meet the Technium

by twit

well, then. I suppose this means that if you feel like your tv is watching you, you’re probably right. From Kevin Kelly’s website, where he is developing ideas for his upcoming book, a clip with emphasis added:

eventually technology will far more autonomous than it is today. Right now not only are we the parents of the technium, we are also the sex organs of technology. From technology’s view, we are the mysterious walking-around glands that reproduce them. They may be able to operate on their own, but they need us to reproduce them. This is already changing. Most computer chips in the world today are designed in part by other computer chips. Most robotic devices are manufactured in part by other robotic devices. As we improve chips and robots, there is no reason to believe that at some point computers will wholly design some other computers, and some robotic systems wholly manufacture other robotic systems. The next step seems inevitable: technology will reproduce itself.

I have to agree that right this minute there is no autonomously reproducing technology, and there is no autonomously sustainable technology. Instead we have an infant technium, that like a baby, has its own demands. Even a small child will quickly train its parents to meet its wants as well as its needs. It uses its weak powers to gain resources (food, attention, permission) in order to grow. If we stand back far enough we can see that technology tends to create an environment that favors the growth of yet more technology. Technology rarely makes it harder to make more technology. The technium is geared to keep expanding the technium. Technology has trained us, its parents and its gonads. Technology makes humans wealthier, with more leisure to consume, which leads to more technology. The more technology we make, the more we need to make to keep it all going. This positive feedback loop is exactly the kind of self-preservation strategy a system with its own agenda would develop.

Technology cannot reproduce itself without our help at the moment, but it is expanding, growing more complex, and smarter. Most importantly, the technium is evolving faster every day. While it depends on us, we are increasingly dependent on it. Like any child, it has its demands. So far, humanity as a whole is in denial that it even has a child.

(with thx to Boing Boing for the reference to Kevin Kelly’s site)

I’ve seen how fluent the younger set is with the internet, able to quickly find and interact with a range of media and sources of information. I’ve been thinking that it is a new fluency, and that kids raised with early access to the internet develop an innate understanding of how it works and can be used. The fluency is measured, I figure, by how well someone is able to talk to the google and get it (and other search engines) to return what they are looking for quickly and effectively. Speaking of positive feedback loops, if the idea is that there is a new language developing that requires a fair amount of interaction with a human, I figure it could mean that we’re more than just flesh-based appendages.

Or at least I hope so.


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