desensitize us and make us dumber.
Well regarding the IQ scores, it’s generally seen to be increasing. The IQ score is reassessed periodically with 100 always being set to the average. The relative value of that 100 score has been increasing every adjustment – consider it like the adage of “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Each successive generation is actually a bit smarter than the last due to the having their precursors knowledge as a starting point. I wholeheartedly disagree that people are getting “dumber”, rather, the focus in our studies is veering away from the logic/spacial types of intelligence these tests generally check,
We’re definitely not getting dumber as a civilization. However, due to constant new discoveries, each separate branch of science is a little bit overloaded… to say the least.
It’s hard to be good at everything when you need to almost exclusively focus on one subject to be truly good at it.
It’s interesting that you can see this idea directly manifested with things like motion sickness when using VR headsets. Our minds/bodies simply haven’t had to evolve in such a way that we can smoothly interpret visual input that doesn’t have any kinesthetic feedback.
The sickness is overwhelming for many because there’s no built in mechanism to deal with it. I’m sure in a century, humans will have adapted enough to work around it. Much like how the younger generation finds touch screens intuitive while many of the older generation struggle with it.
All we do is wait until something is invented for us. That is a really easy way to keep up with the latest technology. As for me, I simply cross my fingers hoping that the next invention will sweep me off my feet.
I have never even thought about this before, this was such an interesting read…you’re right, our brains haven’t quite changed from our ancestors! Crazy to think about. We are lucky to be able to compare sequential images all at once, side by side. Way back when, photographs didn’t even exist, we couldn’t compare, let alone see how our ancestors aged.
Indeed, it is a very interesting article as I never thought about the lack of evolution in terms of brain function and how it affects us in today’s world. Sometimes the incidents that occur in the form of men murdering each other dates back to ancient days as primitive man would kill to protect his family, pride and honor. It was accepted back then but now it is deemed murder. We as humans have retained some of our more primordial instincts, which today’s world is not embracing of it.
I think we still possessed the ability to “compare” even early in our evolutionary history. The human mind is a comparison machine – it will take external stimuli and constantly compare it against the schema that has been developed by the individual. This is how we detect patterns and similarities. It’s how we determine this fruit is poisonous (after some unlucky chance encounters). It looks like the one Caveman Bob ate, and he felt sick afterward. I better avoid it.
Of course, our ancestors never had to contend with the idea of past and present. They’d have no understanding that the image was a representation of a particular person/object in a point of time. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone were to time travel back to pre-history and show someone a picture, it would be as if it were a window to the past.
I never thought of it like this. I like the way you think about this subject and agree with you. Comparison has always been there, and this is just that comparing.
Well, even if it did not change, we started using a lot more of it, I wonder how much of our brain we shall use in a thousand years.
Hmm…I think the effect of being able to see so many things through photographs or television makes us realize diversity. For those living in certain regions of the United States, or in other countries, we are not exposed to all the different ethnic groups and nationalities on a day-by-day basis. As for a more basic, behavioral or psychological change due to exposure, I can only guess.
Sevrin, I think you are absolutely correct! Exposure to these images helps our brains to see and accept diversity. I’m sure history is littered with incidents where someone who looked or acted differently evoked a violent response from one or both of the parties.
However, psychology has found some preliminary findings regarding the sheer mass of information and images available to humans in this day and age. Much like when there are too many channels, too many images, too much information, and just in general “too much”, it tends to cripple our minds. We have trouble making choices and sticking to them, as well as sorting through all of the information and remembering it. We are required nowadays to spend more time studying these images and information so that we can recall them at a later date. Somehow it needs to “stand out” from everything else bombarding our brains to be remembered well.
I am sure over time our brains will develop to handle the large amount of information being thrown at us on a daily basis, but that is a long time off. I wouldn’t be surprised if some technology came around to help us retain information and images (i.e. a human hard drive).
I love how technology has allowed us to preserve images and how we can compare images over time. At the same time, technology allows us to manipulate images such as Photoshop, so we must be careful about what we see. A prime example would be the super models that are portrayed in the media that are often times photoshopped in magazines in order to sell beauty products and clothing. One common technique I see is when companies use “before and after” pics. Before the person used a particular product, let’s say makeup, the person looks unappealing. After using whatever brand of makeup, the person looks great and attractive.
