For Wired magazine cofounder Kevin Kelly, technology is neither the practical nor the neutral result of scientific discoveries, but a powerful universal force for creating opportunities. He speaks in unapologetically theological terms. The internet is “a miracle and a gift” that allows humans to organize and create in radically new ways. He says that we are moving from being People of the Book to People of the Screen. Kelly’s radical pronouncements earn fire from both sides of the chasm between religion and science, even as he seeks to see beyond those dogmas. Today he wants to “talk about faith using the vocabulary and logic of science.” When I arrive at Kelly’s home south of San Francisco, he’s sweaty from riding his bike up the steep hill, which rises from the coast. Poet, wanderer, publisher, cross-country bicyclist, former hippie, and self-described nerd, Kelly’s trimmed white beard is that of a New England clipper-ship captain. His home office is perched in a wooded neighborhood and has the pleasant feel of a lived-in tree house, the floor strewn with books and papers and gadgets.
LAWLER: There are few people today who talk about science and spirituality in the same breath without criticizing one or the other. You are an exception.
KELLY: My larger agenda is to bridge the technological and the holy. These are not two words that most people normally associate with each other. It is going to be a long conversation to bring
LAWLER: Is this what you mean when you describe yourself as a “techno transcendentalist”?
LAWLER: But can you really imagine Thoreau multitasking on a BlackBerry? How do you relate transcendentalism to technology?
KELLY: I don’t mean transcendentalist in a monkish or hermitlike way. I mean transcending in the sense of connecting to a state of awareness, of living, of being, that transcends our day-to-day life. It’s not a withdrawal, it’s an emergence. And tools can be used.
LAWLER: Or misused.
KELLY: There’s been a lot of chatter about information overload recently. It is true there’s something different about this [modern] environment in our day-to-day and minute-to-minute awareness. What it means and what we should do about it is really not so clear.
I acknowledge the fact that multitasking and BlackBerrys and iPods and Twitter can be distracting. But we don’t really have the option of ignoring it. The proliferation of devices is necessary to learn new things. And the cost of learning new things is an avalanche of fragmented information. We just have to learn how to live with it.
LAWLER: But don’t we get to choose?
KELLY: It’s not that we don’t have the option to remove ourselves. This phase of cultural evolution, in which we are growing and discovering, requires this tide of twenty-four-hour information. I think it’s necessary and good that there will always be an opt-out option. We want to encourage that diversity, but it will always be a niche. Barring some disaster, society is not going to become a world where everybody stays at home writing poems and reading one long book after another without interruption.
LAWLER: Where is the transcendentalism in this view?
KELLY: The roots of technology go deeper than just human culture. They weave and string all the way back to the Big Bang. Technology is an example — like life and intelligence — of an extropic system, a system that feeds off entropy to build order. And not just order, but self-amplifying order of exploding complexity and depth. Extropic systems create even more entropy in the process — that is, energy runs through the system at a faster and denser pace. This is the definition of self-sustaining systems like a living organism. There’s continuity from the beginning of the universe, which is expanding out and creating space to allow diversity to flourish.
What we have is a long-term trend of increasing diversity, complexity, and specialization — all characteristics of self-sustaining systems. That could be a galaxy or a sun or intelligence. The resulting density of power is technology. I use the term “the Technium.” A galaxy is a system composed of individual technologies, complex enough to have its own self-sustaining qualities including self-preservation. It is self-perpetuating and self-increasing. You could say that humans are the sexual organs of technology — that we are necessary for its survival. But it has its own inertia, urgency, tendencies, and bias.
LAWLER: Other than to reproduce, what is the purpose of these systems?
KELLY: These systems are evolving evolution. They are increasing degrees of freedom. And this is the theological part — we have the infinite game. The game is to extend the game, so that the game will keep going. The game is to keep changing the nature of change. And that infinite game is my view of holiness. You play the game not to win, but to continue to play to make room for all expressions of truth, good, and the beautiful. You are opening up the world to possibility. Every child born on Earth today has some particular mixture of genes and environment, of capability and intelligence to unleash. The game is about trying to educate that individual into a position where they can maximize their potential and possibility. And technology is the instrument.
LAWLER: You have spoken about what would have become of Beethoven if he’d been born before the invention of the piano . . .
KELLY: That helps me think about the people born today who may be missing some technology that would allow them to be their best. That’s what technology is in the larger sense — the discovery of potential and possibility.
LAWLER: But tools are not creativity.
KELLY: At a deep level, the act of discovery and the act of creation are identical. The steps that you would take to find something are exactly the same steps you’d take to make something. So you can say that Edison discovered the light bulb and Newton invented gravity.
LAWLER: Wendell Berry might say that is all well and good, but technology doesn’t change the essential nature of humanity. It doesn’t make us better people.
KELLY: I disagree with Wendell. We have created our humanity. And I think our humanity has been created by technology. Our humanity is defined by things we have invented. Like the alphabet. Our culture is one thing we’ve created. But I also think there has been an evolution of morality. Culture and cultural inventions are part of the Technium — they are technologies.
LAWLER: But the Ten Commandments were likely tribal rules passed on orally long before they were written down. It was just the medium that changed.
KELLY: Language is part of the Technium too. And language allowed us to structure laws and rules, our ideas of inherent fairness and sense of right and wrong. These are associated with society and culture and all that Wendell is concerned about. And they were developed over thousands of years. Our humanity is actually a result of the invention and the distribution and the enhancement and growth of the Technium.
LAWLER: Man the Toolmaker — it’s an old concept. Surely we are more than toolmakers.
KELLY: But I don’t think the Technium is only about humans. It’s a type of learning. It’s a type of expression. It’s a type of possibility.
The Technium works as an ecology. Just as evolution has a longterm direction as we look 4 billion years into the past, so technology increases complexity and diversity, with increasing power.
LAWLER: So technology is part of evolution or God — that which drives the universe?
KELLY: Exactly. Some people call this the Great Story. Roving preacher Michael Dowd talks at churches about this alternative creation story. It is about evolution through God, that which started from nothing, grew into particles that gained mass and complexity, and then clumped into molecules and then became dust and planets and so forth. And technology is the latest variety.
LAWLER: So the Technium is one of the ways in which the universe is getting to know itself? And by increasing complexity, the universe becomes more self-aware?
KELLY: Exactly. I think of God as the intelligence of mind that is increasing the complexity of the universe.
LAWLER: That makes me think about the way new ideas appear to spread almost simultaneously. Five thousand years ago humans suddenly began living in cities from Egypt to India. There was something in the air. Is this the Technium at work?
KELLY: Simultaneous invention is actually the norm for science. That’s why we have patents. I’m not talking about the supernatural. Inventions never happen in a vacuum. Every idea requires the support of four or five other ideas. There’s a necessary subset of other surrounding inventions that are required. As they appear, the new idea becomes more obvious. It’s an ecological growth. There are two kinds of changes that we see in nature. One is developmental and one is evolutionary. And the developmental changes are fairly predictable in a certain sense. We know what the pattern is and I can map your developmental trajectory very clearly. You go from fetus to child to adolescent. I may not know what kind of teenager you’re going to be, but I can say you’re going to be a teenager. A lot of what we see in culture right now is developmental, not evolutionary.
LAWLER: But we can’t say that about human culture — we don’t know where it is going.
KELLY: We don’t, but only because we’re ignorant. I’ve looked at the sequence of discoveries and inventions around the world to see whether they follow generally the same sequence, and it seems that they do. Certain things you discover first. The moment a planet decides to wire itself up, to connect everything to everything, is an inevitable developmental stage in civilization. It is a stage like puberty or metamorphosis — pick your biological analogy.
LAWLER: I’m struck by an analogy you make between nature and the Technium — that technology also needs pruning. You pull the weeds in your garden or you won’t get vegetables.
KELLY: This is husbandry. You are not your garden’s puppet master, pulling each leaf off the tree. You train it in a general direction. The work is still being done by the tree. We are tending the garden of technology, moving things around, noticing a plant coming up here that would do much better in the sun over there. Or it needs a little more fertilizer. You don’t control it.
The banning of genetically modified organisms in Europe is a typical response these days. GMO critics instead would like us to use fruit produced through genetic gambling, which is what natural breeding is. If genetic gambling came along now, it would never be permitted. It’s all mutation, all random. The point is we’ve never had control. We get the best results by doing a little bit of training and pruning and letting things unroll.
LAWLER: So where does evolution come in?
KELLY: It’s very hard to unravel what is evolutionary and what is developmental. My suggestion is that evolutionary change is unpredictable, while developmental change is not.
LAWLER: There is a lot of fear around the pace and impact of technology. It is all happening so quickly. Isn’t fear of weapons of mass destruction, genetic modification, and advances in nanotechnology prudent and reasonable?
KELLY: That’s a good question and I may not have a very good answer for it. There’s no single source of this fear — it can be as simple as discomfort with change. And for all our talk about the need for change, people resist it — particularly if we are comfortable in the moment. Change brings discomfort.
LAWLER: So how can we cope with the increasing pressure to change?
KELLY: We’re now in a new regime of information. For hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years, the manner of change on an individual’s soul and life was very minimal. That fostered appreciation for continuity and enduring values, and that persisted even though new inventions came along. Those inventions diffused slowly and generally didn’t happen within a single life span. That changed with the coming of science, and with that came increasing prosperity and a dramatic rise in population in the last two hundred years. The pace of change within an individual lifetime accelerated. One consequence was the invention of science fiction, part of a large-scale investigation of the future. It became a survival tactic.
LAWLER: You have said that the next century marks the great identity crisis of our species.
KELLY: Wendell is probably right that we aren’t really wired very well to cope with this. But I have no problem thinking that human nature will change, that we will change human nature, that we will engineer human nature amid this rapid change. The nature of humanity has been changing all along, but until now very slowly. And as I was suggesting earlier, part of the nature of humanity is wrapped up in our own inventions — it is, in fact, our own invention. Each time we make an advance in artificial intelligence, we redefine who humans are. Each time there’s a discovery in science related to intelligence or even the animal world, we redefine who humans are. At one time we defined ourselves as the toolmakers. Now we find out that termites and birds use tools, so we’ve redefined what it is to be human.
