One of the reasons I read so many books about modern developments in our understanding of biology and evolution is that there appear to be so many parallels between these insights and my own perception of the changes brought about by the rapid development of the Web and our use of it.
I have just finished listening to a wonderful book, Sex Time and Power by Leonard Shlain, and I’m not sure if the phrase “I couldn’t put it down” applies to audio books but that is what it felt like. The book deals with the impact of woman’s biology on man’s sense of self and understanding of the universe and closes with a wonderful comparison between man and a caterpillar.
Shlain writes of the caterpillar’s voracious, and destructive appetite as it eats up and destroys everything in its path. It then of course turns into a beautiful butterfly, a totally different creature, and one of the few insects that man finds beautiful. He then compares man’s apparently unstoppable destructiveness towards the planet with the actions of the caterpillar and suggests that mankind as a species is about to go through a similar metamorphosis.
He talks of the accelerating change that we are all increasingly aware of – the fact that the single sided flint axe lasted unmodified for millions of years, the double sided flint axe lasted hundreds of thousands years and yet the rate of change of technologies available to us has increased so rapidly in recent years that we have to keep changing the scale of the graph to represent it. He argues that you can’t have such a rapid and increasing rate of change without a radically destabilising effect and predicts that we are on a path to a fundamental transformation of our species.
And people thought I was radical suggesting a modest change in our organisations and institutions!