Interesting! I’ve always been aware of the minor stress that is created by the multitude of choices available to me when I walk into a modern supermarket, not to mention the vast array of images and messages that are lurking in my subconscious mind from advertisements influencing how I see the products. Our ancestors, both recent and ancient, didn’t have deal with the anxiety of trying to decide what to eat.
Interesting thing is how much research actually goes into the organization of supermarket product placement. I’m sure you’ve heard this one, with milk and other common dairy products located in the back, the shopper has to pass through the pretty much the whole supermarket before getting their gallon of milk, making it more likely for them to buy something.
Another lesser talked about one is the fact that expensive dip can be found really close to chips, while the cheaper ones are usually one aisle down in their own section. Pretty interesting articles for this kind of stuff exist out there.
The positive part of it all is exposure. We are more aware of the world around us and not alienated from the diversity of our world. The negative side is also exposure. Images and events that we would have been ignorant of in the past is brought forward. Our children are exposed to things that their young minds are not able to process. In many cases this could have ill effects on their psyche, but on the other hand… that exposure makes them aware and gives them reasons to question and learn for the better. That is where parents come into play.
Thanks for the comments everyone. So many interesting view points!
I truly believe that this bombardment of violent images is contributing to the downfall of our society, at least if we don’t do something about it. Our youth have grown up on violence and it’s dulled their sense of right and wrong, or at least, their respect for life. It’s become not real to them – like a video game or a movie. We live in a society that glorifies gratuitous violence in our culture. No wonder we have school shootings and mass murders.
Interesting. I can see how there could be a connection between the two.
I don’t really get the “downfall” part though.
The current major problems we face as a society are things like: climate change, mass species extinction, income disparity, debt levels and overpopulation.
Humans are now the LEAST violent it has ever been in history buy every metric. Granted due to the 24/hr news cycle we see that violence a lot more, but past societies and civilizations were much more violent and orders of magnitude more cruel to each other.
We glorify violence less than past societies. Think about the roman gladiators for instance. they KILLED people and animals for spectacle and sport. The closest thing we have to that nowadays is MMA which is pretty tame.
Look at the Bible and it’s tales of violence and cruelty.
I have to agree with Scooter here. It always irks me when people say stuff like ‘We’re becoming a worse and worse society throughout the years, we’ve normalized violence etc’ . The world isn’t pretty, never has been. Thing is, when you read about a massacre that happened as part of a war, say, 500 years ago, that event and the people who died in it – they’re just a tidbit of information from your textbook. They’re a statistic. But when you hear about a public shooting on TV, it seems horrible because you immediately jump to the thought of their families and friends who might be living not too far away from you and other similar ideas.
But on the topic of the article, I wonder how our vision of color has changed! As we developed more artistic/aesthetic sense, just how much more perceptive we became and how a vision of soemone from 3000 years ago would compare to a modern day Average Joe.
I agree that these new imagines and scenarios that we get to witness so vividly impact the way we perceive reality, but I do not think that witnessing violent scenarios in films or video games, etc, can have an impact on our emotional response when we see something like that in real life. I think things and human empathy are a little more complicated than that. But these things do have a real impact, even if it’s not so obvious.
I never truly considered this question before. Yes, I realize that the media considerably alters how we process certain events and interact with other humans, but I really didn’t compare and contrast our brains with those of our ancestors. Interesting read! 🙂 I’d love to see these questions answered.
I think these types of questions are not so much for science to answer, but for philosophy. The impact both evolutionary and cultural of having the ability to view such a broad swathe of information is surely a major force on the way that humanity is developing.
It seems like humans are accelerating the development of our ability to communicate, leveraged by media technology. Never before has a random person had the ability to reach such a broad audience with such minimal effort. Look at this blog even, 200 years ago the author would never have been able to reach people from around the globe with such a publication.
This is something I sometimes wonder about. The human brain capacity seems to be the same, that is true. But it is known that technological advances comes exponentially — perhaps a by product of population growth?
