A few days ago we took one of our daily walks and encountered a group of teens sitting on a bench all deeply engrossed in their smartphones. I could not resist the temptation of taking out my own smartphone to capture the scene. Here was an octogenarian whipping out his iPhone for a picture to accompany a story on his blog. What could be more intergenerational. The teens got a big chuckle over this scene and asked whether I was a Brit. They had overheard me speaking English. “No, No, “ I said. “I come from America, the land of Apple,” as I waved my phone. They widened their grins and we said good-bye.
For the remaining Alley walk, I kept thinking about a book I was reading by Yuval Noah Harari called Homo Deus. These teens are the new gods. They will unite the world under Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft . . . hopefully without the dystopian effects of another recent read by Dave Eggers, The Circle. Seeing their smiles under the chestnut trees on a beautiful day in Bavaria, far from Cupertino, California, makes me feel optimistic. The teens probably appreciate the Andean potato, a mainstay of the Bavarian diet, as well as the Californian “Apple.”
Harari writes, “Seventy thousand years ago the Cognative Revolution transformed the Sapiens mind, thereby turning an insignificant African ape into the rulers of the world. The improved Sapiens mind suddenly had access to the vast intersubjective realm, which enabled them to create gods and corporations, to build cities and empires, to invent writing and money, and eventually to split the atom and reach the moon. As far as we know, this earth-shattering revolution resulted from a few small changes in the Sapiens DNA and a slight rewiring of the Sapiens brain. If so, says techno-humanism, maybe a few additional changes to our genome and another rewiring of our brain will suffice to launch a second cognitive revolution . . . might give Homo deus access to unimaginable new realms and make them lords of the galaxy.”
It is rare for a day to go by without my setting foot on the Ring Alley to shop, pick up the mail at the post office, visit the black swans in the moat, or simply get some walking exercise. The Alley’s gravel path is lined with chestnut trees and remnants of a Town Wall — built in 1558 and restored in 1889 — that circumnavigates the downtown area. A portion of the gravel path, chestnut trees, and wall are right below my office window in the apartment kitchen where I compose these postcard stories when in Bavaria. In my lifetime nothing much will change in this farming village. I will not see the phenomenal changes predicted by Harari. In the meantime I will keep walking to stay healthy and watch tomorrow’s gods shape the world.