Forget Web 3.0 – we’re all going to turn into butterflies!

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!

4 thoughts on “Forget Web 3.0 – we’re all going to turn into butterflies!”

  1. lol, there are worse things than butterflies. Do you not think the wheels will come of or events like the current economic slow down will prevent change increasing beyond a certain level? Change requires people to keep up with it to gain a critical mass for the change to be adopted eventually across the board, unless it brings a substantially greater value to the user for disruption in causes – I’m sure a scientist has worked out some co-efficient for that, in between working out that jelly makes you live longer and who would win in a fight, Skeletor or He-Man.

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  2. I would agree with you if we are talking about the short-term, relatively minor changes possible in a lifetime. However if you look at the impact our increasing control over our environment is having on our psychology, our physiology, and things like the relationship between the sexes then I am not so sure. This has been building up over the last few hundred years it is hard to imagine a reversal or even a slowing down.

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  3. I for one think Euan that we constantly mistake our evolution in technology with our evolution as a specie.We give ourselves credit for advances in technology, but we can’t figure out how to co-exist with each other, other species and this planet. Why are we in such a hurry to change and transform technology but not our way of thinking?Great piece!

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  4. I probably paraphrased Shlein too much. His point is that the impact of technological advance eventually becomes biological as we adapt to our changing circumstances. He is saying that as we "free" ourselves from what appeared to be biological inevitabilities through advanced technologies we will eventually engender evolutionary change. Standing up caused changes in our physiology that made childbirth harder, which made women more wary of it, which made menstrual cycles more significant, which made mankind aware of time, which led to foresight, which led to planning, which led to tools …..

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