In any case, when I do think about this particular subject it’s usually tied to ‘is there such a thing as too much exposure to data’?
I remember reading a paragraph on Gone Girl (a novel by Gillian Flynn) that just blew my mind. It’s about the digital era, the mega productions, and all the available information one has access to on this day and age. The protagonist goes on saying that he has already seen it all. He has seen the sunset, dinosaurs, foreign countries, etc. But has not truly experienced it. In the media, everything (quite literally) is within easy reach for pretty much everyone. And to makes matters worse, such expousure is very often ‘enhanced’ with video and image edditing with a killer soundtrack to boot.
‘Reality’ is a dull experience when compared to such things. Even when you watch a sunset, there’s no musical background to go with it, as you usually experience on movies or even TV commercials. I’d be willing to bet that most people would be willing explore ‘new worlds’ through a blockbuster than to watch a sunset on the beach. We grew exposed to these things. By now, we are quite possibly jaded, and really not impressed by anything anymore. “Oh, a Meteor shower? That’s kinda nice, I suppose”. True amazement gets harder and harder to achieve.
I got a little carried away while writing this post but to sum it up: I fear humans, on a personal level, are currently being overwhelmed by information. You can even see signs of it, internet and smartphone addiction, over reliance on web research for pretty much anything, to name a few. The most glaring aspect though, is the lack of amazement we (should) experience during everyday life. The simulacrum overshines the real.
I recall reading about a theory – something to explain why we haven’t encountered advanced life in the universe yet. The theory goes that at a certain point, a civilization will develop a form of entertainment that is so incredibly fulfilling and enjoyable that further pursuit of any other development stops. It could come in the form of some ultra-narcotic, or a VR simulation that’s so pleasurable that you’d never want to leave it.
We’ve evolved to be heavily reliant on pleasure responses, and as such many of our innate behaviours are tuned to pleasurable reactions (food, sex). With the advent of such a discovery, it could potentially stall further technological development, effectively dooming a civilization to a blissful collapse.
Interesting food for thought.
Our brains didn’t evolve to see photographs at all. In the earlier Victorian era if your hubby was going away to sea you would go to the photo shop and buy the photo that looked most like him. You would show this “close enough” picture to people and say it was your husband. Only over time did our appreciation of photos and easy access to camera make that seem like a laughable choice.
I would also note that there are plenty of things that are the reverse–we used to see them a lot and now see them rarely and deal with them poorly. e.g. natural decomp, disease, and scavenging of dead animals that modern people attribute to alien cattle mutilation, montauch monster, chupacabras etc. People might not have seen a lot of homicide but they saw a lot more dead bodies of people and animals because disease was common and slaughter, last rites etc were done at home.
A lot of what we do in this day and age is not at all what our bodies and minds evolved for.
This has caused a lot of social issues and problems.
As technology progresses this will only be more of a problem.
Although the last few years has really seen a return to nature movement, trying to engineer our lives with the idea that we are really just hairless chimps.
I think we will reach a point where we are able to live happily in an environment that takes into account our biology and gets to leverage the power of technology.
I think this could possible have very negative effects on humans and their ability to be empathetic. There are currently some forums on the Internet devoted to watching gore, people suffering etc. We have become so desensitized to these kind of things that some people even get enjoyment out of watching other people in pain, rather than developing the (in my opinion) more natural reactions of sympathy and/or repulsion.
The people viewing this kind of material are the extreme minority when compared to the general population. I hardly think their intake of it will drastically alter humanity’s degree of empathy. In fact, viewing that type of material online may very well be satisfying otherwise violent people. Beyond that, it satisfies the morbid curiousity of some people because in all seriousness, most people are unnerved by the concept and idea of death. Very few observe any sort of traumatic death so this kind of thing does have its own strange attraction.
The article ends with a very interesting question. Although valid, there has been at least 1 generation (brith – death) that lived in period where the camera was invented. I’m not aware of any studies on this matter, but as far as I can tell, there are no significant changes in the brain from seeing someone go from young to old in a couple of frames. However, the effect the internet has on the brain as it develops interests me greatly. Growing up with an endless ocean of information about almost anything still seems surreal to me sometimes. I wonder if there are any studies about this.
