HUMINT: Internet Savant

HUMINT: What would ancient philosophers think if they had access to the internet? Imagine Aristotle surfing the web… what would he Google? Thinking about philosophers and the Internet creates an opportunity to explore the philosophical origins of the Internet. Interestingly, the imagery of ancient philosophers surfing the WWW is particularly helpful. It will help us forecast the emergence of a group of hyper-aware individual internet users we should expect to enter adulthood in the next decade or so. Internet Savants, if I may coin a phrase, will eventually emerge as the intellectual progeny of Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, Locke and Hume among others... But how do we know Internet Savants are on the way? We’ll have to travel through time and space to develop a plausible forecast…

The storm of Internet Savants I’m forecasting began forming in the 17th Century. It has been developing for centuries, if not longer. The British empiricists
John Locke and later David Hume articulated the role of mankind on earth as that of a witness. In their philosophy, we (humankind) are observers of nature, which we are ourselves a part. The Internet is a product of humankind, a kind of child that could not have been conceived without prudent observation… It is their ideas that suggested we embrace our sensorial experiences in concert with our spiritual senses. Not surprisingly, David Hume was an historian before he turned to philosophy. Both men boldly allowed themselves to deconstruct the world they observed. They did so with the intent of formulating the most accurate and honest philosophy they could imagine. Hume was inspired by Locke, and I am humbly inspired by both.

Thomas Jefferson, in cooperation with Benjamin Franklin composed the Declaration of Independence, which was ratified by the Continental Congress Jully 4th 1776. The Declaration of Independence was inspired in large part by the philosophy of John Locke. The Second Treatise of Government, written by John Locke but submitted for public consideration anonymously in 1690, remains an extremely influential essay. It influenced the political philosophy of Americans to such a degree that its meaning is embedded in the American psyche. Locke’s pivotal piece provided a basis for more American doctrines, such as those set forth in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is from this initial observation that we might assert a theory about the mechanics of humankind.

Applied philosophy is identity.

In other words, every society applies some form of philosophy to function, and through its operation, the identity of a populace is revealed. To validate the theory by observation; the most accurate philosophy, if applied judiciously, would reveal a successful identity – probably the most successful identity. Would it not? Now, let’s flip the timeline of history and work backward. Consider successful societies in existence today and consider the philosophical origins upon which they are built. While there are many examples, the most familiar to Americans, is their own nation state. The technological and spiritual success of American society is unprecedented in the history of mankind.

Freedom of thought is a prerequisite to deriving solutions to complex problems, be they of mortal origin or natural origin. In the United States, honesty and fidelity are rewarded with technological progress, economic stability and sustainable growth. This is what Americans believe. Iterations of 1] innovation and 2] reward established a static identity and a dynamic national trajectory. This is how “We the People” (A quote from the U.S. Constitution) in many cases invented, manufactured, developed and adopted such technology as the transcontinental railroad, the automobile, the light bulb, the airplane and the personal computer. Americans are witness (recall “witness” as a reference to Locke’s and Hume’s empiricism) to the world in the most unfettered circumstance enjoyed by any group of people in the world today.

What trajectory does rewarding innovation establish? Think about the common denominator of almost every successful innovation in the United States! Each invention has made Americans a more capable witness of the world around us. The American identity is prepared to adopt new technology that makes us more aware precisely because Americans apply the philosophy of John Locke. The internet is simply the culmination of these successive adoptions. Indeed it is the adoption of an invention that makes it valuable. If an invention is never adopted, its value remains trapped in the mind of the inventor. Which brings us back to the forecast for which this essay is entitled; Internet Savants, having developed the skills to “witness” the world in a way that no human being could have witnessed the world before will begin revealing new truths about the world we live in.

Internet Savants – having been born after the invention and adoption of the Internet will seldom disconnect from their source data. Internet Savants will be able to absorb information from the internet as if their interface were a sense organ, not unlike their eyes or ears. The Internet Savant will relate to other Internet Savants in the context of their shared hyper-awareness. These individuals will not be deterred by government censorship because they will be able to understand what is being censored by observing and comprehending all of the other data at their disposal. By virtue of the propagation of the technology, these individuals needn’t be American at all but hail from every corner of the globe. The mosaic the Internet Savant builds in his or her mind will fill in the perceptual gaps of censorship just as the occipital lobe fills in the visual gap created by the
optic nerve. Once they’ve achieved hyper-awareness, they will use their ability to continue what Locke started. Why? Because Internet Savants will be the most empowered witnesses the world has ever seen. They will know their identity. They will know their philosophical origins…

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