Study: Talking About Tech Makes Us Smarter (and Has for 80,000 Years)

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I’ve often wondered if talking about tech actually makes us smarter.

On the internet, at least, a plethora of technology blogs and websites provide platforms for interesting dialectics to take place (maybe even this one). For example, the other day I was reading about an exchange taking place over the merits of Twitter between current New York Times’ Executive Editor Bill Keller and technology sociologist Zeyneck Tufekci which—of course—took place primarily via Twitter, and probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

If you’re interested in social media at all, try going down the rabbit hole with this one. The whole discussion is utterly fascinating.

Talking tech is in and of itself an involved process, and one that actively requires us to stimulate different layers of cognitive function like logic and reason (even troll-y PC vs. Mac arguments count, though the tone often devolves into accusatory fanboyism… but that’s for another day).

For the most part, though, I think that considering and discussing technology can be incredibly rewarding—in more ways than one, tech defines culture, which in turn helps define the new technologies that impact us most.

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It’s a school of thought that seems to be supported by this study from archaeologists at Lund University, which takes a look at how major leaps in technology helped catalyze the evolution of the human mind.

The evidence, which will be presented more fully in the next issue of the Journal of Human Evolution, posits that something as seemingly insignificant as a spearhead required humankind to discuss mechanics in a way that helped our development blossom.

According to the study, homo-sapiens have been around for at least 200,000 years, dating back to small nomadic tribes across Africa. Despite more or less appearing to be the humans we are today, their capacity for deep thinking was still lacking. It wasn’t until the advent of tools like the spear about 80,000 years ago that our minds were able to take the needed steps necessary towards our current cognitive and sociological state.

But why? The study suggests that crafting something like a spear requires observation, planning and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to explain how and why something works.

“When the technology was passed from one generation to the next, from adults to children, it became part of a cultural learning process which created a socially more advanced society than before,” says Anders Högberg, PhD, who worked on the study. “This affected the development of the human brain and cognitive ability.”

In fact, the social learning involved with proliferating a new technology like the spearhead paved the way for the human mind to grasp deeper abstractions like symbolism, which, of course, lets us assign meaning and value to things like decorated objects. Or Apple products.

So does talking about technology actually make us smarter? It may or may not, but whatever the case, it certainly warrants some discussion.

(via Science Daily)

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