Hunter-Gatherer is a term used to describe human beings in our early stages of evolution. Readers of books “Sapiens: A Brief history of humankind” and “Guns,Germs and steel” would be more that familiar with this terminology. Over the ages as a species we have made significant discoveries and evolved into a race capable of global annihilation, a morbid yet unique achievement compared to any other species known to us till now. In this quest for supremacy, the survival pattern of the hunter-gatherer still seems to be dominant.
One might be startled by similarities between the daily digital schedule of a netizen and that of a hunter-gatherer. The hunter-gatherer had a sole purpose, survival. Hunting for food was necessity and gathering it for future could be considered as an optimization. With time farming was discovered and then better storage became the necessity. And as storage was improved with invention of refrigeration , the hunt for more preservable items is on. So the hunting-gathering continues in the cyclic order.
Life, those mundane hindrances that keep recurring between two logins.
Now, lets consider the diet of an average netizen, videos, news, blogs (famous ones not like this one.), photos and the spicy comments. The invention of printing accelerated sharing significantly but not enough to satiate the curiosity of the now intellectual hunter-gatherer. Hence came the era of digitization. The real purpose of digitization seems to have been from a storage perspective. The side effect was the ease of access and with accessibility started the war for quick search. Every thing stored should be searchable and everything searchable has to be stored. In hunter-gatherer terms this is equivalent to hunting all the animals at once and preserving them in-case someone asks for a specific kind !
Data is the new food.
Clearly, the analogy doesn’t scale as elegantly as one might expect. Nevertheless, the point is, the availability of tools has accelerated the hunting instincts way beyond evolution might have intended to. The hunting instincts were bound to survival necessities but now they have seeped into our intellectual existence. There is a very strong correlation between social evolution and storage technology. Earlier it was about food, now it is all about data. History has more than enough accounts of wars fought for resources that neither of the sides needed immediately or had the capacity to store it correctly.
A lot of content is driven by their reach-ability. Try to check the trending content of any site with more that 100 million users and you will be appalled at the quality of content being recommended. It is scary to know that people choose this eco-system driven by vanity as a source of livelihood. They are willing to stake their survival on a mob’s attention span. As corporations gather more data, the hunt for attention becomes that much more brutal. Every pixel, every word, every click is fed to algorithms ( some of them are actually greedy ) to discover a trend and decide what needs to be fed to the mob next. The mob is happy to get this free meal since it saves the effort of hunting.
Today, we harvest connections in hunt for attention. We are happy to search for soul in search boxes of catalogs. One might escape the “rat-race” of jobs, but what about this eternal search of balance between hunting and gathering ?