In A Secret History of Consciousness, Gary Lachman (among many other very interesting musings) muses that the Internet could be the harbinger of a right brain renaissance. The decisively non-linear, highly contextualized way content is displayed and digested online, he says, moves markedly away from its hugely linear predecessor, the printed page.
Language functions such as grammar and vocabulary have long been attributed to the same hemisphere said to control linear reasoning—the left. But because the way we consume information while moving across web pages involves not just language, but visual and audio cues across many more complex spatial relationships, it’s the right hemisphere that’s getting the workout when we go online.
What’s more, the right brain tends to kick in more when presented with novelty while the left takes over the more routine processes. With its constantly emerging nature, the Internet is nothing if not constantly novel, apparently giving more right brains more exercise since, according to Lachman, the advent of language.
The Internet has long since been identified as an economic game-changer, profoundly impacting not only product innovation, but employment distribution, shopping patterns, manufacturing priorities and, of course, social interactions. Could it be so all-powerful, so far reaching that it could substantially change the way we use our brains? If, as Lachman professes, consciousness and the mechanisms for learning are indeed one in the same, totally interdependent and constantly emerging, no doubt future historians will claim the dawn of the Internet era as at least as influential to man’s development as the acquisition of language, tools and agriculture.
BTW: Gary Lachman was the lead guitarist for Blondie throughout the 70s and 80s, now lives in London and is the tireless chronicler of culture, consciousness, mysticism and the occult.