LAWLER: Are we moving toward something that shuts out the past, or is there a place in which low-tech tradition and high-tech science can meet?
KELLY: We generally reinterpret our older selves, rather than discard them. Right now we’re very biological; we’re very meatbased animals. We have the benefit of a very highly evolved sensual body. So whatever improvements we make, I think very few people would really want to evolve out of their bodies, though they may want to better the body. We contain 4 billion years of evolution, and it’s not a matter of casting that off completely. It’s a matter of reinterpreting it and enhancing it.
LAWLER: Already people are talking about designing babies for specific traits. Technology often starts with the best of intentions — to ensure a healthy child — then deteriorates into thorny and even nightmarish scenarios. In India now, you can go to a clinic to ensure you have a boy rather than a girl. The long-term implications — lots of male teenagers and few females — are horrific.
KELLY: My suggestion is not to take the technology away, but to educate those making the choice. What we want is greater choice. And these choices are always bound up in politics. I don’t think technology is neutral. But the proper response to bad technology is not to stop it — to stop thinking — but to have a better idea.
LAWLER: You go so far as to say that it would be immoral for us to put prohibitions on technology. Are there any exceptions to that?
KELLY: I haven’t been able to find any. What we want to do is find the proper home for technology. Technologies are like children. They’re often asked to do things that they’re incapable of doing, don’t really want to do, are ill suited to do. We need to find the right place for technology. DDT is actually a very good insecticide for eliminating malaria — used judiciously around the house, it’s very effective and does not cause much harm. Spraying it on 25 zillion acres of cotton is terrible. So you find the right home for that technology.
LAWLER: You could argue Rachel Carson did that for DDT, but only after a long struggle. How do we create a conversation, a structure, for making such decisions?
KELLY: Conversation is the correct word. Our current default is to not proceed to the next step until you can prove no harm. That doesn’t work. You have to use inventions to evaluate them, to
see them in action. Their consequences in the very complicated world are impossible to simulate. You have to have constant vigilance, to re-evaluate constantly. If they don’t work out, you don’t prohibit them, you move on to something else better.
LAWLER: What if they discover that this Diet Coke I’ve been drinking will increase my chances for cancer? Are you saying it should not be banned?
KELLY: It should not be prohibited for several reasons. One is it may only cause cancer in people who have some subset of genes. It may not have an effect on other people. Before we prohibit it for everybody, we have to find out what’s going on. First we need your DNA, and then we need constant twenty-four-hour self-monitoring. This idea that every five years we go for a checkup, well then of course people are going to get cancer from drinking soda. Most people will be lucky if they have their blood tested once in their life. We need noninvasive, constant information about our bodies so that we can determine right away whether something we drink has an adverse effect. The proper response is not to ban something — the proper response is better technology. If there is something wrong with aspartame, modify it. Find a new home for it.
LAWLER: What if you have a company that has spent millions developing and producing the chemical, and they hire lobbyists to argue for its widest possible use? Look at the tobacco or alcohol industries. And scientists with a financial stake in the system have been used to justify wide use of toxins. You make a logical argument, but one that leaves out the reality of the marketplace. Where’s “the conversation”?
KELLY: We need a more sophisticated system. That is why we are locked in a binary pattern — it is either approved or prohibited. There is the option of education — to take an approach to life that is more scientific.
LAWLER: Does that mean that if enough people have access to the data on chemicals, and could understand it, they could pressure a company to make a different choice?
KELLY: I haven’t thought about this until this moment. Let’s say a study finds the substance causes cancer, that it is really bad. Then the question is, what changed since the time of approval? Maybe you have to drink it every day for five years, so it is an issue of dosage. So what is a better dosage? And you could decide to use a different dosage or use something else instead. And you could use the substance for something else that would not cause harm.
LAWLER: How do you factor in human complexity — the corporate executive who wants a profit, the researcher who is more concerned with creating than monitoring? Such motivations can overwhelm scientific logic. Look at tobacco smoking — you can say it’s a bad idea, but people do it.
KELLY: I’m not talking about just the market solving problems. I’m assuming there is government to regulate. What I am proposing is that you have more choices than approving or prohibiting. When you have more choices you can have a more sophisticated response. I think prohibiting tobacco is the wrong idea, because we’ll get the same result as with Prohibition. But obviously you don’t want people addicted to smoking. We need to find the right home for tobacco.
The market and science and education can provide more creative solutions. Consider marijuana. The medical use of it here in California is interesting, because we are trying to find the right home for it.
LAWLER: So do you support funding bacterial warfare, for example, since it expands our knowledge?
KELLY: No. I would prohibit technology that kills people, for sure.
LAWLER: But you are against prohibiting use of technology.
KELLY: So nuclear weapons are okay, but using nuclear weapons is not. Take the AIDS virus. It’s nasty, bad stuff, but we can use the mechanism of a virus infection for good. You hijack it and use it for gene therapy. The technology of viral infection is okay. There is a way we can redeem a virus to make it into something good — but not if you prohibit the research.
LAWLER: You are walking a fine line — prohibitions for certain areas, but no blanket prohibitions.
KELLY: I think funding new ways to kill people is not a good use of technology. The same discoveries, however, can be used for better purposes. I’m not actually a pacifist. I believe that there should be restraint, but not necessarily killing. Killing is a binary response we fall back on, but there are other options.
LAWLER: How do you reconcile faith with logic and reason?
KELLY: There’s always the question of how the universe began. Then you ask, what was before that? Either you believe that it goes on and on by itself or you believe that there’s some ultimate
being which caused it. Both of those views are logically unsatisfying. Either could be true, but not both. And neither is provable. You come down to faith. Faith for me is simply experiential. My faith is that God unleashed creation as a way to know himself, to express and fully manifest his fullness. Our job as creatures of this creation is to surprise God. We’re co-creators in a certain sense — we have a divine spark in us. We have the same attributes as the creator of the universe, which is that we can create something. We can make something out of nothing in our small world. God has bestowed sparks of his creativity in the right places so they will surprise him. He’s allowing us to make something from our free will that maybe he would not have thought of making.
LAWLER: So we’re instruments of the divine?
KELLY: Right. Going back to the infinite game, the goal is to keep the game going for the purpose of maximizing the potential of this creation. We create other beings and other worlds. In so doing, we eventually discover different views of God, of the universe. Our own minds are incapable of comprehending the universe as a whole; we’re just too small and limited. But we can create other worlds, and technology gives us a sure hand to do so.
LAWLER: That feels so ineffable, so unquantifiable.
KELLY: My experience with God is no different than my own experience of my own consciousness and reality. Descartes’ observation is that in the end, the only certainty we have that we exist is that we think. But if we look at consciousness, it evaporates when we attempt to translate it into bits. The nature of consciousness is still a total riddle.
LAWLER: Why is there such a lack of sophisticated conversation between religion on the one hand and science and technology on the other?
KELLY: The only place we see it is among the theologians of our day, the science fiction authors who tackle the big questions. Religions appeal to tradition, to people who are afraid of change. But at the same time the Catholic Church has proved remarkably adaptable over two thousand years. There is a blockheaded rejection of evolution among Christian evangelicals, which has been tremendously harmful. It has turned a religion that was at one time at the forefront of science into an antiscience stance. I have little glimmers that in another generation or two, this will change. When it comes to climate change, for example, there has been rapid change toward recognizing the problem.
LAWLER: You are leaving out the spate of books by scientists which dismiss and even mock religion.
KELLY: There are fundamentalist atheists, just as there are fundamentalist Christians. The real conversation will happen in the middle and not at the extremes.
LAWLER: But how do you kick-start a more mature debate?
KELLY: My view of technology as holy is a minority view. Right now, technology is either the devil, or, if it’s embraced, it’s called neutral. Nobody is saying that it’s divine. An alternative view is not going to sweep the country overnight. It will require people smarter and deeper than me to work it out. Right now I’m a church of one.
> Our current default is to not proceed to the next step until you can prove no harm. That doesn’t work. You have to use inventions to evaluate them, to see them in action.
This is oversimplifying. For example there are strict regulations of genetic modification of organisms, because an accidental release could be catastrophic. Catastrophes have already occurred as a result of ordinary breeding and introductions of non-native species, like the African bee scenario. Precaution is essential with new technology, as the impact can be rapid and vast.
Nowhere in this discussion did I hear about the impact what we are doing is having on the rest of creation: the other species of plants and animals that are going extinct in the path of our technological swath.
I don’t separate the natural from the artificial, all is natural at a basic sense, so I can see technology as sacred. But not “more sacred” than the earth that gave birth to us and a billion other creatures, who seem to have been forgotten by the majority of the world’s people.
Do we want a virtual world with no wild animals, plants? All zoos and gardens, and factories and vast factory farms? Who in the plugged in world will even care if they can go to the movies and see gorgeous worlds in 3D?
Every operation of nature and the systems of civilization is governed by natural forces. These natural forces have been operating for eons. They have a degree of self organization and self regulation that we have been unable to emulate. Our technology has only been able to make use of natural forces, often unwisely. Future technology may make better use of the remaining irreplaceable natural material capital. That, however, would require widespread understanding that has yet to emerge.
Mr. Borst has it right. Kelly’s term “gambling” refers to natural evolution in a changing environment, which does not occur
with genetically modified plants.
We need the pollinators to keep a “natural” store of living matter, in this case fruit trees, especially in the wild.
I’m sure Kelly would answer that if one genetically modified specie of crop were to be totally destroyed, technology would quickly develop another. I find this quite laughable.
This conversation (Kelly and these Orion readers) is what the world needs. I’m resubscribing.
By the way, I agree that we need more sophisticated ways of steering technology than government and business currently provide, and I think open standards organizations, such as the Open Geospatial Consortium, my client, are one solution. We’ve entered the information age. Information is about communication. Communicators need common sets of symbols. Standardization is a process to agree on the sets of symbols. The consensus process in many of today’s standards organizations engages users of technology with producers of technology in dialog that solves some of the problems inherent in simple market competition.
Re: We’ve entered the information age.
