Penny for Your Thoughts – Kevin Kelly on The Technium
…I couldn’t even choose a pull quote, but all of the emphasis is mine. Just watch the video and come back here to the transcript:
The technium is anything useful that a mind makes. That doesn’t even have to be a human mind. Any mind. So that includes not just the gadgets but it also includes the law, our writing. Many aspects of civilization are part of the technium. Not just hardware. And I go on to say that in fact that the greatest technology humans ever invented is humanity itself. We domesticated ourselves. We turned ourselves into part of the technium because we cannot live as a species. We cannot live without technology. We’ve invented ourselves. And it’s our greatest invention so far.
Technology as a whole is deterministic. It has an agenda and there are certain aspects of it that are inevitable. And what our choices are is in how convivial we make them. Whether we make them open or closed. Whether we make them evolvable (or not). Whether we make them prone to diversity (or not). So we have choices in the character of these technologies. And not necessarily whether we have the technologies (or not).
What I’m proposing is the pro-action aproach to technology which means we have to use things in order to find out about them. That we actually have to engage with technology. The only way we can determine whether something is good or bad for us, is through use. I don’t think we can control it because I think that technology is a cosmic force. Technology began not with humans but preceded it into biological evolution. And even preceded it further back to the big bang. So this exotropic force. A force of self-organization is running through galaxies, stars and planets. It runs through life and is extended into technology and that self-organizing living force is what we are having to ride. What we’re doing with the web is actually making a very large scaled global organism that in a few decades or so we will be able to identify as an organism in every sense of the word.
For many years the dogma was that evolution was offloaded from the genes into culture. Our bodies stopped evolving because culture took it over. But in fact it turns out that genetically we are actually accellerating in our evolution. That our genes are evolving faster because of technology. Reading & writing changes. Permanently rewires the brain. It’s for sure we’ll see (with enough evidence) that people who use Google and offload their memory to the cloud, it will affect our brains. So we are absolutely changing ourselves.
I‘m interested in how people personally decide to refuse a technology. I’m interested in that process, because I think that will happen more and more as the number of technologies keep increasing. The only way we can sort our identity is by not using technology. It used to be that you define yourself by what you use now…You define yourself by what you don’t use. So I’m interested in that process.
…If Kelly sounds almost mystical here, it’s because he is. I stress, though, ALMOST mystical. He’s not proposing anything supernatural, and his “determinism” isn’t personalized, not some benevolent (or not) force but rather it follows the stricter definition of the term. “It was never going to be any other way.” In light of all this qualification, it is amusing that Kelly often criticizes believers in “The Singularity” for being pseudo-religious. Still…idea about the technoum fall, for me, under the catigory of “things I believe but cannot prove” which makes them irritating an intriguing and wonderful.
Of greatest interest here on Tumblr is, perhaps, that last bolded section: “The only way we can sort our identity is by not using technology. It used to be that you define yourself by what you use now…You define yourself by what you don’t use.” Specifically, I’m thinking about Melissa Gira, who recently did this:
I am starting a new diary right now. I’m sitting at Cake Shop on the Lower East Side. If you come by before 3 o’clock I’ll read to you from the diary I just filled. 5 pages or 5 minutes, whichever is less awkward. The only rule is that what I am reading is just for you: no reblogging, and no cameras.
(Is there such a thing as a private diary, an ephemeral exchange? Of course not. I’ve always written for an audience and in order to be remembered. Today that might be for you.)
Come by, or tell a friend. You don’t even have to buy me coffee. And I’m wearing a really nice sweater.
A long time ago I said something like “I’m increasingly defined by the media I consume,” but I think I was a little bit behind the curve. At least in the high-velocity world we all inhabit (or just observe), we’re going to start finding ourselves defined by the media/technology we choose to remove ourselves from, choose to isolate ourselves from. I’m honestly of two minds on the subject. In my example; part of me recognizes the need for certain elements of life to be removed from total observation, but a nasty little part of me wants to see everything indexed. I like the idea of forgetting, the possibility of forgetting, but the thought of losing information to time really bothers me. It’s wasteful. On the larger scale, it will be interesting to see what sorts of moral, aesthetic, etc. judgments manifest themselves in people’s refusal to utilize or participate in certain technologies. More that a mere Luddite reaction to something new, maybe this will be signal something new happening in the human relationship to technology. That is, to The Technium.