It is a beautiful thing that we can now not only see but preserve our history so well. However the ability to change those images is rather frightening to me. It is becoming more and more difficult to believe what you see these days. Not only does this give our children the wrong ideas of beauty and propriety but when it happens on the television or movie screen it gives the world a false image of who we are. Look at reality tv for example. There is not much that is really real about it. Those shows portray United States society as a group of idiots (not saying there are not plenty of those here) when in actuality that is not what we are. The things that make us great that make the people on those shows normal ends up on the cutting room floor altered to make them look ridiculous. Is that what other societies see us as?
As for the ability to now see the violence, sex, and all other things we were not previously readily exposed to. Well I think that has desensitized us. We are not shocked and appalled by violence any longer. In fact these days you are more likely to see someone encourage a fight than break it up. Violence as well as sex have become entertainment. Sex is no longer something sacred and special. Our children are losing their innocence earlier and earlier because it has become harder to shield them from all of the gruesome and graphic images.
I look forward to seeing how things advance from here, but I fear how much those advances are going to alter our society and our history.
I think you underestimate a kid’s ability to make the difference between real and fake. If anything, children now days can tell if something is fake better than adults. I’ve watched my cousin grow with the internet and I’m pretty sure he’s seen all the bad things out there. Well, he knows that most reality shows are fake, while his father had no idea. It was a shock for him to find that out from his 10 year old son. And you don’t need to shield your child, unless you want him to turn 18 or 21 or 28 and find out that the world is not this utopia he was raised to believe it is. Instead of shielding him, try to educate him and let him know that life is not perfect, but it can be close to perfect if you are a good person. In order to change the world we must first change ourselves, but if you are past a certain age it’s pretty hard to change. This is why you should do everything you can to make your child want to be a better person by being honest with him, letting him make his own mistakes sometimes, and try to share as much of your life with him, so he can learn from your mistakes as well.
Timelapse videos come to mind too. We have never really been able to see things change rapidly as we can now. I think an effect of this is that we have the potential to recognize how poor our memories are and keep better records. Watched an interesting video about ‘shifting baselines’. Really we don’t notice gradual change. Something small changes, and we grow accustomed. Things (people, weather, climate, fashion, whatever) change bit by bit until one day it is unrecognizable from the first time we saw it, but we don’t notice because it is gradual.
Will point out though it was never completely impossible for us to see someone as young and old. If you met someone when they were young you have an image of them in your mind. Then years later you see them again and think wow they look so different I hardly recognized them! You have the memory.
Anyway, interesting to think about.
You know it’s funny, I showed my parents the Oculus Rift and let them try some of the rollercoaster demos for it. They were blown away. Most people have likely seen those reaction videos of the older generation experiencing VR on youtube – it’s amazing how their reactions are typically very similar. For example, reaching out to try and touch something in the VR environment… it’s something that the younger generation will understand is strictly within the simulation and for many, they wouldn’t bother trying.
It’s pretty amazing how different each generation can be in that regard, especially considering the rapid advances of technology. I can’t wait to see what things will be like when I’m in the spot of the “older generation” being shown some unfathombly fantastic device by my children.
I have to say this is all very interesting and I have never thought about things and our development in this context. However, I spend a lot of time on the internet and am exposed to many different types of information, all day, every day. I have to say that it really take a toll on me sometimes. I don’t think my brain can handle all the information. I experience immense tiredness, agitation and even confusion. When I am not on the internet for a day or so, I do feel a lot better, but tend to sleep a lot.
This makes me wonder if the brain needs to catchup and if it does this by resting? I wish I had all the answers. I do agree that we have become desensitized to much and this makes us vulnerable. it is time that we realize what we are doing to ourselves and put a stop to it. We are able to control most of what comes into our lives.
Is it true our brains haven’t changed much from 1000s of years ago? That would be an interesting read if anyone had any sources on that.
Anyways, I’d also like to point out that the human brain is surprisingly malleable, and very good at adjusting to its environment; I think those articles about how “the internet is is changing the brains of millenials”/”the brains of digital natives are different” support this idea. However, your point about seeing mates galore is something worth thinking about. I remember reading an article about how porn addiction works, and why its partially damaging to the human relationship psyche; having that many readily available videos of mates ready to do the deed feeds our reward system in a bad way.