I think information has been freely available since the newspaper, the broadside and the tract. Being a beekeeper, I know that 100 years ago beekeeping journals came out weekly; now they are monthly with a 2 month lag to print. So we turn to the internet for the most up to the minute news. That, and the private lines of communication, which have been active since the advent of the courier.
No, the problem is the enemies of information: dogma, ideology, apathy, and myopia, to name a few. People by and large seek entertainment and resent the intrusion of new and thought provoking ideas. In my field, the trend is to stay alert to the new, be ready to shift gears, be ahead of the curve.
As far as values goes, where before, people latched on to ideals and then fought for them, I think the new world requires people to seek and understand new ideas — then learn how to explain and promote them. Nobody wants the new shoved down their throat. It is obvious that the world is changing rapidly, and IT IS hard to keep up. Stay tuned; stay focused!
This conversation seems astonishingly biology-free. What likelihood is there that if we just keep experimenting whatever sustainable systems that exist on earth in the year 2100 will include and/or be hospitable to human life?
Joan’s right. But ecology and genetics are about information. Steve Talbott’s Netfuture.org newsletter has migrated from information technology to science to biology. I think his perspective is valuable in thinking about these things. Web services and genes are invocations. Web services are contained in a little world of our own making. But in genetics, we are like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice tinkering with invocations of the real natural world that we don’t understand nearly well enough.
> This conversation seems astonishingly biology-free
I assume you are talking about the original interview, because the comments here have been squarely centered on biology.Anyway, whatever we *think*, reality has a way of going differently. Its own way, one might suggest. None of us can predict how it will or won’t go.
I believe we could go on for centuries in the direction of factory food, urbanization, etc. but who’d want to? Aside from the moral aspect of exterminating various species and trashing the womb from which we came, there is the simple aesthetic question: who wants to live in an artificial world?
Maybe beaches, and mountains and wild life will seem like a luxury we used to be able to afford, back in the 21st century. I don’t want to see that happen, but I believe the only way to prevent it is to awaken people to the beauty and wonder of it.
Then they will WANT to keep it, will in fact make personal sacrifices in order to keep as much of the original world intact for future generations. I hope.
I am an historian by trade, so agree that even before the printing press, we learned of innovations. Yes, the internet is a wonderful tool, and I use it. However, new ideas are not always better ideas any more than innovation is better than the old. By choice I spend many hours teaching children and adults about the values of the natural world. Even though we may be able to manipulate parts of it, humans are animals so are part of this natural world and dependent upon it. I do try to read the latest science/technology articles, but am more interested in a sustainable environment, clean potable water, food for all, population growth. Technology may be able to provide help, but I don’t believe it to be “our savior.”
> new ideas are not always better ideas any more than innovation is better than the old
Hi. I used to think (back in the sixties) that Nature could heal what we have done to her, if we reverted to some more primitive life style.
I am afraid we have passed the point of no return for that. (See Bill McKibben’s End of Nature). So I think that new ideas will be required, if only to rectify the last century’s “new ideas”.
I don’t worship the new, but I think that creativity is part and parcel of nature, evolution, and who WE are. Creation is all about new; or at least, renewal.
I agree (read all, as far as I know, that McKibben writes)I should have said not “necessarily” better. I find that in this country most people act reactively instead of looking forward for possible problems. I was somewhat surprised many years ago when I found that as a “liberal arts” person, I was outhinking the MBAs at the company I worked for at the time on economic matters. I had been schooled to realize that when solving one problem one has to envision further problems that will arise from that “solution.” I agree with you re creativity. I’m very interested in the new energy technologies, especially solar, not interested in building a better mousetrap which will use more energy, just because we can do it.
I am interested in the lack of mention of the vital role that compassion plays in enabling the state of science to exist (sharing, inquiry, reflection, etc), which in turn enables language, the arts, civics and all we know as civilisation to exist. Link this to Kevin’s statement:
“What we have is a long-term trend of increasing diversity, complexity, and specialization—all characteristics of self-sustaining systems. That could be a galaxy or a sun or intelligence…A galaxy is a system composed of individual technologies, complex enough to have its own self-sustaining qualities including self-preservation. It is self-perpetuating and self-increasing….These systems are evolving evolution. They are increasing degrees of freedom…”
What does this say about America? It is increasingly a monolithic culture in which power and wealth are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. Copyright, electronic surveillance and fear further reduce diversity daily. A few psychopathic corporations rigidly control all markets. All systems increasingly rely on one technology- the addictive use of mineral oil. Indeed mineral oil is symbolised as energy – and there is no greater denial of diversity and complexity than this. Worse – energy, power, fossil fuels and Bulk-generated electrical products are all symbolised as the same. Our grand parents knew of electrical phenomena. We only know of electricity and this does not exist.
This is profound evidence of a vast lack of science and a dis-information age. By Kevin’s definition America (and my country Little America, sometimes known as New Zealand) does not have self-sustaining qualities, including that of self-preservation. Why not? Perhaps we lack compassion.
Re the global spontaneous eruption of ideas and technologies. We should not undervalue the role of changes in Earth’s climate. And in our petroleum driven culture it is hard for us to imagine how humans have walked thousands of miles propagating ideas. And imagine you are an archaeologist in the future studying the great complex of motorways and tall buildings that suddenly sprung up in the twentieth century. If all fossil fuels were gone this eruption of technology would seem magical.
Here’s a thought: Technology is most holy for the person who most fully enjoys compassion.
Evolution is natural forces slowly at work on Gaia in a proven, self-organizing and self-regulating manner. The development of civilization, Tityas, is by technology manipulating natural forces with little self organization or self regulation because it is driven by that intangible, money
There is no doubt that the information explosion comprises a vast amount of twaddle with a little knowledge thrown in and wisdom drowned out by the noise. It is not new knowledge we need. It is understanding of the oldest. Natural forces control everything that happens in Gaia and in Tityas. They have controlled the evolution of Gaia for eons. Our technology just uses these natural forces in Tityas in a willy nilly fashion.
> Evolution is natural forces slowly at work on Gaia in a proven, self-organizing and self-regulating manner.
Isn’t anyone going to respond to this? That isn’t the definition of evolution.
> It is not new knowledge we need. It is understanding of the oldest.
Hmm. Are you sure? What is the oldest knowledge, anyway? Our ancestors were hunters, hunted the mastodons to extinction as I recall.
If you mean Buddhism, Buddhism teaches that there is not good and bad, there is just the One. We make it good and bad by identifying what we like and do not like.
Nature has no plan, no morals, no qualms about kill or be killed. It’s survival of the fittest and if the fittest is Ebola Virus, so be it.
We are still in the minority here, friends. The bulk of the living world is bacteria, insects, slime and plankton. They were here first.
Although we see continual patterned structures such as fractals, this does not mean there is a “consciousness” toward a rational process of evolution in Nature. Every day there are chance mutations which are mostly rejected because not viable in the present environment. Read J. Weiner’s book , “The Beak of the Finch” and you will see present day change through adaptation which created a new specie of that bird. The science books we read in school are written after the fact of a “discovery, and the authors want to show order and logic that lead to the result, whereas the discovery is often by accident, or as some on us would say by way of serendipity. I tend to believe in chaos rather than order being the norm. Yes plb, Nature will be here long after we are gone as a specie. I’m sure you have read “The World Without Us.”
I’m worried about “agreeing on a set of symbols.” Once that happens, we’ve carved out a Rushmore, and once we get used to those faces, it’s hard to see alternatives. Of course no communication without symbols; but with hardened symbology, no possibility? What you see is determined by what you assume will be there, by the paradigm of your culture. Even plural paradigms may not lead to holiness.
Henry, I agree about the danger of hardened symbology. And I agree with Denis about “vast amount of twaddle” on the internet. And I fear the NSAs of the nations. But without information technology standards, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. A n d i t i s i m p o r t a n t t o r e m e m b e r w e d e p e n d o n s t a n d a r d order in our phonemes and letters, which are also information technology.
Getting back to Kelly’s original thread,, is technology sacred, worthy of worship, the logical outgrowth of Evolution?
In 1950 [the year I was born] Julian Huxley stated:
“The ideologically most important fact about evolution [is] the fact that the human species is now the spearhead of the evolutionary process, the only portion of the stuff of which our world is made which is capable of further progress, or indeed of any large-scale evolutionary change at all.”
… and if the only “rule” of evolution is survival of the fittest, then isn’t anything that happens the inevitable outgrowth of the evolutionary process?
Or — will we intervene to protect the less fit, the plants and animals that are destined to fall under the force of unbridled human activity? And isn’t this compassion, stewardship, the products of wisdom (which is also a product of evolutionary process).
Without information, no learning. Without learning, no wisdom. Without wisdom, no hope.
Thanks; nice demo of the value of standards! But it’s also a demo of our urge to find each other, which we can only accomplish together (Buber’s “between”)…. Not sure how that relates to the topic; but Blake enjoined us to “distinguish between states, and individuals in those states,” and to prefer “minute particulars” to generalizations. (“For everything that lives is Holy,” he said, generalizing!) Abstraction kills, but it enables communication. What a bitch. Maybe there’s more than one kind of communication.
Peter, we are stewards. In 1968 I discovered Teilhard de Chardin in the stacks at the Univ. of Wis. Madison library. See in Wikipedia his notion of “… the unfolding of the material cosmos, from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point.” This rings even truer to me now than it did then. Now I think it has to do with the power of networks, power realized in people who “interoperate” through shared symbols and people who creatively evolve symbols and create new ones.
Maybe the notion of stewardship is what Huxley meant by humanity as the spearhead of evolution — maybe. But I think I’d disagree with him. Even the steward can be superceded. Embracing technology, even in a stewardly way, may not be religious. Of course, neither is (organized, abstract) religion religious.
I think there are many kinds, and more and more kinds, of communication. 1968 was the year I read Blake, too. I’m sure the tension between focusing on particulars (Steve Talbott again) and abstractions is what keeps us on Yeats’s upward gyre.
Well, there’s an interpenetrating downward gyre, too, isn’t there? (I’d forgotten about that image.) Too much damn poetry!
Huxley’s statement is 60 yrs old. We’ve discovered a lot more since then about “humanity.” The Neanderthals existed as a specie for 10,000yrs using the same old technology. Of course they were superceded by their relatives from Africa who continued advances in technology. I don’t believe that evolution is fueled by “survival of the fittest,” but rather adaptation and co-operation in which each one finds its own particular niche.
