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Big Data, Smaller Brains?

Did you know that the human brain has actually been getting smaller over the last 20,000 years? Don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger. See the research by (smaller-brained) scientists at

I think it’s due to Big Data. You heard about that? The use of massive swathes of information, pulled from unsuspecting credit card users, social media denizens and online shoppers by the likes of big corporations and the NSA. All using the latest and greatest in computers, software (ever heard of something called Hadoop?) and probably the latest iPhone, once Apple owns up to it.

My theory is that brains started to get smaller when God invented pebbles. You see early humans used pebbles for counting; pebbles were to them what calculators are today. Things got worse with the abacus (although I still haven’t worked out why Chinese, who are indubitably smarter than any of us Occidentals, invented if first if their brains were also getting smaller). Now we have super-computers, phablets and smartwatches so we don’t have any need to calculate any more. Ergo our brains will clearly keep on getting even smaller.

This actually might not be a bad thing. There’s abundant evidence to show that we all have cognitive biases that lead us down unintended and usually adverse paths. One of those paths is that when you have more data, you make worse decisions. Don’t believe me? Just look at what the psychologists at Psychology Today say (I wager they know a thing or two about small brains).

So all that data purloined, legally or otherwise by the NSA isn’t actually making us safer. And the huge amounts of data used by companies just means they now have to spend even more on failed marketing campaigns, like Microsoft with its Surface tablet. As we get more data of course, our brains continue to get even smaller and we continue to extract even less intelligence out of that information than we do now.

My theory is that our brains are getting smaller quicker as artificial intelligence progresses. In future, when we go shopping you will need to bring along with you an RV-sized computer on wheels (maybe it will be an actual RV) to carry the computers and the Big Data you need to figure out what you and your family will eat for breakfast tomorrow.

It’s clear that Big Data is just the ticket for causing Big Messes. Like the US healthcare system, drone strikes and crashing stock exchanges. Except I still haven’t worked out if the increasing number of Big Messes in the world is caused by Big Data or smaller brains.

Having a small brain actually has a huge evolutionary advantage though. As our brains get smaller the messes we create from Big Data will obviously become smaller too so we won’t mess up as much.

Just as our brain gets to the size of a pea, there will be no more war, poverty, evil or mothers-in-law. And as the last human snuffs out the candle, there will be no remaining memory traces on Earth of that erstwhile oh-so-hot stuff called Big Data.

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