Externalization of human intelligence affects the brain.

Externalization of human intelligence is old, natural and beneficial for humankind.

Technology and democracy accelerate this externalization.

Externalization of intelligence affects the human brain of new generations, it may degenerate.

What is externalization?

Wikipedia has an article on Externalization. Externalization means to put something outside of its original borders, especially to put a human function outside of the human body (w).

There is a hypothesis that, whenever knowledge is applied, part of it gets externalized in the result (boi).

What is externalization of human intelligence?

Let's illustrate "externalization of human intelligence" with the example of business processes. A business process is a set of activities that produce a specific product. It is often visualized with a flowchart as a sequence of activities with interleaving decision points (w)

Businesses insist on having their processes described in detail to be able to have a predicable result independent from who execute the procedures. It also allows to change details, letting the procedure evolve for optimization towards specific goals. Effects of changes in the procedures can be measured to optimize some parameters such as cost/revenue.

It is interesting to remark that:

  • Persons executing the procedures do not need insight in the process itself.
  • Such persons can propose small changes in the procedure with a limited scope.
  • Small changes in the procedure can be evaluated by someone which does not have insight in the procedure as well. That allows slow evolution of the procedures and adaptations to changing circumstances.
  • The procedure to improve procedures is a business procedure by itself.
  • Working with such prescribed procedure is often more efficient than working without such procedures.
  • Executing such prescribed procedure is intellectually poorer than working without such procedures.

This allows a business to evolve and flourish, even when not one person in the company has a broad view on what they are doing.

Here are a few more examples which may help to observe the omnipresence of externalization of human intelligence.

  • Legal formalism aims to separate the making of the law from the application of the law (as required by democracy). The formal description of the rules of law are an externalization of the combined judgment of the law-makers and the society as a whole. It is an the externalization of the mental process of judging in a specific context.
  • Grammatical rules are the externalization of typical brain processes which are externalized to allow non-native speakers to mimic the brain processes of a native speaker of the language.
  • Taking notes is an externalization of the human memory (w)
  • Quality management systems are the externalization of the human knowledge of good workmanship.
  • Procedures for assigning government contracts are highly formalized to assure objectivity and reduce corruption. These procedures are the externalization of human decision processes to choose the contractor in best interest of society.
  • Every course textbook or tutorial is the externalization of the knowledge to be transferred in the course.

Is externalization of intelligence beneficial for humankind?

Textbooks and course material for education are products of externalization of intelligence. They are generally considered as a tremendous benefit for humankind.

Science and technology as we know it cannot exist without such externalization. Without it everything would depend on a few clever persons, but without written notes, without externalization of what others have done before, progress would be very limited.

The backside is:
Due to the externalization, all intellectual work performed by human is reduced to small steps imposed by the externalized procedures. Intellectual work has become much simpler, easier and more cookbook-style. This has been affecting education in math and sciences for decades now. Most people limit their intellectual work to googling and execute the obtained intellectual recipe. It gives faster results, but is wicked for the brain.

The chance of survival of a humankind with externalization of intelligence is certainly larger then without, unless technology breaks down by a disaster before it can secure itself by integration in nanotechnology and space.

Therefore, externalization of intelligence is probably beneficial for humankind.

How does technology accelerates this externalization?

There have been many waves of acceleration of externalization of intelligence caused by technological progress.

  • The invention of writing has been an early boost in the externalization of human intelligence. Externalization of memory at first, later also externalization of procedures, laws, contracts and transfer of scientific knowledge such as medical textbooks (1600 BC).
  • The scientific method (320 BC) demands the externalization of the scientific knowledge in order to be reviewed and refined by different scientists. The method itself is also described and therefore externalized.
  • Printing on paper (AD 868) has been another wave of acceleration. Books could be mass-produced, causing a faster spreading of externalized knowledge.
  • The industrial revolution (1760 - 1840) caused the need for detailed externalization of production procedures to be executed by labor without insight in the processes themselves. Remark that at this stage, a small part of the externalized intelligence (logic) was executed by the machines, for example if a wire breaks, stop the loom, or the opening and closing of valves of a steam engine. These are insights of human intelligence realized mechanically outside the brain, repeating the process forever.
  • Computers caused another wave of externalization of mental processes. From here on, an increasingly large portion of the externalized intelligence was intended to be executed by computers rather than by human workers.
  • Internet, World-Wide-Web and search engines made externalized knowledge abundantly available for human and machine.