Maybe a new technology will emerge that takes us away from the impersonality of the computer, texting etc. to a place with human interaction which is important in making and keeping us “human.”
Give me the poets any day!!!
Well, technium, okay. But to my mind it already exists, has existed for a long time and has now simply gone digital.
Humans succeeded (so far) because at a time of rapid climate change we learned how to externalize adaptation. We took adaptation out of the evolutionary realm and invented a unifying structure that facilitates adaptation. We call this unifying structure
‘culture’, technology is a vast area of this confusing field of human knowledge, skills, attitudes, stories, tools, toolmaking and craft that enables our species -more than any other- to adapt and survive in the more environments than any other. Human culture -of which technology and Mr. Kelly’s technium- are extremely important parts, is like humanity’s ‘coral reef’. It is vast now and we reap the benefits of the diversity of this reef whenever we face new problems, new challenges. We have been creating it since we first learned how to leave behind us cultural objects that survive beyond the lifetimes of individual member of the species. For this reason, language is one of our most distinctive skills, and ‘teaching’ is the primary and distinctive use to which it was first put and for which it is essential. Pictures and carved objects were good first starts, but after language comes everything else. It enables a fundamental change in the way our species transfers knowledge, skills and culture. No other primate actively ‘teaches’. All primates imitate their parents. A few primate-parents demonstrate real skill-tranfer lessons. But no primate parents reinforce these lessons by repetition, breaking the skills into discrete steps, discussing what is to be learned and then assessing and rewarding the performance of specific tasks. Mr. Kelly’s beautiful idea of the technium begins in the ‘cyberspace’ of a Hominid parent’s brain. We have now extended that noetic space electronically and exponentially, making it as real, or perhaps more real but certainly more appealing than our ordinary physical reality. (Who wouldn’t choose to live on Pandora?) But the technium is simply the next generation of culture. It’s not actually a reinvention of what already makes us distinct and adaptable. It’s just a power saw to people who have been using hand-saws for thousands of years. Well, okay dammit, I’m all for power saws.
How extremely sad. A person who would rather live in a “virtual” reality rather than his own “physical” world.
> A person who would rather live in a “virtual” reality rather than his own “physical” world.
Avatar is a work of art, no more and no less, just as the first cave painting was a work of art, not more nor less.
The robin’s nest, the honey bees’ comb, the orchid, the clouds, and the slime mold are also marvelous creations, like art.
These are aspects of the Whole World, not more nor less. I love the world outside my doors and the one on the inside, too.
Referring to Giles preferring to live there not Pandora as a work of art,it is most certainly that.
> Referring to Giles preferring to live there not Pandora as a work of art
And yet, why not live surrounded by beauty, whether it is nature’s art or human created? I am always saddened by the deadness of most human created environments: schools, factories, eateries, highways– all mostly artless and sterile. We could make our towns and cities things of beauty, a complement to the natural attraction of forests, windswept prairies and but we don’t.
Is it that people in cities don’t want beauty because they are deadened themselves, or are they deadened by the bleak environments? There are beautiful cities and hideous ones. These become virtual environments, too. I wonder where the line exists between “reality” and the lives most of us live.
Is not all of this real? Everything that happens to us, happens as “an experience” which is colored by who we are, perhaps dictated by what we already know. It is hard to tell where I end and the world starts. Pretty much it’s just a line in the sand that I draw.
Have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the interesting, informative comments, but must sign off now. Need to go to the woods with my dog and cellphone – one living matter the other a technological tool. I leave you with my morning thoughts written in Haiku.
Time, the thief passes
stealing minutes and heartbeats
flowers bloom and wilt
Black shadows, like ink
spreading across the landscape
grey winter arrives
fetishizing technology like this reinforces the idea that the richness and diversity of our experience (as well as our general quality of life) is somehow dependent on the development and utilization of physical technologies (specifically those technologies that are system dependent, ie they are made possible by certain social arrangements).
we forget and even deny the reality of the various spiritual and/or autonomous technologies (those accessible and fully reproducible on the individual level) as well as the basic nature of the universe and consciousness to make possible the infinite beauty of experience that is present and accessible always everywhere.
cuz it’s all beauty right?
so if we can see that beauty is not necessarily dependent on our technologies, or even that the technicum is not necessarily dependent on physically complex and industrial manifestations, we can be more free to honestly weigh the costs and benefits of the current technological system.
and one would have to be pretty far removed from reality to see that the spectacle of modern technology has already cost both humyns and the non-humyn community far too much to have any degree of justification.
life is beauty. it can manifest in the waste, pollution, energy use, and cancer of the laptop and the internet or it can in the moonlight, naked in the field, eating dried hawthorn berries and listening to the wind. we can either pay for the former with the lives and life of the earth, or choose and endless array of latter options, ones that require nothing more than awareness.
I’m wondering about the “we” Kelly keeps referring to in the article. Not everyone has access to technology. There are plenty of uneducated and or impoverished people here on earth. Where do they fit in to this technology and evolution bit?
> life is beauty. it can manifest in the waste, pollution, energy use, and cancer
Hmm. Must have a different definition of beauty than I use. I don’t see anything beautiful in waste, pollution, energy use, and cancer. Chernobyl, anyone?
peter. oil sheens can look pretty. as can rust on old industrial machinery. the experience of dealing with cancer can encompass beauty. beauty can manifest in whatever. what i am saying is that even if one can find beauty in the movies, or online, or in dealing with cancer, or in those awesome crystals that formed on the inside of the reactors during meltdown (yes, they are pretty, i have seen them), it does not justify the costs.
> what i am saying is that even if one can find beauty in the movies, or online … it does not justify the costs.
What costs? To whom must we justify ourselves?
Kevin Kelly had said a lot to his readers for decades, this latest represents an evolution of many very thoughtful observations and responses to change. I like to think scenarios like his certainly illustrate a do-able future, loaded with risk and uncertainty but do-able. I am more frequently overwhelmed with visions our culture is creating that are clearly not do-able. Thanks Orion for printing this interview and exchange. Great old poem by great old Robinson Jeffers:
By Robinson Jeffers
They burned lime on the hill and dropped it down
here in an iron car
On a long cable; here the ships warped in
And took their loads from the engine, the water
is deep to the cliff. The car
Hangs half way over in the gape of the gorge,
Stationed like a north star above the peaks of
the redwoods, iron perch
For the little red hawks when they cease from
When they’ve struck prey; the spider’s fling of a
cable rust-glued to the pulleys.
The laborers are gone, but what a good multitude
Is here in return: the rich-lichened rock, the
rose-tipped stone-crop, the constant
Ocean’s voices, the cloud-lighted space.
The kilns are cold on the hill but here in the
rust of the broken boiler
Quick lizards lighten, and a rattle-snake flows
Down the cracked masonry, over the crumbled
fire-brick. In the rotting timbers
And roofless platforms all the free companies
Of windy grasses have root and make seed; wild
buckwheat blooms in the fat
Weather-slacked lime from the bursted barrels.
Two duckhawks darting in the sky of their cliff-hung
nest are the voice of the headland.
Wine-hearted solitude, our mother the wilderness,
Men’s failures are often as beautiful as men’s
triumphs, but your returnings
Are even more precious than your first presence.
“what costs?” pollution, habitat destruction, the rendering of individuals into “resources”, the alienation that accompanies overspecialization, absurd energy use, cancer….
“to whom must we justify ourselves?” to the community of life that makes up your own, to the species and other spirits who must suffer and die to bring use all our wonderful and empty gizmos and doo-hickies. to yourself, who deeply knows the imbalance inherent in this civilization whether your ego will acknowledge it or not.
to the bees.
Nothing that exists, exists apart from Nature. Nature is the source of all life and energy, so how could there be anything that’s Not Nature? The only thing that is unique about human beings is their capacity for imagination. They imagine themselves apart from nature, superior to nature, independent of nature. But they aren’t.
Everything we have created has been from the raw materials of nature. Everything we have done has been within the laws of nature. Of course, the bottom line is this: only a fool would foul his own nest. Oh, and don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
It boils down to what kind of world do we want? A glass, steel and electric one? Or one where the breeze blows in and you can smell things alive and growing. One where people are starving while others stuff their faces? Where animals can live their whole lives without seeing a person?
YOU have to choose what matters. But don’t truck out your doom and gloom absolutes. That kind of talk betrays the fact that you haven’t thought very deeply. The more you think about it, the less certain you’ll be, I’m sure ; )
Thanks for Robinson Jeffers poem. I immediately thought of Shelley,s “Ozymandias.” You’ve given me the urge to re-read Jeffers. Don’t have any of his work at home , but will start at the library.
I am puzzled by Kelly’s connection of “specialization” with “self-sustaining”: “What we have is a long-term trend of increasing diversity, complexity, and specialization—all characteristics of self-sustaining systems.” Although it’s true that various species have specialized, over eons, to inhabit particular niches, our own specialization — and I use this in terms of the types of work we do — has pushed us farther apart from one another, making it difficult to talk across specialties that, I don’t believe, can be sustained over the long haul. This type of specialization, unless we find ways to bridge the gaps, leads to less resilience and more vulnerabilty(-ies).
Further, Kelly says: “These systems are evolving evolution. They are increasing degrees of freedom. And this is the theological part—we have the infinite game. The game is to extend the game, so that the game will keep going. The game is to keep changing the nature of change. And that infinite game is my view of holiness. You play the game not to win, but to continue to play to make room for all expressions of truth, good, and the beautiful. You are opening up the world to possibility. …The game is about trying to educate that individual into a position where they can maximize their potential and possibility. And technology is the instrument.”
I don’t agree that technology necessarily opens up possibilities. It may open some, but it shuts others out and it shapes people toward particulars types of possibilities and particular outcomes. We all learn differently, after all. And if education relies mostly on one way of learning — visual, aural, or spatial — then education leaves out swaths of people who don’t fall into a prescribed category of learner. I fail to see how the systems Kelly refers to are “increasing degrees of freedom.”
