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Sunday, 3 April 2016

Human firmware

My 2009 Terratec Noxon internet radio has a persistent problem in establishing an effective internet connection, whether wired or with wifi. A firmware upgrade might do miracles but I haven't been able to perform this trick even when the internet connection was still working. Essentially, this device has become economically useless although it still operates from a technical perspective.

The firmware in electronic devices has a human equivalent in evolutionary psychology which is often referred to as the Savanna Principle (Kanazawa, 2004b), or the evolutionary legacy hypothesis (Burnham & Johnson, 2005), or the mismatch hypothesis (Hagen & Hammerstein, 2006).

This fundamental principle (or hypothesis) is that the human brain (just like any other organ of any other species) is designed for and adapted to the conditions of the ancestral environment, not necessarily the current environment, and is therefore predisposed to perceive and respond to the current environment as if it were the ancestral environment. this observation suggests that the human brain may have difficulty comprehending and dealing with entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment, roughly the African savanna during the Pleistocene Epoch (Wiley).

The "known knowns" and "known unknowns" domains are based upon education (knowledge and facts), social environment and upbringing (beliefs and opinions).

The human firmware is located in the domains of the "unknown knowns" (intuition and feelings) and the "unknown unknowns" (imagination and fantasy). Our human firmware took some 7 million years to establish but the last 250 years show a huge change compared to the previous 6,999,750 years.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution (1760-1820/1840), societies did not experience large rural-urban migration flows primarily due to the inability of cities to support large populations. Lack of large employment industries, high urban mortality, and low food supplies all served as checks keeping pre-industrial cities much smaller than their modern counterparts (excerpt from my 14 March 2016 blog). Essentially, human life could then still be compared to the ancient life of hunter/gatherers.

The rapid changes of the Technological Revolution (1800-2100) and global urbanisation may create serious challenges to the human firmware. An interesting example of this challenge is the 2016 study "How intelligence, population density, and friendship affect modern happiness" which caught quite some media attention (eg, DailyMail, HuffingtonPostWP) due to its conclusion.

"As predicted by the theory, population density is negatively, and frequency of socialization with friends is positively, associated with life satisfaction. More importantly, the main associations of life satisfaction with population density and socialization with friends significantly interact with intelligence, and, in the latter case, the main association is reversed among the extremely intelligent. More intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends". (BPS/Wiley)

It's hard for me not feeling a Catch-22 in that conclusion.

London Grammar - Strong (2013) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Excuse me for a while
While I'm wide-eyed
And I'm so damn caught in the middle

Yeah, I might seem so strong
Yeah, I might speak so long
I've never been so wrong


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