I wish I had some sources readily available for those claims though! Wished I saved them somewhere.
It’s true that humans still have the same brains as thousands of years ago, but neuroplasticity allows the brain to change and adapt on a nonvisible level to our environments. Today our brains are wiring themselves for the technology and violence it sees. I’m certainly not saying this is a good thing! We have ever increasing levels of violence in the world, and more and more kids are experiencing learning problems after sitting in front of the television growing up.
I’m at a point where I don’t watch the news and rarely even watch TV at all due to how we’re bombarded with violent things.
Levels of violence around the world are actually dropping, especially in the Western world (which I make the possibly inaccurate assumption that most readers are coming from). The problem is that we’re exposed to much more violent material than ever before due to its ease of availability. News outlets love nothing more than to run headlines about murders, rapes and killings.
Our evolutionary history would have very few occasions outside of wartime where the average populace would encounter violent and traumatic acts. Yet, today, you turn on the news, read the paper or just browse the web and you are constantly bludgeoned by various violent crimes being committed.
I’ve seen some preliminary research that suggests that exposure to violent video games and TV desensitizes adolescents to violence (if I remember correctly, the studies were run with a combination of surveys and MRI scanning.) However, one of the interesting things here is that we assume it desensitizes people to violence when, in fact, it only really shows how you react to violence on a screen.
As far as I know, there haven’t been any studies done to test whether the trauma of witnessing (or enduring, or participating in) actual, real-life violence is affected at all by your previous exposure to violent media. There’s still something visceral and hard to explain about seeing actual, in-person violence — we’ve seen that real violence desensitizes you to real violence, and that watching fake/media violence desensitizes you to fake violence, but there’s no proof that I know of that those effects overlap. Maybe we don’t process them any differently, but if that’s the case, did seeing someone “die” on stage a few hundred years ago have the same effect as seeing someone die in real life?
I think I’m more worried about technology’s capacity to make violence feel impersonal or removed. I really do think that being face-to-face with death is different than watching a representation of it, but if you can direct a drone to destroy a village while sitting thousands of miles away watching it on screen, I wonder what category that ends up in in our brains. I’d like to hope there’s still some part of us that reacts with dread to the actual realities of war and death, even if we don’t see the blood up close, but maybe not…
The way we operate and evolve is greatly effected by what we encounter in modern times. Mental illnesses are more prevalent often because of over exposure to violence, sexual images, and computer corrected images. Our brain since it is still from our ancestors times, results in disorderly thinking from some of these difficult new situations.
This is an interesting concept. I never thought about it like this before, but it is true. What we are exposed to on a daily basis nowadays compared to 100 years ago is so drastic we can’t even begin to comprehend. None of use were alive, therefore, it is all only speculation. But it defiantly makes me think about a few new things.
It took us millions of years to evolve and this technology is way beyond us. It makes me wonder what the human race will be like in a hundred years.
Really great article and I’ve never thought about it this way! I now realize that the technology that exist nowadays wouldd be pretty mind-boogling for a person from the distant past. Pretty good analogy with the photos! It really goes to show that we’ve come a long way.
The idea that seeing gruesome things on television means that it can be preventable or dealt with in real life. By experiencing something first hand, you would be quite shocked and unaware. The brilliance of television can readily use special effects to recreate a version of reality, to inform or entertain. In a way, some acts may be prevented by engrossing them in entertainment.
I’ve never even thought about such a thing before, but come to think about it, this is rather fascinating. Currently technology would seem incredible to our ancestors, as such things must not have even been thought of back in those times. The idea of time lapses, pictures from the past and documenting events from the past are all things that our minds have not evolved to see. This also leads to the idea that maybe the brain needs more time to catch up with the fast-improving world of technology, and that maybe we are being bombarded with too much new information to understand at once.
