“The increasing impact of computers in our lives may change what it means to be human.” That’s the streamlined thesis of Evolution Continues, in which author William Meisel posits that the rapid evolution of computer technology is intrinsically linked to a concurrent type of human evolution, albeit not a biological one.
Instead, Meisel’s book contends, our ever-growing reliance on computers in everyday life—from digital assistants and artificial intelligence to computing’s impacts on economics and education, and more—is literally changing what it means to be human.
It’s a compelling argument, and it’s not a pejorative one: The author isn’t claiming we’re all doomed because computers are now intrinsic to virtually everything we do, or that virtually every person’s job will be replaced by a computer or robot worker. (In fact, he notes that the low unemployment rate [as of early 2022] indicated that many good jobs remain available to human beings—at least for now.)
A Ph.D. with decades of experience in computer science and related fields, Meisel is thorough in his exploration of the connection between developing technology and human life. Chapters include, among other topics, analyses of remote work, genetic engineering, social media, and assisting people with disabilities. The author doesn’t appear to miss a trick at interrogating all the potential (and proven) ramifications of how computing is altering human life.
And Meisel is careful not to depict these innovations as necessarily dooming us to a Terminator-style dystopian future with sentient robot overlords, he does include a section on potential dangers titled “Things Going Too Far.”
Evolution Continues is extremely well researched and thoughtfully composed. It might be challenging for casual readers; while it takes a big-picture view on how innovations and evolutions impact everyday life, Meisel’s analysis tends more toward the academic and scientific than to breaking things down in simpler, more accessible terms. That’s not necessarily a criticism, just something those interested in the subject should consider before diving in.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.