Why does democracy requires this externalization?

Democracy demands that every decision affecting the community is extensively motivated in writing and follows specific procedures.

All important decisions must be made by strict procedures. These procedures are the externalization of the human decision making process. Once these procedures are well-formulated, the objective execution of these procedures should not depend on whoever executes them (human or machine).

How is the human brain affected by this?

The major part of the brain, the part of the brain which is common to all Primates, is not affected by all this.

The younger part of human intelligence, formed by education, is certainly affected by this. Almost everything what is thought is based on externalized human knowledge. This education-package is slowly adapted to the needs of society.

Society, including companies and organizations has become one big information processing engine, getting its information from Internet and putting its results back to the Internet.

It requires two types of work to fuel this engine:

  • Executing well-described mechanical procedures.
  • Executing well-described mental procedures.
The main effect on human intelligence (the brain) is the fact that these tasks require relative low intelligence. For the society, that is a benefit, because a larger portion of society can contribute to these tasks. Unfortunately, many of these tasks are brain-killing.

The high demand for these recipe-executing-tasks affects education, and education affects the mental structure over a few generations.

Education, and especially the evaluation of education, is also a well-described-procedure. The effect of every education package on the success of the individual in society is measured. Packages resulting in happy society members who enhance society in a constructive way are promoted.

Everything goes automatically, with or without computers.

The role of Artificial Intelligence.

Obviously, the increasingly simple, increasingly explicit intellectual tasks required to execute procedures of externalized human intelligence will be gradually automated in software.

Automated intelligent procedures are usually called Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, it is clear that the intelligence is not artificial, but human.

Externalized human intelligence, for example the collection of all scientific works ever written, are part of humankind. Externalized recipes to solve problems, negotiate in conflicts, etc. are also part of humankind. When parts of these externalized procedures are automated, they remain part of humankind, therefore AI is also part of humankind.

Artificial Intelligence will of cause play an important role in the changes described here, but they are not the cause, but the logic continuation of a very old sequence of changes.

The effect of a detailed procedure which is followed by a human being is not fundamentally different from the same procedure executed by a computer. After all the procedures, the laws, the rules, are designed to be objective.

There is however a point where the externalized human intelligence augments itself. This point lies in the past, because the progress made by science and technology today are the result of humans executing the recipes of externalized intelligence. They read books like "how to manage a scientific research project" and do whatever describe there, then switch to the guide "how to publish results of scientific research" and do what is described there. The intelligence lies mainly in these howto guides. The transition was gradual, probably around 1980.

Soon artificial intelligence systems will also decide what to do next in research, and how to use the resources, including human resources for this research. Most people fear that transition, that acceleration. It will probably be just as invisible as the previous accelerations in externalization of human intelligence.

Remark that the functions performed by human beings today become already intellectually very poor. For example, the intelligent car will stop at a petrol station, wake you up and ask you to politely to fill-up its fuel tank and ask you to pay for it as well.

Is it true?

It is a scientific hypothesis, based on a collection of facts and logic reasoning. The reader is urged to review the facts and reasoning and provide rational feedback if some weak points are found. Experiments can be organized to measure certain parts of the hypothesis. Logic errors can be brought forward, requiring to adapt some parts.

Options for the future.

The recent dramatic increase in externalization of human intelligence is likely to affect society in a profound way. These changes are expected to accelerate faster and faster in the near future.

What will happen with the homo-sapiens?

Many options are open. It can be expected that several of these options will be explored simultaneously.

  • One part of humankind will enjoy the freedom of labor and the support of intelligent factories and services. This part will slowly degenerate and rejoin the rest of the family of Primates. They can finally enjoy sports forever, while union members can happily go on strike forever.
  • Another part of humankind will reject all technology and go back in time hunting and farming.
  • Another part of humankind will cooperate with the new form and perform labor in return for perfect education, accommodation and help with a steady development of the mental capacities of the biological human. This is likely to branch-off into various degrees of genetic manipulation and nanotechnological implants.

Is that beneficial for humankind?

It probably is, since it greatly increases the chance of survival of its essence, its knowledge, including the knowledge of biology and replication at molecular scale inherited from life-on-earth. Especially when the knowledge proliferates in space and is applied in massive nanotechnological experiments, all keeping in touch with each other and exchanging knowledge.

Remark that this is humankind, not an alien race that comes from nowhere.

Further reading.