Once upon a time, humans were just a regular mammally apey species, doing regular mammal ape stuff.
Today we are a big crazy species that has drastically impacted our natural environment in a quite short time.
So what happened?
A few things, probably. But here’s one: our brains did a thing!
Humans basically became able to think about stuff that doesn’t really physically exist.
Concepts are super useful because they let us extract abstract qualities from things that do physically exist and mentally mix those abstract qualities up to create new things and change how we live (bit more on that here).
Basically, being able to purposefully use concepts means innovation!
And each time we innovate a thing, that creates new concepts to add to the knowledge pool, which is officially called “the noosphere”.
The noosphere is the concept to describe the collection of ALL THE CONCEPTS EVER. It’s kind of like the Internet of brains, where the concepts are variously stored/accessed through lots of individual brains, and the flow of concepts happens through communication.
So every concept is like a building block that can be used to build more complex concepts. And just like one fire doesn’t get smaller when it lights another fire, so also one complex concept (like ‘table’) doesn’t ‘use up’ the smaller concepts that it’s made up of (like ‘legs’ and ‘flat’ and ‘surface’). Those original concepts still exist to be used for other things, along with the new complex concept.
And the concept pool grows exponentially, especially as we innovate new ways to organise better in big groups (a whole post on that here) which enables us to share ideas/concepts better which enables us to innovate better.
Which means exponentially more concepts!
So once we started building our noosphere, the cycle for crazy human growth and impact was set in motion:
The only troublesome thing about human-style innovation is that every innovation is the product of an incomplete set of knowledge about a topic and a problem.
This means sometimes our innovated solutions make new problems even bigger than the ones we were trying to solve in the first place. Oops.
Luckily, until now, we’ve managed to meet innovation-made problems with new and improved innovation.
But will we be able to keep doing that indefinitely, or is there a chance we’ve innovated some big problems that are beyond our innovation skills?
Thanks for reading, see you next week!