Human nature is a moving target

I just caught up with a fascinating discussion on ABC Radio’s Future Tense on what artificial intelligence showdowns like the Turing Test tell us about the evolution of human nature.

It sounds like a bit of clichéd subject but the interview with author Brian Christian is full of novel, thoughtful insights into how human nature is evolving in response to technological innovations.

This is one of many fascinating bits, about the effect of mobile phone technology on the dynamics of conversation.

One of the comments that we’ve heard several times on our program in the past is that people are now starting to interact with each other like computers. That computers aren’t just learning from us, we’re learning from computers…

…I would also say that the shift in telephone technology from landlines to cellphones has had a kind of unforeseen trade-off, which is that we’re now much more accessible geographically, but the cost is that the lag on the connection is six times greater. So it’s about half of a second instead of a little bit less than a tenth of a second.

And it may not seem like much, but in fact it is enough to disrupt a lot of the subtle dynamics of timing and pauses, and yielding to other people, and it’s turning communication much more into a kind of peer data exchange, you know, pure content.


Link to ABC Future Tense on technology and human nature.

3 thoughts on “Human nature is a moving target”

  1. I just experienced this lag yesterday. It seems to me that people are more alert to each other on the phone, being more experienced with dropped calls and the increased lag. I hear more times when both of us say,”Go ahead”.

  2. Shorter, more efficient communications on the phone are to be welcomed. Long talks around the fire in real time, with all the micro inflections of emotion and body language and genuine heart to heart communication, to be welcomed too.

  3. If you don’t teach machines and horses to do what you want in their way they’ll teach you to do what they want in your way.
    — Ursula K. LeGuin

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