Where is freedom, say, for the person who wants to grown corn organically when his corn patch abuts a neighbor’s whose corn has Bt engineered into its DNA? Why are we so often inclined to equate “freedom” with “freedom to” instead of “freedom from”?
>I don’t agree that technology necessarily opens up possibilities. It may open some, but it shuts others out and it shapes people toward particulars types of possibilities and particular outcomes.
I think you are the first here who has grasped the implications of what Kelly is saying and rearticulated it in a coherent manner.
The central issue is of course, what is the impact of what I DO upon YOU. If you are crying that my GMO is contaminating you garden, I believe that is a legitimate complaint.
However, I may believe I have the right to grow this type of food, and claim that it is better because it does not require pesticides sprayed on it, which will poison you, while the GMO product has proven safe so far.
So it boils down to democracy, where we discuss the issues openly (not cloaked in proprietary secrecy or scientific mumbo jumbo). We try to examine all sides, the real and potential impact and reach a compromise.
For me it is not the what but the how
Peter Loring Borst wrote:
“However, I may believe I have the right to grow this type of food, and claim that it is better because it does not require pesticides sprayed on it, which will poison you, while the GMO product has proven safe so far.
“So it boils down to democracy, where we discuss the issues openly (not cloaked in proprietary secrecy or scientific mumbo jumbo). We try to examine all sides, the real and potential impact and reach a compromise.”
Are you speaking theoretically? Certain GMO crops actually require MORE spray, not less, which is a sort of crop zero-sum game (game, indeed, to use Kelly’s word!). And while we may try to get information about safety and side effects from corporations that claim proprietary secrecy, the profit-drive “science” (is science in service of profit really science?) zooms past us “layfolk” and condescends to us, as if we have no right to question the legitimacy of such “technologies” and cannot question them, because we don’t have the proper specialty, you know, a degree in genetics or what have you. We won’t know, maybe for eons, the effects of such genetic roulette.
The “old” way of doing things — natural breeding — undoubtedly was also a form of genetic roulette: What did the early agriculturalists LOSE from developing crops by selecting out larger seedheads as they begain to domesticate wild plants? What possibilities did they close off?
When we begin crossing the DNA of unnrelated species, I believe that presents too large a risk.
We are insane if we believe we have “control” over genetic engineering. There are simply too many variables at work to be sure of any outcome. Besides, does anyone ever ask the plants, animals, viruses or bacteria whose genes are being used what THEY want?
From Kelly: “We are tending the garden of technology, moving things around, noticing a plant coming up here that would do much better in the sun over there.” No, we do not control it, which is why certain wild plants come up wherever they want to. If the conditions (temp, length of daylight, moisture) were not right for them, they would not make their appearance. This differs, of course, for the ones we intentionally plant (annual vegetables or perennial fruits), where we take on the responsibility of ensuring proper moisture, light, etc. Even then, we very little control.
We humans are perhaps the ones we most need to “prune” and “train.”
I suppose that is the major issue that I have with technology and “science” in service to profits: The hubris is the proverbial stick in the eye. But one good thing that may come of all of this is the sheer undeniability that we are all connected, inter- and intraspecies.
The “what” and the “how” are equally important. As are the “who” and “who benefits” and “who and what gets left behind,” etc.
I will put my cards on the table. I am a scientist who grew up in the sixties. I went from being a anti-society rebel to what I am now, a liberal pro-science pro-environmentalist. You may not understand that there can be such a POV but scientists can love Nature too. Many of us went into science for that reason.
My question, however, is HOW will we as a society decide what is right for all of us? Will it be a matter of me describing the benefits of Genetic Engineering, you describing the risks and then we end in a stand-off?
You have posed the right question. I think the answer is not to be provided by government or industry, but by NGOs that involve representatives of all stakeholder groups (even flora and fauna) in consensus processes that yield results that government and industry abide by: very much like open standards development organizations. My reference point is the Open Geospatial Consortium, which I have served in staff and consultant roles since 1994. I see the OGC as the predecessor of a new species of organization that arises to help humanity steer technology. Technological growth is a function of markets, and the world is beginning to see that that technology and markets are NOT self-regulating. They are part of a complex system that is at a tipping point where a new order will emerge. Steering technology requires some new social complexity.
To Peter re: the “How”:
I suppose neither you nor I will decide; the decision will be made for us, through accretion of decision upon decision, made by anyone and everyone…scientists, corporations, lawmakers, regulators, consumers, technophiles, and technophobes.
I mean, if we had known, in about 1840 or so — or earlier, say, the 1500s — what petroleum and coal would bring, would we have NOT used these energy sources? Would we have, courtesy of the precautionary principle — which, to my knowledge — had not been articulated at the time, been hesitant to jump in? Were it not for motorized transportation, would you be here today? I know I would not — at least not in my present form!
I am not a scientist and I am not antiscience, but science, you must admit, has its own epistemology, its own way of viewing the world, its own limitations, and that comes through in the various hypotheses that scientists pose and in the means they use to experiment. And in this way, science, like a novel or a court trial, can only get at certain aspects of the truth, never the “whole” truth. Science that has given us a closer knowledge of where we come from, science that shows us how amazing our body is, science that begins to help us understand the countless interactions and feedback loops among various systems, and science that shows us how little we know, how little we may ever know — that, we need.
But science that serves profit has an epistemology all its own, do you not agree? Imbued by the scent of profits, that kind of science seems to me to be easily skewed. I mean, it’s kind of like saying that journalists are objective. There has never been any such thing as objectivity in the news; you open a story with a fact…why open with that particular fact as opposed to any other? Because it’s most important. Most important to whom?
I think it’s critical, too, that we distinguish between science and technology. The two are too often considered the same; they are not. Aspects of life that science uncovers, of course, can be used in the development of technology, but they are not the same and should not be lumped together.
And, yes, Peter, I can understand there CAN be such a POV as yours. I have a good friend who’s a hydrologist and whose opinion it is that we should not be engineering food crops, but who supports stem-cell research. There are as many POVs as there are humans.
My understanding of GM food crops is that they are NOT safe. They are a result of a mode of thinking that reduces everything to its parts and purports to examine the minutiae and “predict” from those examinations what will happen to the whole. Pure Descartes. The irony, which I can’t help but again allude to here, is that the problems (masquerading as solutions, but creating other problems) yielded by that sort of reductive thinking are the very things that may, finally, get humans to understand that we are all connected — that everything is connected to everything else.
We’re still stuck with HOW to decide: I believe Derrick Jensen, maybe in Endgame, spoke about the concept of “defensive rights.” What this basically gets back to is the precautionary principle. That is what I would be inclined to use to make such decisions. But, then, I’d probably be in the minority, be accused of “holding up evolution.” Still, we are living with nearly a century’s worth of “innovations” that didn’t adhere to any principle other than “we can, so we should.” Every being, from plankton to whales to Inuit mother, lives with this legacy. And they certainly didn’t have the democratic opportunity to vote for the people who decided that DDT would be helpful, or PCBs. I didn’t get to decide; I was born yet. And if your coming of age was in the 1960s, you didn’t get to decide, either.
So, what do you think, Peter?
> My understanding of GM food crops is that they are NOT safe. They are a result of a mode of thinking that reduces everything to its parts and purports to examine the minutiae and “predict” from those examinations what will happen to the whole. Pure Descartes.
Actually, genetic engineering resulted from the same line of inquiry that lead to the discovery of genes by Mendel, DNA by Watson, Crisk, and Rosalind Franklin, right on up to the present day with many women leading the field. Genomics is a closer understanding of evolution, heredity and the programming of cell development than we have ever had before.
Insofar as capitalism is concerned, you have to admit that it is a natural outgrowth of the processes of nature. There are very few examples of real cooperation in the natural world. There are many examples of symbiosis, but far more instances of parasitism, predatory behavior, and ruthless treachery.
Many of the most beautiful things on earth have survived and prospered due in part to luck and in part to skill in avoiding being noticed. That has been my way up until now, but I have come out to try to engage people in a discussion about science and technology that is based upon understanding and not fear of the unknown, or even fear of the past which has been very bad, in many cases.
I have stated before that there can be no going back. Evolution is what happens. It is the product of a vast number of forces. It cannot be stopped by any means, but it can most certainly be influenced. All species are influencing the evolution of themselves and others all the time.
Our role as intelligent people, you and I, is to discuss these things and decide together where we should go together. In doing so, we created a conversation that others will have as well and the future will be the outcome of thoughtful decisions, not blind faith in science, or religion, or politics.
“Actually, genetic engineering resulted from the same line of inquiry that lead to the discovery of genes by Mendel, DNA by Watson, Crisk, and Rosalind Franklin, right on up to the present day with many women leading the field. Genomics is a closer understanding of evolution, heredity and the programming of cell development than we have ever had before.
“Insofar as capitalism is concerned, you have to admit that it is a natural outgrowth of the processes of nature. There are very few examples of real cooperation in the natural world. There are many examples of symbiosis, but far more instances of parasitism, predatory behavior, and ruthless treachery.”
Although I cannot disagree about the continuuum of Mendel to present-day genetic crop modification — again, it’s reductionist in its approach, doesn’t allow for the “plasticity” with which organisms respond to their environments — I vehemently disagree that GMOs (if by “it” you mean GMOS, not capitalism) are a “natural outgrowth of the process of nature.” Interspecies swapping of DNA/RNA does not occur, cannot occur, without human intervention.
As for safety, see as one example the American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s position paper on GMO foods at
Also, I think we often, as a species, find what we’re looking for. So, as one who is skeptical of a positive outcome of a reductionist approach to just about anything, this sort of “science” doesn’t sit well with me. By the same token, Peter, if you go looking for lots of examples in nature of “parasitism, predatory behavior, and ruthless treachery,” you will find plenty of them. (Would not “luck” and “skill” be part of a species’ response, over time, to environmental changes? If so, are these really “luck” and “skill,” which suggest something speedy in the first instance and conscious choice in the second?)
