If Media Survives Humanity Thrives
We humans are born the most incapable of all mammals. We can’t walk, or even open our eyes. But how did we end up building this giant global civilization? Media is one of the crucial ingredients that make it happen.
We are born highly inadequate because we are born relatively early due to the size of our brains. If we waited a bit more, our heads would be too big to get through the uterus. This ends up causing two things: we are underdeveloped and our brains are still very plastic after birth. This ends up being a great combination. Our lack of capabilities at birth makes us very dependent which pushes us toward improving socially and that is only possible with the plasticity of our brains.
The social relationships we build among humans enable collaboration, allowing us to live way beyond our individual capabilities. The total outcome becomes way larger than the sum of the parts. If we each grew and raised every tomato we ate, built every house we lived in and every computer we used, we wouldn’t get this far.
Our imagination allows us to build a mental model of reality beyond what piece of it we can see, hear, touch, smell or taste on our own. Once a group of us have our mental models in harmony, we become a well oiled machine.
The best way to have a harmonious mental model across large groups of people, is to have an accurate one. This means that the accurate knowledge we acquire individually needs to be synchronized among us.
How do we ensure that we only allow accurate information collected by other humans’ senses into our mental model? We do it via a mechanism that has served us well, trust. Trust is the product of meaningful social relationships. Once we develop strong social relationships with others, we allow them to contribute to our mental model of reality. We can do that very well up to groups of about 150 humans. Beyond that number, it becomes increasingly difficult and that’s when we need an intermediary, a medium.
Think your Apple devices. You take a photo on your iPhone, write an essay on your Mac and draw an illustration on your iPad. All those devices then are synced. How are they synced? Via an intermediary, iCloud. Instead of having to maintain a communication channel with all other devices, each device can trust this one source. That one source contributes by sorting out and organizing the information.
Similarly trusted media organizations help sort out and organize the information before delivering it to masses. That’s the value they are adding to the world. That is why editorial is important and valuable. They help masses have an accurate mental model of reality beyond what can be experienced by a single individual.
We are already seeing what a world with multiple mental models of reality could look like. Social media allows the removal of this editorial intermediary which is not inherently bad. It is only bad because it allows inaccurate information spread. Fortunately this is a recognized problem and is being worked on by many.
We humans are tool builders. We may not be the fastest running animal but we can build a car and blow all others out of the water. This is how we exceed our biological limitations and accelerate our advancement. Media is one of those tools and it helps us with a very crucial limitation, the maximum number of people that can form a functioning society.
However the economics of the media industry was built on tectonic plates that has started to shift. It needs help. A world where media survives the earthquake and ends up on a more stable foundational ground will be a better one for all of us as humanity continues to thrive.