It’s interesting that you wrote this because I always thought the current generation have become so desensitized by all the nudity, violence and advertisements they see on a daily basis. On seeing a Victoria Secret ad where the model was only wearing a scant bikini my 14-year old brother didn’t even flinch but if it were being advertised in the 18th century people would be scandalized. I guess what I’m saying is that being able to see more and more also makes us want more and more unless you’ve vastly transcended this notion and just hope for a much simpler life which I think is the most ideal.
I often think about this very idea: how we are presented with so much information and experience that is extremely foreign to our species in terms of how we evolved. That being said, I don’t think the human species is any stranger to violence. I think that is an unchanging part of our history and our species in general.
Either way, I think humans are incredibly resilient and adaptive as a species. That is, we are a species that puts itself in “unnatural” situations and uses its intelligence to make sense of them. The fact that we can sit here and read an article discussion this very phenomenon is what tends to normalize such things for us. I think that’s really a big part of what culture is.
I believe our brains have been evolving and learning since medieval times. Also, humans are pretty good at adapting – we’re learning to multitask better in an ever faster moving world. So I think we’ll be able to adapt to this overload of images within a few generations. It’s become normal to be able to talk to someone on the other side of the world, and we in general are becoming a more tolerant society because of that connection to people. It’s the same thing with being able to see and take in so much – we will learn from all the information at our fingertips and become a smarter society.
This post makes one think. I can finally understand why my mom is the way she is. However, she will never understand me and why I am the way I am. I would like to express that I am not childish and that my mom is someone who expected her offspring to be just like her. I am not just like her.
According to her standards of life women get married at 17 and have 4 children. They do not hold down career type jobs. They never get anything they want, because basically they are beggers.
Her words and philosophy of life had a profound affect on me, especially when I was young. I have never agreed with her philosophy. I never understood it. I can understand it a little better now. I still cannot say I agree with it.
This is a very interesting post. Life back then was very different than life right now, and with imaging software being better than before and being able to see old images next to new is very astounding.
I believe that all these new images we see: gruesome, sexual, computer generated, are aiding in our evolution in a way that we are more used to the new age. While people’s philosophy and understanding of the world and life has changed over time, we are still adapting as a human race and it will always get better over time.
“Our minds did not evolve experiencing many of the conditions that are so familiar to us now in modern society. We still have the same brains our ancestors had 1000s of years ago.”
I don’t think that modern urban life is something that humans need to ‘evolve’ into. Urban life is by definition made by humans, for humans. If it’s true that we have the brains of our ancestors, then it was our ancestors who thought of elevators and skyscrapers and streetcars and public beaches. If we can think of and implement something, then I don’t think that we can say that we are not ‘evolved’ for it.
I guess this really ties in with the technology which becomes available to us as time goes on. For example, the only reason we now have the ability to compare images of our grandmother when they were younger to when they were old is because of the invention of photographic technology. Even now, in 2015, we have already accomplished things like sending information from one city to another instantaneously using light waves and sending photons back in time and having it interact with it’s former self plus all the discoveries of alien life that are coming out. Just imagine the things that the next generation will get to see that no generation before had seen because of the technology we’re now developing. It’s absolutely mind boggling.
This was an interesting read and I think this is something me and many other takes for granted everyday.We get to experience this everyday and don’t even realize it. Now that I think about it you can see more than a decade in a millisecond. I love technology, but I won’t be dependent on it. However, I can’t wait to see what the future holds and that I’ll live long enough to experience it! 🙂
I imagine that being exposed to so much more information would lead to an accumulation of stress in the human brain. Perhaps this is the reason there has been what appears to be an epidemic of mental illness. Given the brain’s ability to adapt, I would imagine the effect of graphic imagery on the brain would be only immediate, and many would find themselves desensitized. Despite my skepticism, there is certainly potential for research into the subject, as being exposed to a plethora of new experiences can have unforeseen hazards.
This article is nothing short of mind boggling. I’ve never really thought of the fact that photography and other forms of capturing the past like that were only really used by the average person in the past 100-150 years. Those people probably wouldn’t even be able to imagine that being common today, which makes me think about what amazing invention past our comprehension will be invented in the next 100 years.