I suggest that we open ourselves to examples found in nature of cooperation. Take the human digestion system as one: Without the multiple types of “fauna” found there, we would not be able to sustain ourselves nutritionally. The so-called “bugs” benefit from what we eat (assuming what we eat doesn’t perturb their balance and open up space for overgrowth of, say, C. albicans, etc.) and we benefit by their breaking down our food so that our systems can access what’s there. Our soil could benefit, too, if we used what we metabolized and excreted not as “waste” but as “food” for multiple others whose lives depend upon further breaking down what we cast off.
I think “fear” or concern about GM foods is not at all misplaced, especially when you see the merry-go-round between lawmakers who are supported by the industry and regulators who in one election cycle work for the industry and in the next are appointed to oversee it. That is not the sort of democratic process that you appear to support.
Some recent scientific studies on lab. animals shows that genetically manipulated foods have a negative, dangerously negative, affect on the digestive system.
How can “capitalism” be a natural evolutionary process of nature? All economics systems are man made, so are part of “culture.” Furthermore, not all “capitalism” is the same.
> I suggest that we open ourselves to examples found in nature of cooperation.
I am have been a beekeeper for 35 years and I am intimately aware of the nature of cooperation. Recent studies show that the bees may not be “cooperating” at all, but may be under coercion from the queen via powerful pheromones which regulate their behavior.
> I think “fear” or concern about GM foods is not at all misplaced
No, and those of us working in the field (yes, me) are acutely aware of the concern and the fear. That is one reason I have undertaken this conversation with you, because you have the intelligence and compassion to carry it forward, as do I.
> Interspecies swapping of DNA/RNA does not occur, cannot occur, without human intervention.
Here you are in error. Up to 8 per cent of the human genome is viral RNA. There is mounting evidence of epigenetic effects between species which may be facilitated by rna transference. Certainly speciation itself is an example of natural changes in the DNA coding of organisms.
But beyond that, the general public does not understand that genetic modification does not involve the insertion of genes from one species into another. It is done by coding new strands of genetic material which is synthesized from raw nucleotides.
There aren’t bacteria genes in corn. The corn has had its genetic structure altered with synthetic genetic material which expresses toxins that make the corn poisonous to bugs. These new genes are based on the coding of the bacteria, but are not *from* other species.
This is how evolution happens: the dna mutates, is recombined, new traits appear and if they are harmful, the organism quickly dies. If they are beneficial the organism, be it corn, beans, fruit flies or streptococcus, will begin to get an edge over its peers and become the dominating form. Etc.
> How can “capitalism” be a natural evolutionary process of nature? All economics systems are man made, so are part of “culture.”
Humankind was created by nature. How can anything we do be NOT nature? Where does not nature stop and artifice begin? Do you know?
Anyway, capitalism is an economic system that is based upon acquisition and in this way it is not different from the hawk killing the mouse. (And the virus killing the hawk)
Nature has many examples of cooperation, but chaos and competition are its underlying theme. Which I don’t find problematic at all. See: The Red Queen’s Race http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Queen
“There aren’t bacteria genes in corn. The corn has had its genetic structure altered with synthetic genetic material which expresses toxins that make the corn poisonous to bugs. These new genes are based on the coding of the bacteria, but are not *from* other species.
“This is how evolution happens: the dna mutates, is recombined, new traits appear and if they are harmful, the organism quickly dies. If they are beneficial the organism, be it corn, beans, fruit flies or streptococcus, will begin to get an edge over its peers and become the dominating form. Etc.”
I understand what you are saying about the human genome. But when you create Bt corn…you are engineering the corn to express the ‘cidal effect of Bt. You, as the scientist, are choosing which genes to copy and use. The genes themselves are not choosing…unless, of course, you believe they are choosing you as a proxy to act on their behalf — and I can certainly see why people would feel that way.
If the corn were ever to combine with Bt “voluntarily,” then I can’t help but think it would do this over a very, very long time (if ever) — or, as a result of environmental pressures that would cause Bt to benefit corn AND vice versa. So, if growers want to “help” their corn resist various insect predation, why not just use Bt in their fields? Could it be because it costs too little (relatively speaking), can’t be patented, etc.?
Further, I fail to see why everything has to be a war or a battle. We, Homo sapiens, do not on the whole benefit from the constant escalation of this kind of war between our food crops and the things (fungi, insects, viruses) that prey on them. It gets more and more costly and — who knows? — we could be engineering our own end. But then, maybe that’s what’s needed. I’d like to think otherwise.
So, Peter, what fired you up about science to begin with? Why did you choose to become a scientist? What field or fields do you work in?
From Peter: “Anyway, capitalism is an economic system that is based upon acquisition and in this way it is not different from the hawk killing the mouse. (And the virus killing the hawk)”
Really? How is it no different? ‘Splain, please.
I am wondering if it is helpful to this discussion to define what we mean when we use the “science” and “capitalism” symbols.
Is science a way of thinking that produces an amoral body of knowledge, also called science?
Is science a profound moral state of being, the requisites for it being sharing, inquiry, inclusiveness, reflection and the other qualities of compassion?
Sample application: Does science still exist when a psychopathic corporation controls and uses the genetic knowledge of organisms in ways that prevent sharing, inquiry and reflection on that use?
Is capitalism a way of acting and trading governed by an amoral body called The Market?
Is capitalism a profound moral state of being and trading, the requisites for it being sharing, inquiry, inclusiveness, reflection and the other qualities of compassion?
Can a nation be described as capitalist if 10% of the population own 71% of the wealth, the top 1% control 38% while the bottom 40% own less than 1% of the nation’s wealth; a few private corporations control most of the nation’s commerce and receive vast Government subsidies; and most of the nation’s wealth is derived from waging war on other nations?
To Dave McArthur:
Great framing questions regarding “science” and “capitalism.”
Science is a product of the people who “do science.” No one person — scientist or otherwise — can study everything; there just aren’t enough years in a lifetime. So, a scientist narrows his scope. Maybe she focuses on the causes of red tide or how PCBs have ended up in the fat of polar bears. Or maybe she focuses on making better pigments to be used in paints…or a better way of developing polymers for specific types of plastics. The point is, the scope is dictated by the person’s interests, which are part of whatever she has been exposed to and stimulated by.
And I distinguish between NGO- or taxpayer-backed science and corporation-backed science; even the former are limited by what they focus on.
Where science is done in service to a corporation that has a higher level of “personhood” than even you or I, even the corporation’s shareholders have, we must admit that that’s a ton of unchecked power.
The U.S. does not have capitalism; we have a hybrid. Science and our hybrid system have this in common: They are as much (if not more) defined by what they leave out as what they include. And when you’re dealing with corporate structure and science in service to corporations — and to go back to Kelly, the technological products developed, marketed and sold by corporations — the main thing that gets excluded is context.
Without context, there is no space for “sharing, inquiry, inclusiveness, reflection and the other qualities of compassion” that give meaning to our lives.
> So, Peter, what fired you up about science to begin with? Why did you choose to become a scientist? What field or fields do you work in?
In my teens I wanted to find out what is nature, what is a natural person. I spent years looking into it. I realized that I would have to have a job that connected me with nature, so I became a beekeeper. As time went on, I realized the scientific side of it interested me much more than the money making side. So I left commercial beekeeping and went to work at a research lab. Gradually, I became more interested in science and left the bees to work in a lab that does research into the genes connected with human reproduction. I work on a daily basis with animals and DNA. What we do is highly regulated, in order to safeguard the public from any conceivable harm that could come from what we do. We may feel that the potential for harm is low, but we comply with regulations that assume that the risk is high, and we do it willingly in order to be responsible citizens.
Most of the food that is being consumed in this country has been genetically modified in some fashion. I am not aware of a single disaster in this field, whereas I can describe numerous catastrophes that have occurred as a result of the traditional methods of breeding and moving plants and animals around the world.
I believe in the utmost precaution not only because it’s responsible, but because we need to gain the respect and confidence of people in regard to what we are doing. However, I will point out that China and other countries are moving full speed ahead with genetic research, so it will happen one way or another. I would rather it happen here under close scrutiny than in a country where life has much less value.
Insofar as the impact of what we do is concerned, it is true that we cannot predict the outcome of the scientific method which is to leave no stone unturned. As to where the money comes from, I understand the objections raised about corporate and military funding of science.
But research is extremely expensive and money has to come from people that stand to get some sort of return. Would you fund this kind of research? Who should decide what gets funded and what doesn’t?
As a high school student and having grown up in the digital age, I have known nothing else than the rapidly changing, constantly improving, forever curious technology that seems to dictate our lives. Yes, as Kelly has pointed out, we have the option to “opt-out,” but “we don’t really have the option of ignoring it.” Students have now developed into digital multitaskers – listening to Pandora, chatting on Facebook, and checking out the funniest videos on YouTube all while writing an essay or doing math homework and still receiving passing grades. As humans evolve, or technologically develop, it is nearly impossible to stand aside and watch their peers embrace advancement and continue onward. It’s a process of natural selection. One must adapt to their environment or struggle to survive.
I understand the restrain to let technology envelope our culture, but it is too late. Now the problem is focused on whether of not to set limitations and restrictions on technology. I agree with Kelly’s stance that people-killing technology should be prohibited, while other forms should be given a rightful home, but aren’t there other ways that technology can kill people beyond that of physical death? Yes, superbugs and nuclear weapons can reap havoc and decimate populations, but of what effect does technology have on a person’s mental being? As social networking booms, a person may still continue connectivity to other human beings, but loses the experience of physical interaction. Being able to manipulate genes to create the child of your dreams eliminates the awe and surprise of childbirth and no longer creates children, but perfectly manufactured machines. Humanity loses its basis of being human.
Technology is incapable of being tied down and refuses restraint. If humans could receive better education and be able to understand the effects such advances has, then technology might not appear as The Untamable. But I pose the question: Is technology creating smarter humans or simply dumbing us down as not to respect such education and fact?
What do you mean when you say, “Most of the food that is being consumed in this country has been genetically modified in some fashion”? Do you not consider the Starlink corn episode just one sign of disaster or potential disaster? (Cows, by the way, are meant to eat grass, not grain.) And, outside the States, the ongoing disaster of Roundup cotton in India? The cycle of debt, collapsing yields, and farmer suicides? Is this not a disaster?
