| Clark would thus agree that the Big Story of historical time is the co-evolution of the person and media as extensions. However, whereas I view this process as the piggy-backing of cultural evolution on biological evolution and thus we do not differ essentially from our hunter-gatherer ancestors, Clark suggests that we are different from them. During the long period of infant dependency, our prefrontal cortex is moulded by the media available to us. Our minds are not hunter-gatherer minds in new technological clothing, but are primed to merge with whatever media they find and whatever media they themselves create. Media do not simply extend minds but they change minds. We learn to read and then we read to learn. We learn to read from the outside in but, when we read to learn, the skill of reading has become part of the inside-out system into which subsequent information is assimilated.|
Over historical time, our species has extended the nervous system by storing and transmitting information outside the body, as argued above. This has enabled us to deal with the dramatic shifts from hunter-gatherer to agricultural to industrial and now information society. With each extension, we gained something and we lost something. What is lost is the direct face-to-face communication with other people. Many of our social problems may be due to the loss of social skills acquired over hundreds of thousands of years.4 In the re-opened Academy, we need not, of course, wear togas, be Greek, or live in Athens. However, we need to emphasise the face-to-face interaction within a small community of scholars. What would be "new" is the world-wide interlinking of those small, local communities through the internet.
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4 We have also lost direct contact with the earth. Very few animals died during the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean. They seemed to have somehow sensed impending danger and had moved inland to higher ground. Hunter-gatherer tribes also survived with few casualties. We had depended too heavily on technology which failed miserably as a warning system. Ever since we stood up on our hind legs, we have got out of touch with the earth. We have become so "uppity" that we failed to recognise that the other animals could have served as an early-warning device.