Overstimulus is a major concern about the modern age for me. Whether it be superviolence, too much screen viewing, or being surrounded by millions, there’s much risk for harm at humanity’s current state of evolution. Maybe we’ll get to a point where all of this seems normal , and the brain will need something even stranger to keep it overstimulated. I do worry about what that will do to simple pleasures though. I would hate to go outside and not be able to appreciate the awe of a big city or the relaxation of a beautiful day under the shade of a tree. However, if it means the next step in the chain, then bring it on!
First of all, excellent topic. I never never heard or seen this topic discussed anywhere before.
That being said…….from the article:
“Our minds did not evolve experiencing many of the conditions that are so familiar to us now in modern society. We still have the same brains our ancestors had 1000s of years ago.”
I for one would like proof of that assumption.
Still though, there is an excellent argument to be made that the instances of mental illness keep rising, seemingly in tandem, with our technological advancements and the rising number of options we have in regards to living our lives.
It’s as though we were wired to live simpy.
I do think that we are hard-wired to be able to take in less input of the type we are receiving now, video images especially, to the point that we are overcrowding our memory space with information that is not necessary to our well being. In earlier times we were much more perceptive when it came to understanding how others were feeling and much more able to predict (on our own without technical aid) what was likely to occur in the future that was in our ability to change. We are using less variety of senses and relying heavily on the visual, so much so that You Tube is becoming the encyclopedia of the very limited mind. I know a man who takes for gospel, everything that is posted on You Tube without ever giving it a second of doubt. And my daughter made an interesting point the other day. She said that more intelligent people are having less and less children and those with significantly lower IQ’s are having more with the end result being a population that is lower in IQ than the one before it. This and the bombardment of images telling us what to do and when (making simple minded sheep out of people as they do not have to reason things out for themselves) will eventually cause a drop in the average intelligence.
I agree that we used more of our brains in earlier times when we were forced to be more self reliant. Now the answer to everything is at the tip of your fingers. And so much of the information we take for granted as being fact, is not. We are not a society of thinkers anymore, we are a society of onlookers of other peoples ideas and we don’t take the time to sort them out for ourselves
Technology is really a great tool if used properly. When used in excess, it can be hazardous to one’s body and mind. I think too much watching of sexual or violent content has made our generation used to these images. It can be a bad thing because it makes them seem more normal to us. When we see them as normal, either we don’t even have to act to help others in such situations because we are de-sensationalized or we act because we have seen those images consequences. It all comes down to whether we have had too much of these images in our lives. Again, too much or everything is bad.
Imagine what we could uncover if we unlock the full potential of our eyesight. I saw an article saying that British scientists had made the blackest material ever. So black our eyes cannot comprehend it…
Actually I think that the eyesight doesn’t has any potential, it cannot see any more than what it does right now. The same with mind or reason. But we can develop other tools that allow us to see more than our limited senses and mind.
I think this article appeals to the age old dilemma of technology versus no-technology, would we better without it. And the answer to that is not so simple. Because technology has a wide array of uses. Yes one could choose to watch and play violent games all day long, however, it has been shown via scientific studies, that those who engage in these activities do not experience a heightened sense of “I want to emulate” this particular action. They understand it as separate from reality. Yet, at the same time, there are studies that have shown that if a person engages in prolonged screen time over a long-period of time, they become prone to developing depression or other mental ailments as well as physical ailments if they do not exercise . So the question still remains… Does content in media affect our perceptions more so than prolonged screen time? How do we account for these numerous variables in the lab?
The way our environment contributes to the way that our brains evolve and adapt is a complicated thing. Our brains are all different in the way that we even LET the environment effect us. We can completely shut ourselves off and let our thoughts develop, or we can encompass ourselves in society and evolve socially.
While the images we see today we would not have seen in years past appear not to effect us, it will inevitably still effect our subconscious. Our unconscious brain saves everything, think of it as the gross equivalent of a sponge. All sexual, violent and otherwise disturbing images are stored into this vast sea of knowledge, and will become latent parts of our personality.
For example, there are many theories suggesting that children who find S&M porn magazines later become sexual sadists. If someone watches a scary movie, let’s use myself as an example, like Jaws, will later become terrified of sharks even though they do not remember what the movie was really about.
