As a populace? None.
Not because I think it wouldn’t be a shame, but because I don’t think we’ll lose many. Not until the singularity at least, and after then it becomes unpredictable, that’s kind of the point.
In theory, we should actually be increasing the number of obscure skills available each individual, because the interconnectedness of people is increasing. The internet means that if you really need to learn how to crochet a yeti, you can probably find a community (however small) of people who are also into hand woven cryptozoology.
It’s even kind of hard to find an example that is truly ridiculous.
Now there’s lots of talk of people’s brains shrinking, particularly in terms of attention span, as we become reliant on google and wikipedia to answer all of our questions. We use these cybernetic crutches to expand our brain to the limits of knowledge available through the network.
It’s impossible for me to finish that paragraph without typing out something positive.
EXPANDING OUR BRAIN TO THE LIMITS OF KNOWLEDGE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE NETWORK.
That’s a lot of knowledge. The network is becoming bigger. Our brains are getting bigger.
I think as long as people remember to socialise offline as well as on. And people remember to stick their feet out the window and swim in the sea every now and then, we don’t have much to worry about.
That’s a lie. We’ve got a billion things to worry about. But they are things we can do things about.
Socialising, and driving the community around you. That’s the key. You can have as many niche interests, and take part in as many online communities as suits. As long as you don’t lose track of where you live, and the impact you have there.
One problem with the internet is that you can easily limit your contact to like-minded people. While this means you can reinforce beliefs (which can be a positive or negative thing, depending on the beliefs) it also means you make less impact on other people as you’re preaching to the choir.
That’s not bad in and of itself, unless you stop interacting with people outside the choir.
I say this because I think there is a skill that is important to emphaise over any other. Politically speaking, it’s vital, and it’s how we can change the world.
It’s teaching by example. It’s living a life that’s more like you want the world to be. It’s engaging with the people you see in every day life in an honest and open way. It’s sticking firmly to who you are and allowing yourself to be questioned. Thinking hard and thinking out loud.
If we lost that, we’d be losing something. But I don’t think that’ll happen until we’re all uploaded to the net, or downloaded into robots.
The self focussed nature of the network even has it’s upside. By opening up online, you make it easier to do so in person.
So stop worrying and live.
Illustration by Adam.