6) Depression and the Post Human: Daniel van Schaik

November 26, 2014


— We are unwittingly building what we currently see as impossible to reproduce; our actions as a global society are emulating the evolution of the human mind. 


“I used to think that the world was doing something to me, that the world owed me something. And that either the conservatives or the socialists or the fascists or the communists or the Christians or the Jews or the fascists were doing something to me. I don’t think that anymore—because I found out it doesn’t f…ing work. I am part of them. There’s no separation. Were all one.

-John Lennon


The world (brain) is a single physical manifestation, a vessel for human thought and experience. The networks (e.g. Architecture and the internet) that exist in the physical world are extrapolated from the processes that occur in the brain.[1] Each individual thought we have, is a product of experience, just as every decision we make, as a society is a result of many different influences and cultural backgrounds. When we make decisions we weigh up the good and the bad based on our moral and social expectations. As each scenario plays out in our mind we often imagine the results to be either beneficial or sacrificial (“wrong” or “right”).


Negative thoughts (violence, greed, hate, etc) are normal occurrences within the brain, but when you consider the world to be a theatre of the mind (or an emulation of the human brain), you become a spectator for the bad decisions that are acted out in the physical world. Instances of greed and violence occur around the globe; in the same way ‘negative’ thoughts occur in your own mind. These negative thoughts strike almost as frequently as anything positive; so is it a far cry to say that society operates in the same way as our thoughts do, i.e. working though the positive and the negative outcomes to influence future decisions? If we equate the importance of the human brain with the significance of life on planet earth, then to only thing that really differs is the scale. Both are perpetually productive organs that house a mass of unfathomable connections.


Although the networks that surround earth are much more primitive compared to the ones in our brains, technology is quickly beginning to fill the gap. As technology evolves connections between the agents that operate within the physical become more fluid. Decisions are made faster and less thought is required to come up with the best solution (based on the circumstances) because we are able to draw from both our own experiences and the compounding wealth of knowledge obtained by our peers. We go through the same process of obtaining knowledge as individuals, and as a person grows older they begin to make better-informed decisions based on a larger amount of input. Unlike the physical world we live in, which started out with no intelligent connections between agents, individuals are born with potential to grow. Internal connections are embedded into our DNA and are automatically produced from the moment we are born. Therefore, in comparison to a human subject, the world is merely an infant in terms of its growth as a collective brain


Akin to our infantile state as a society, links can be drawn between the development of a child’s brain and our current progress with technology and the creation of more complex networks in the physical world. For example, during the first 3 years of a baby’s life their brain triples in weight and forms trillions of new connections.[2] This immediate rapid growth helps the child establish an early grip on experiential learning. As cooperative humans (or ‘collective brain’) we are still trying to establish these complex networks in the physical world, but technology (in particular the internet) has become the catalyst for our recent rapid growth. We are becoming more and more human as time goes by, but if we consider the stunted growth and immense gap between individual inherited brain development and collectively built intelligence within the physical world, the title of ‘post-human’ is still a long way off.


Individually, by the age of 6 our brains are, for the most part, fully grown. Some growth does occur subsequent to this, but it is minimal and tapers off by the age of 20.[3] So at this point, we have established our physical limit in terms of network connections and now our job is to start using this newly acquired grey matter to evolve as a human being. We are born human, but now we have developed to a stage where we can use our minds to extend our existence beyond the physical (human) and into the self (post-human).


The brain is something we inherit but ironically, it is too powerful and intricate to even begin to understand itself. We admire nature’s ability to create something so complex and beautiful, so it is no surprise that we would try to emulate it. However, the crucial link in this theory is the fact that both the world and the brain work tirelessly to make sure we are distracted from the inevitable. If humans and/or society were allowed to sit and constantly evaluate their existence then we would all wallow in a counterproductive state of self-deprivation. One set back to our “infinite” potential as human beings is that we are not told ‘why’ we exist. We have projected this notion of ‘not thinking about thinking’[4] into our physical world in the form of jobs, entertainment, hobbies etc. To prevent our brains from rotting, individuals need a purpose and the same goes for society. Right now we are still infants that rely on our own self-development as our motivation to live, but once we become toddlers and subsequently, teenagers, how will we re-evaluate our purpose in the universe as a colossal extrapolation of the human brain?



[1] Deborah Hauptmann, “Introduction: Architecture and Mind in the Age of Communication and Information,” Biopolitics to Noopolitics 010, (2010): 14.

Henri Bergson, for instance, argued that people are inclined to project their psychic or mental states into spatial form; and in so doing, not only are these mental states themselves transformed, but simultaneously they return to generate alternative and new forms of experience when reflected back into consciousness.”

[2] “Zero to Three,” http://main.zerotothree.org, accessed November 24, 2014. http://main.zerotothree.org/site/PageServer?pagename=key_brain

[3] “Few Facts on Brain Growth During Childhood,” http://www.childhealth-explanation.com, accessed November 24, 2014. http://www.childhealth-explanation.com/brain-growth.html

[4] Deborah Hauptmann, “Introduction: Architecture and Mind in the Age of Communication and Information,” Biopolitics to Noopolitics 010, (2010): 27-28.

“Henri Bergson once wrote that the brain does not so much have thinking as its primary function, ‘but that of hindering the thought from becoming lost in dream,’ and as such the brain is seen as ‘the organ of attention to life.’”


One Response to “6) Depression and the Post Human: Daniel van Schaik”

  1. tovehanssongronroos Says:

    I like how you put focus on how badly we use our
    (brain) capacity. As can clearly be seen in how low people are actually valued in society: us being stuck in a post-industrial structure which tells us how to behave and keeps us from thinking of what we really are. This is unfortunate since our capacity to dream and create utopias could extend so much further. This could be seen in Sweden in for instance the debate about working hours (it’s been a long time since we changed to 8 hours work days but the 6-hour work day or the flexible work-“day” is still rare). We have machines that could in many cases do a lot of work, but the profit of that *never* extends to involve everyone (or even anyone seeing from the point of view that we are all connected). In that way we are always bound from thinking beyond the established (or at least think as far as to change it for real). This ofcourse also extend to architecture which often is very limited – not to the least in new housing projects; being far from utopian.

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