So no matter how little one thinks this assault of images effects us, it does. Though whether or not this is for the better, I don’t think we can say just yet.
Our bodies and minds are over engineered. When the first car came out they said that there would be only 100 people in the world that could drive one. It was seen as something so complex that most people wouldn’t have the mental capacity to do it. Today we have roads full of cars and drivers. We are very adaptive and if something seems to get in our way we find a way to get around it.
I think new technology will always be way ahead of human capacity. In a time when a human brain has evolved and adjusted to the environment a new discovery will come out that is more advanced. Humans aim to create things that is always a step up to the old ones.
I can’t say I agree with you on this Trixen! New technology is not ahead of human capacity because we are the ones producing that technology! Sure, our sense and brain might need some time to adjust and health side effects might take decades to be detected, but one of our main capacities as humans is to adapt and adjust.
I love the way this author thinks. It’s kind of frightening all of the changes that have come upon us as a society these days. Does being exposed to more and more instances of violence make us jaded to the actual act? Or do many of us try to avoid watching violence as much as possible? I for one, have a difficult time watching genuine violence but in a movie or on television, where I know it’s not real, I’m scarcely bothered at all. In a way, that makes me jaded as well, because I know that a person who lived a couple hundred years ago would be absolutely astonished and aghast at the images on the screen. Something very real to think about.
There are definitely some changes as a result, for example, short sight and glasses have been linked to longer hours performing close up work in schools rather than outdoors.
The problem is that several thousand years ago, even up to modern day, people were more exposed to violence in real life than we see on screen. Examples include human sacrifice in cultures from the Incas to the Druids and, if the bog people are anything to go by, back to paleolithic times. judicial executions (up until 1868 Britain still performed all executions in front of public crowds weekly. They were considered entertainment), and untreated medical horrors, easily corrected nowadays, but causing deformity, pain, and early death. Early humans hunted for food, and therefore were acquainted with death, and fought off predators so were no stranger to violence. In other parts of the world, these things still take place. What is new is seeing it only on screen, detached from the events.
And yet when something happens in real life, it tends to be the people who have only seen violence on screen who freeze, while the ones already exposed to it tend to keep going. Is it possible that seeing the these images on screen in the role of a passive observer is training people now that the response to violence is to keep still and watch? Whipping out phones to film a fight for youtube doesn’t just let someone get clicks, it also puts the violence where they are used to seeing it – on screen – and introduces an element of detachment and a buffer because what they are watching on screen can’t hurt them.
Interesting article, there certainly is a huge contrast between what our brains had to deal with in the past compared to modern day. It just goes to show how well our neural systems can adapt to systems completely foreign to what we were geneticaly geared to face. There has been a lot of confict between the two too, as there’s a lot more anxiety issues with humans these days compared to past and simpler lifestyles.
I wonder how further the human brain adjustibility and flexibility can overthrow genetic predispositions.
Keeping it simple, these and other technological changes are the reason why we think so differently than we used to decades ago. New technologies presented our brain things the brain has never had to deal with before and the full consequences of that are still to be determined. It’s a luxury sure, but at what cost?
I’m not that sure if I get your point right, so I’m sorry if I didn’t.
I think that it’s all part of the evolution, maybe we aren’t prepared to be exposed to all of this material that we are able to nowadays, but somehow we got adapted to it, and I think that adaptation is one of the qualities that really makes us humans. I have to admit that some people are not prepared or even react on the best way when it comes to absorb all the information but it’s an actual minority.
I also think that we are not prepared yet to experience all the new things that we are going to see, but change is inevitable and most of the times, it’s for the best.
The effect of modern civilization has an impact on our behavior. Since we don’t have to worry about dangerous animals or rival tribes hunting us down, we become anxious over things that seem trivial in comparison. For example, the growing prevalence of social anxiety, general anxiety disorders, stress over menial tasks, etc is thought to derive from our ancestors’ instincts.
I feel like we still have the identical brains of homo sapiens. The gruesome murders we see, the death, the pain gives us fear which keeps us alive. These fears were already present since the homo sapiens lived not in form of television but in form actual danger from their surroundings. I’ve read recently that our brains have not grown significantly since then but the fast of technology might change just that.