In his book, “The Artificial Ape,” anthropologist and archaeologist Timothy Taylor makes the startling claim that we did not make tools, tools made us.
He reminds us that the oldest stone tools we’ve found are 2.5 million years old. But the genus to which we belong, Homo, is only 2.2 million years old, at least according to the current fossil record. Our species, Homo sapiens, has been around for less time than the gap between tool creation and our genus.
In a fascinating interview with New Scientist, Taylor believes “earlier hominids called australopithecines were responsible for the stone tools . . . The tools caused the genus Homo to emerge.”
How does that reverse the human-technology equation? Taylor believes that the creation of tools – in his example a sling to carry an infant – is “how encephalisation took place in the genus Homo.” The creation of technology to take care of infants allowed them to be born more helpless. In other words, the development of initial tech allowed evolutionary forces to shape us in a particular fashion. In fact, perhaps forced them to do so.
Will our brains shrink due to our external ones? Not necessarily. The current trend is a demand for more and more intelligent and educated people to operate and program those machines. Even though I’d like to see computers get easier to operate and program, I would still expect see a demand for humans to do increasingly complex work with them.