In the last two years the world has been turned on its head. In some ways it feels as if we have given into a kind of madness, at least I feel this as read my newsfeed often in disbelief.
There are pressures everywhere - our supply chains are broken, the cost of living and inflation is increasing rapidly, experiences of lockdowns, covid, monkeypox, misinformation, protests and planet-killing carbon - how can all of this not affect us?
Nikolai Kardashev was a Russian born astrophysicist, scientific pioneer and one of the founders of SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence). He died in 2019 at the age of 87, what a loss!
One of his legacies is the what is known as the Kardashev scale, which he first proposed in 1964 and we still use today. The Kardashev scale is used to determine the impact of technological advancements based on the energy requirements of theoretical alien civilisations.
The scale has been modified by many of the world’s leading physicists and is currently the de facto standard for technology shift and energy requirements globally – to help ask the question – how much does this technology shift us?
Why is this relevant? We are “a type zero society” and we are in the process of undergoing a rapid transformation to a type one civilisation (if we survive the transition).
Our technologies have advanced further than our society - we have an advanced global communications system that is now a functioning type 1 civilisation system.
Just like on Star Trek and the view screen on The Enterprise we are able to talk directly to, and with people all over the planet, in real time.
The problem is, where is our biology in all of this? Did the 20 million years of evolution since we left the trees to traverse the savannas prepare us for this technological revolution?
For me, one of the upsides of having a type 1 communication system is that we are capable of reading scientific research as soon as it is published. Medically we can consult physicians and specialists thousands of kilometres away in real time.
We can also stay in contact with friends and loved ones at the push of a button. We learn of news in real time from all corners of the earth – look how easily we can tap into what is happening in the Ukraine – compare this with the morse code and telegrams of the 19th and 20th centuries. The fax machine and dial up modem of 20 years ago and the size of this shift is crystallised.
The advanced technology which underpins global communications has pushed the human race forward towards a Type 1 civilisation.
Unfortunately, there is a dark underbelly to this communication system. The manifesto of the Christchurch terrorist is one such example. A dark day which shattered our innocence as a nation, and forever changed the face of New Zealand. It is available online making its rounds amongst those filled with hatred and spurs copycats globally.
Our communication system also allows the easy manipulation of misinformation, allowing it to disseminate uncontrolled into society, often affecting our vulnerable people the most.
We now have QAnon and the ‘cabal of Satan worshipping baby-eating paedophiles’.
Perhaps the most frightening element, is that this Type one communication system allows the disaffected and often dangerous people on the fringe to find each other, spur each other on and collaborate.
How does all of this – this Type one transformation, the good the bad and the ugly, affect us biologically?
This is where things get interesting – the evolution of the human species, actually happens relatively slowly compared with the pace of technological advancement as measured by the Kardashev scale. Parts of our brains remain relatively primitive and not able to process and rationalise the vast information thrown at us.
In order to survive as a species, we will need to evolve to catch up with the technology and what we are doing to the planet – but that’s unlikely to happen in our lifetimes. The answer - we need to do more to protect ourselves from the information avalanche and nurture our own mental health to enjoy the time we do have on this earth.
There are simple things we can do – detach from our phones early in the evening - there is evidence that having our phones in our beds affects our sleep at a biological level, (see our blog about our circadian rhythms and promoting better sleep here).
Real, in-person connection is vital - spending good quality time with family, pets, friends and people that make us feel safe. If these people are not easy to find for you, them seek them out through societies and clubs - the best societies will always make you feel welcome. If you suffer from chronic illness - find groups and friends that understand this and can ride along with you during the highs and the lows.
We need this connection and interaction to help us become centred and value what really matters in life - as I was writing this my cat came in for a cuddle.
We need to take time for ourselves away from our screens to decompress for our own mental well-being. It is more important than we think and might just be the answer for this world gone mad.