Aside from the incursion — sometimes accidental, sometimes intentional — of exotic opportunists (Brazilian pepper in Florida, Asian carp in Midwestern waterways, African bees that have escaped from Brazil are now spreading across the Sunbelt, etc.), what are the “numerous catastrophes” resulting from traditional methods of breeding?
Also, unless you can publicly convey the “utmost precaution” that’s being taken — and you must do this with an audience of lay people who have some grasp of genetics — then you’re swimming upstream. I don’t see that “utmost precaution,” because I’ve heard or read about any number of cases where things that were not supposed to happen, happened. Until we can kick the hubris habit, we’ll continue to see these things and the “sides” involved will become even less able to converse.
The scientific method does leave a number of stones unturned. Any human venture must, because there simply isn’t enough time, money or minds to be put any one thing. So, where does the money come from?
As Lance McKee earlier noted that he sees the Open Geospatial Consortium as a new species of organization that can help, perhaps the “Community Supported…” fill-in-the-blank model is also another “species” that can offer an alternative and inject accountability and responsibility into the equation much more effectively than the present structure encourages — or permits.
You got interested in science because you wanted to be close to nature. We need many more citizen naturalists, many more people just willing to go out into their neighborhoods…observe, count, experience the world through their senses, and share that with others.
We are losing naturalists probably because there’s not much money in it, so why should it be supported? And yet all of our instruments, our measuring devices, which are expensive, inject a high wall between us and what’s going on around us all the time. The other senses, including our intuition and feelings — which cannot be quantified — are just as valid and we are born with them, so they are in a way “free.”
Christina M asks: “Is technology creating smarter humans or simply dumbing us down as not to respect such education and fact?”
The answer probably has to be open-ended and depends on how you define “smart”: Maybe some become smarter, others not so much, depending on their focus and how they use technology. If the technologies of communication make us feel more atomized, more out of touch, then maybe we rely on them less. Same with an “old” technology: TV. Don’t you get tired of all the images zooming around, the same “experts” always invited to talk? Why don’t they invite people like YOU to appear on their shows? Could be because they don’t know how to sell anything out of what you’re saying, because you’re willing to question technology, so you’re probably willing to question their ads about how great (and plentiful) natural gas is, or the side effects they run on about with their statin drugs.
You ask deep questions. I think there is a kind of death other than physical. It grows from disconnections, fragmentation. The more of the natural world we lose, the less we have Others against whom to define ourselves, the more we lose touch with our fundamental “who-ness.” Maybe the answer is, because the technology(-ies) are not going away, treat them as you would rich food and don’t partake of them all the time.
And just to show you this is nothing new, check out the essays by Saul Bellow: “The Distracted Public,” and “There Is Simply Too Much to Think About,” found in that technology, older than TV, a book entitled, “It All Adds Up.”
BTW, how do you define “smart”?
I don’t think that technology has a direct affect on human’s intelligence – or how “smart” humans are if Christina was using the words interchangeably.
From what I understand Kelly to be saying is that technology is directed and minimally maintained by us, but is mostly evolving and developing on its own, following a natural path of development. Like how he mentioned that across the globe the technological advancements in separate civilizations show similar patterns. This supports that the Technium is a phenomena of it’s own and shows unique behavior in it’s growth. So looking at it this way humans are not becoming smarter or dumber for that matter because of our dependence or use of technology, but only the way we learn and become smarter.
I think also as technology evolves our very definition of intelligence changes similar to how Kelly said that humanity is redefined with the evolution of technology. As our tools and creations serve changing purposes, society also shifts to fulfill those purposes. For example today you could say that much of our technology is created to better connect people and share information whether it be social or scientific. So therefore our definition of “smart” is one who is easily able to use these technologies to share their own version of intelligence.
I guess I define “smart” as being able to distinguish where human ends and technology begins.
Technology has a definite effect on human intelligence!
Idea reported in “Smart World” by R. Ogle: Mind is NOT contained mainly in an individual’s head. It is in culture, including dances and slide rules and TVs. Consider, too, McLuhan’s ideas, e.g., alphabets degraded/amplified oral traditions. Vocabularies of fifth graders have declined significantly since TV. Read Joseph Chilton Pierce’s “Magical Child”…oooh… I see on wikipedia that he’s written lots since I read that! I missed those because I left a job in early childhood education to work in the computer world: Capitalism made me do it, I suppose. But see how the Web makes me smarter! Understanding the effects of technology on child development, learning and mind is a critical issue. Consider what we’ve learned about the brain’s plasticity, how use shapes brain physiology. Teens today are 6 times more likely to be depressed and anxious than during the great depression. We need more science here!
I guess I’m not all that smart…I often find myself wondering, did I dream something, did I THINK something, or did I read it somewhere? This, to me, indicates that I can’t necessarily distinguish where I begin and end and where what I come into contact with (whichever technology) begins and ends. It gets a little blurry.
We can’t assume that we are not shaped by technologies (tool-extensions of ourselves) or that we do not also influence them. I’m glad, though, that we can choose how much of any one technology we want to use. At least for now.
To Lance: I saw that story this week referencing depressed and anxious teens. How will more science play a role? Someone like Richard Louv would say it’s because they need to get outdoors more and have direct sensory experiences there, experiences perhaps enabled by a car or GPS, but unmediated experiences. I agree with him. Direct experiences in nature and curiosity have saved me many a time, as a child and as an adult. Better than drugs…and I don’t think it has any side effects, except maybe positive ones.
re: How will more science play a role?
Yes, kids need to get outdoors, but a feral child lives outdoors and never matures. Cognitive psychologists and educators are only beginning to understand the different kinds of learners and the deep effects of media. I hope that science-guided policy will end commercial TV and perhaps most TV for children. Advertisers apply and even develop knowledge about attention, semiotics, chld behavior and adult/child relationships. We’re apes: The flip side of chimpanzees’ capacity for empathy – knowing another’s feelings – is their capacity for exploiting other chimps.
> You got interested in science because you wanted to be close to nature. We need many more citizen naturalists … We are losing naturalists probably because there’s not much money in it, so why should it be supported? And yet all of our instruments, our measuring devices, which are expensive, inject a high wall between us and what’s going on around us all the time.
We almost connected here. You can see how science is a logical outgrowth of the child’s interest in nature, but then you qualify it suggesting only naturalists study nature. All scientists are studying nature, that’s all we do, because everything is nature.
The second part is a bit specious. I wear glasses to read; without them I can’t do it. Are my reading glasses a wall or a window? Is Hubble erecting a wall between me and the stars?
How can the understanding of genetic recombination be erecting a wall? Ignorance is the wall and scientific inquiry breaks down ignorance. I think your concern about the ethics of science is misplaced. It is the lack of conscience and compassion that worries you. I agree 100% that science absolutely must have an ethical component.
Scientists are not different from the rest of society in this regard, there are callous ones and some conscientious ones. There people who focus only on personal profit and gain — and there are those whose motives are actually decent and they care greatly about the consequences of their actions.
If I am in science to broaden understanding and do good works, why on earth would I partake in actions that perpetuate myth and ignorance? Why would I do something that had the potential for great harm?
Everything humans do is inherently risky; as intelligent people we have to weigh the risks and move forward knowing we are liable to be wrong. But to stop inquiring or to stop others from doing their work out of *fear* is a critical mistake, IMHO.
> But see how the Web makes me smarter!
The human mind has always been collective, it’s never about what I know but what WE know. But moving on, how “smart” we are is evidenced by what we DO, not what we think.
Mr. Kelly has a much rosier perspective on the innate abilities of the average citizen and the sharp points of the universe, as shown by history, than I happen to have. He might want to come down out of that treehouse someday, or dial back on the high-grade.
Cheese on rice! The point I’d make to him if we were bending elbows together is that the pace of the thing allows no vetting for unintended consequences. It happens before you were even aware that it was a possibility. Before you know it, you are Curly Howard, building yourself into a cage of pipes to stop that pesky plumbing leak, finally giving up by drilling a hole in the floor to let the water out. Technology, abetted by what Mr. Berry terms “Maximum Capitalism” has beat us onto the rocks and shoals too many times to count. Does that mean we all turn into neo-Luddites? I don’t think so, but holding up some kind of Pynchon-esque Church of What’s Happening Now as the next big thing in human evolution strikes me as so funny that I feel the need to cry.
Way to go Ploughboy. This King Midas stuff was beginning to get to me.
Technology is all around us, and therefore there is no way that we can ignore it. Even in a remote village in India there is an Internet café in which for only a few rupees. As a teenager in the Internet age I am constantly surrounded by technology. For example, in my house we have two televisions, four computers, wireless Internet, three cell phones, three DVD players, and so much more. In the fifties you would think my family had 20 children and had made a fortune for having this many things. In actuality, I live in a middle class family, and right now there are three people living in my house. This is an example of a family that is rooted in technology. Kelly is right when he states that technology is a tool that can be used, we use the televisions to watch the news and learn what is going on in the worlds, as well as enjoy some entertainment by watching a movie or a show.
Peter has stated earlier in these comments that “People by and large seek entertainment and resent the intrusion of new and thought provoking ideas.” As we look around our world we see people searching for answers, for remedies to diseases, for answers to solve world hunger (Miss America has been searching for that for years), and so much more. There is a thirst for knowledge in our country, and in our world. New ideas are appearing everyday, and rather than resent them, most people that I have seen try to embrace them, or fund them. How many times have there been commercials on television for St. Jude’s Children Hospital asking for funding? Or how many times have we seen the missionaries on TV asking for people to fund a child? These are just a couple examples of how new ideas are not being resented, and rather being embraced.
And I’m not talking (well, O.K., ranting….) about better forms of radio, which is just about all the internet/cellphones/blackberries/i phones are, if you really want to strip it down. That might be what some think Kelly is so enraptured by, but I don’t think so. What I think really makes him go all warm and squishy inside for is the bio-engineered, genetically modified and a.i. wonders of his Brave New World. Have you heard!? Asbestos is the miracle insulator!
