How do we understand the impact of computer technology on society?
How can we understand the changes currently taking place in society? Two evolutionary biologists, John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary, identified eight major evolutionary transitions in the way information is stored and transmitted from one generation to the next since life on Earth began, 4 billion years ago. From the common features of these transitions, the last of which was the evolution of human society and language, they argue that two human inventions rank as major transitions too. Writing, invented five thousand years ago, brought about large-scale human societies, and computer technology is driving the current transition and the changes that it is bringing are every bit as transformative as the previous ones. Within this evolutionary framework - research in the social sciences can help us understand the impact that computer technology is having on cooperation in society. But more than just understanding the present, this approach can also point to interventions we can make to increase human agency in the digital age.
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- Dr Kit Opie