Posts Tagged ‘Andy Clark’


October 23, 2010

Nick Christakis and James Fowler write in Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives [amazon] that it’s our real social networks– the people we regularly interact with in the flesh, face-to-face, and not our Facebook friends et al– that really influence us.

Minor case in point: a celebrity tweeter with a million followers hawked their book on Twitter, and sales didn’t budge. So, if you’re reading this, their thesis seems to be that you probably won’t  be influenced to read it either. But I am.

Dan Gilbert (Stumbling on Happiness) says “we think we are individuals who control our own fates, but we’re merely cells in the nervous system of a much greater beast.”

Cells, neurons… or as Andy Clark says in his edge essay “Celebratory Self-re-engineering,” we’re “nodes,”

just starting to know ourselves: not as firmly bounded biological organisms but as delightfully reconfigurable nodes in a flux of information, communcation, and action. As we learn to celebrate our own potential, we will embrace ever-more-dramatic variations in bodily form and in our effective cognitive profiles. The humans of the next century will be vastly more heterogeneous, more varied along physical and cognitive dimensions, than those of the past as we deliberately engineer a new Cambrian explosion of body and mind.

OK, but if Christakis and Fowler are right we’re not “Singy‘s” nodes but our own, collectively conceived as a social organism whose parts are on speaking (not just texting and tweeting and status-updating) terms. That’s old hat, a standard theme in western thought going all the way back to the ancient Greeks and their social network. Its hub was the vibrant public square.

I’m still not sure how delightful it’s going to be, to live in the nervous system and the shadow of the new electronically-mediated  “beast.” Can we tame it?

And again the question: what do we mean, “we”?