Look, the fable of the forbidden fruit is as old as it is for a simple reason: We get it wrong waaaaaay more than we get it right in this world. Always. I’d be the first to cruise off to the Orion Nebula in my warp drive vehicle, if that is what Kelly is jazzed about, and I understand the need for a mortal man to push back against this life’s time limitations, but I hardly see man’s invention of toilet paper, or even the starship, as something to elevate to a level of transcendence. If anything, it just shows how spiritually bankrupt we are as a culture. I mean, shoot, my heroes have always been the ones who saw no need to get all hung up on the mere fact that language existed, and got more satisfaction in what the language was able to express on thoughts beyond the human physical condition. Kelly would seem to think that “Zen and T.A.O. Motorcycle Maintenance” is really a repair manual.
Dude, it is just stuff you’re talking about. Really neat and cool stuff, don’t get me wrong, but of the kind you can’t take with you. Right there is where your “religion” fails to deliver.
Right On!! Plowboy.
Don’t have time to write any more as I want to/need to get out there among the trees, the lizards, the deer and on and on…..
> Kelly would seem to think that “Zen and T.A.O. Motorcycle Maintenance” is really a repair manual.
Yeah, well, have you read it? What is it, if not a repair manual for the human spirit? And a road map to a healthy relationship with technology … in fact, he makes fun of people who use technology without knowing anything about it, who bitch and moan when it breaks down … which it does, often as a result of their not knowing anything about it …
P.L.B….Maybe a bad example, yeah. I have read it, sure. Like most readers I’m sure, I have to admit it was tough going. It is somewhat of an ink-blot document, by my recollection 30 years later, but what I recall most about it is that technology was just the springboard issue…and that it was no techno-worshipping treatise.
Kelly seems to think (and I may be missing his point) that you don’t need to go deeper to understand the human condition, just look at what neat tools he uses.
Another point I think that bears discussion is the confusion Kelly seems to have to crib from J.H. Kunstler) between what is technology and what is energy. The two are not interchangeable. There is a lot of that going around these days. Much of what Kelly points to as the sine qua non of humanity may only have the illusion of permanency. Is so, what does that mean for his theory of transcendence? For me, it means that not only can you not take it with you, you might not even be able to have it here before too much longer.
Kelly is correct. We can’t ignore technology. Our generation, the Millennial Generation, have grown up in the midst of iPods, Pandora, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, and other social networking and mentally diverting technology. Technology is present in everyday life, from waking up to music on my iPod to typing essays on my school laptop. Since technology is so ever present, can we ever truly run away from it? Kelly says, “I acknowledge the fact that multitasking and BlackBerrys and iPods and Twitter can be distracting. But we don’t really have the option of ignoring it. The proliferation of devices is necessary to learn new things. And the cost of learning new things is an avalanche of fragmented information. We just have to learn how to live with it.” But the question I have to ask myself is this: is “learning to live” with technology killing our interpersonal relationships and, inadvertently, our transcendentalist view of the world?
Let me explain: I have about 200 friends on my Facebook profile. I talk to maybe 20 of them on a regular basis. However, when I return to school the next day and talk to one of those people, or I go on a trip and I see one of those people, it is really hard to talk to them because I have already said all that I need to say to them. We speak our mind to them on the internet and then when we see them face to face, we have nothing to talk about. This is how technology kills our interpersonal relationships; it could potentially cause us to hide away in our rooms, “facebooking” but not physically talking to people.
As for the transcendentalist part: to clarify, I am defining “a transcendentalist view of the world” as the belief that humans are capable of “out of body experiences” and that the material universe is inconsequential to our capabilities. Being a transcendentalist, from what I understand, is being one with your surroundings. Personally, if I were to “be one” with my surroundings, I would choose nature over city. Nature is peaceful, quiet, and, where I am from, untouched by man. To achieve this level of transcendence, you would need to expel technology from everyday life; otherwise it would just get in the way. Imagine this: you are meditating in a peaceful glade and all of a sudden, your cell phone goes off. Having technology completely interrupts the transcendent experience.
I see your point Rita…but they said the same thing about the telephone….and the telegraph before that. I think they were wrong about those technologies, and I think the tendency to hype these kinds of systems as “game changers” is by those with a stake in their outcome. We’ve coupled a fundamental belief in the technological solution to aggressive global capitalism. The result is bound to not be pretty.
If you step back from it, and look at it objectively, have your synapses and muscle fibers rearrange themselves because you Facebook? It might seem that way at times, but I’m doubtful. I am 51 y.o., and not exactly an early adopter of anything. But, I’m no technophobe. I use all kinds of gadgetry in my work and in my leisure….and I just don’t get that big a charge out of it. It hasn’t changed me in any fundamental way that I can tell. I’m not alone either.
At this moment in history we’re just enthralled by our stuff as we always are on occasion. The zeitgeist of the times was summed up for me once in a Dilbert cartoon panel: “See how small my phone is..” BFD.
> Let me explain: I have about 200 friends on my Facebook profile. … technology kills our interpersonal relationships
Let me explain: I have met about 200 people discussing honey bees on the internet. I am now down in Florida meeting them in person and we are having the time of our lives. Technology brought us together. We feel as if we know each other before having met, and now when we email we will have a face and a voice to remember. probably will be more likely to call each other on the phone instead of email.
If you think about it, it started with the telegraph, what, 150 years ago? It was all dots and dashes then, now it’s 1s and 0s. The computer converts the letters back and forth for us. And if you really think about, your own mind is converting your ideas into words which your fingers type. Even your own language is a technology that is far advanced beyond the barks and whimpers and tail wagging of “man’s best friend”
Even the bee language, as beautiful as it is, and which is a system for translating direction, distance and quality into symbols that other bees understand and translate back so that they *know where other bees went and what they did there* — all they can ever say, we can say in *one sentence*
Technology is nothing more nor less than a physical projection of the human mind. There is nowhere else we could be right now than here: the future can go any of an infinite number of ways, even within the strict confines of nature’s laws.
Basically you all have two choices: be part of creating the future, or watch us do it.
As a teenager of the Generation Y, technology has always been a part of my life. I cannot imagine not having access to computers, internet, cell phones, texting and iPods. Even though most people use these tools on a daily basis they are not necessary for us to go on with our life. Kelly mentions, “I acknowledge the fact that multitasking and BlackBerrys and iPods and Twitter can be distracting. But we don’t really have the option of ignoring it. The proliferation of devices is necessary to learn new things.” I agree with Kelly that these gadgets can be distracting, however it is difficult to disregard them. Although, not all types of technology are “necessary” or essential in order to learn new information or skills. Do we need cell phones to learn? Do we need social networking sites to learn?
New technology is not a preeminent solution. It can be beneficial, however technology has also led to numerous perilous instances. Abduction, verbal and sexual abuse, murder, and identity fraud have occurred due to social networking sites and the internet. Technology in general can also extract a person’s valuable time. According to Business Week a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation survey revealed that, “Fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds average nearly 6 1/2 hours a day watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the Net.”
We should not be so dependent on technology that we are unable to function without it. I am not merely referring to individuals but also businesses, governments, cities, and countries. For example, the lack of technology in Haiti has made it difficult for us to assist them. Their lack of communication methods, transportation, and medical equipment has impacted relief efforts. Technology should not define who we are today.
Technology such as, email, online chatting, and texting are convenient to connect and keep in contact with friends, although I would not go as far as calling them “holy.” Certain aspects of technology are surely useful tools in order to assist us in learning, in researching, reading news, making reservations, blogging or banking. There are both pros and cons to advances in technology.
Jennesa > Abduction, verbal and sexual abuse, murder, and identity fraud have occurred due to social networking sites and the internet.
Thanks for joining in! I want to say right now that your point of view is respected and welcomed into this discussion. Please stay with me for a second. The things that you listed are NOT due to the internet. These types of things have been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. The history of humankind is predominantly violent, bloody, and sick. You simply cannot blame the technology for bad things people do.
Technology is a fancy tool. It’s like a spear. A primitive could use a spear to knock coconuts out of a tree, to catch fish, to take down an elephant, or to kill his neighbor. We can use the tools we have (internet) to shop for cheap shoes, to buy a car, to fool teenagers into inappropriate relationships, to hack into secure bank networks, AND to report on all these things so that more people are aware of the potential for great benefit and the potential for great harm. (sorry about the run-on sentence).
Nothing is sacred in this world, friends. We make it sacred by loving and revering it. I regard the sea, the hills and the woods as sacred. I love the night birds, streams, and things that live in them. People are a tad bit harder to love, because of the sick things they do. But they do these things because they are sick inside, and I have compassion toward them, and hope that they find god and get healed.
For me there is no line where nature stops. All things come from nature, even us, even our brains, hence — even our tools, technology, our weapons, our sickness and its remedy.
Thanks again for contributing, you are thinking these things through, that is the only path to understanding.
Rita, you stated that “technology kills our interpersonal relationships,” making technology out to be our downfall, something that is going to leave mankind friendless and loveless. However, if you look at our lives, the lives of teenagers, who have grown up in the midst of technology and cannot imagine a world without Internet, you don’t see people who are slowly loosing their ability to have relationships. We communicate with our fiends as much as ever, whether it be physically talking to someone or texting them. Technology does not kill, but encourages relationships. Texting someone or posting on their wall may not seem like a relationship in the old fashion sense, but the way we form relationships has changed. Technology has advanced and we have evolved, we still can form relationships by physically talking to people but we can also build on and form these relationships through texting and Facebook. Today people even fall in love through the Internet, dating websites may have a stigma attached to them, but they have had numerous success stories.
The way people interact and the way the world works has changed due to technology. It can be used for bad and terrible things, but it in itself is not bad. As Peter said it is just a tool, it’s up to us how we use it. It is all a matter of control and balance, mindlessly surfing the net or choosing to read a book. If you need quiet and meditation time, go for a hike and leave the Blackberry at home. It is up to us to know where to draw the line and let technology benefit, not damage us. Technology is necessary for success; our world runs on it, if we do not embrace it and use it, we will be left in the dust.
Jenessa you stated, “Abduction, verbal and sexual abuse, murder, and identity fraud have occurred due to social networking sites and the Internet.” Haven’t all of these occurred before the Internet? Also you said, “We should not be so dependent on technology that we are unable to function without it.” That fact is though we are beyond that stage, for instance without the Internet I would not be able to comment on this subject. Our world runs on technology and has enriched our lives and made it for the most part easier.