Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Small Step for the Sluggish

Two of the greatest undiscoveries of the 20th century? Using your body to do stuff, and making sure that your body reacts to the things you see: Motor Skills Development and Hand Eye Coordination.

Imagine if they were never exposed. We’d be wobbling uselessly like sea cucumbers. Teachers would throw their chalk in frustration at us, as we jabbed our crayons into our eyeballs. But we have learned those things. Because we’re human. For most of us, it’s a fairly predictable learning curve. We are born helpless, and we learn to walk and use our hands.

Sure, sometimes parents worry when their baby is just doing some bouncing across the floor on his padded behind instead of lurching towards exposed electrical outlets like other kids, but mostly they pick it up on their own. Fortunately, times have changed. In the last few decades, we’ve gone from being human beings who wrestle with getting our hands to follow through with doing the things we want them to, based on what we see, to being super-human. Now we can flip virtual cards, bash away at keyboards, and refresh web pages with ease.

It’s rare these days for an adult not to be able to grasp the intricacies of a new playstation game or the settings on the plasma TV. We’ve progressed. I reckon our ability to reconcile hand-eye coordination is directly proportionate to our developing carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive motion disorder. Our fingers can fly as fast as our eyes tell them to, faster than our brains seem to register, but our joints, tendons and nerve-endings appear to be lagging in the evolutionary race. Why do we keep on attempting to get our hands and eyes to work faster together, when clearly half of what we are doing at speed is damaging to our bodies, and as pointless as a barbecue made of wax?

Our current developmental challenge should be stopping evolution. Whether you are an evolutionist or you believe that Darwin should have been tied down and fed to vampire finches, it’s clear that we, as humans, are in danger of becoming creatures with huge brains and disproportionately large thumbs. Our eyes will develop little screens of their own, so that we can stare without blinking into the square light of our labours, and our backsides will need to be padded much like the baby who has not yet learned to walk.

Are we devolving? Will we need to be suckled through tubes as we fumble with our touch-screens? Will we end up like grotesque larvae, mashing ctrl alt del and enter keys with our paddle-thumbs? Probably. We’ll never again have to experience ignorance or defeat. We’ll be a master race of technical geniuses, eyeballs the size of dinnerplates, and atrophied skink-like lower limbs.

How about this as an antidote: To help prevent the inevitable descent of future generations into a state of larval helpessness, go for a walk. Look away from that screen. Run away as fast as you can from the ergonomically designed office chair you live on, and help to set us free. Once you’ve broken the chains that bind you to your technological slave masters, you can look at your hands, will them to rise, and wave goodbye to the silicon cave in which is contained the undoing of humanity. One small step for a man…

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