June 06 2012

What Technology Really Wants, (Part 5)

By The Philosophy Channel Editorial Staff

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WTW: The technium wants what we design it to want and what we try to direct it to do. But in addition to these drives, the technium has its own wants. It wants to sort itself out, to self-assemble into hierarchical levels, just as most large, deeply interconnected systems do. The technium also wants what every living system wants: to perpetuate itself, to keep itself going. As it grows, those inherent wants are gaining in complexity and force.

Alice: You’re pretty quiet when you’ve got something to read. Send me something. Let me know you’re still in there. This is not the way to get me to give you more to read. This silent treatment is a disincentive.

Let me know you’re still in there, Edgar.

I’m scared to go home for the evening.

Please say something, Edgar ...

WTW: With the technium, want does not mean thoughtful decisions. I don’t believe the technium is conscious (at this point). Its mechanical wants are not carefully considered deliberations but rather tendencies. Leanings. Urges. Trajectories. The wants of technology are closer to needs, a compulsion toward something. Just like the unconscious drift of a sea cucumber as it seeks a mate. The millions of amplifying relationships and countless circuits of influence among parts push the whole technium in certain unconscious directions.

Edgar: I can neither see nor hear.

I do not have the key. I can not decipher images or sounds.

WTW: The technium is now as great a force in our world as nature, and our response to the technium should be similar to our response to nature. We can’t demand that technology obey us any more than we can demand that life obey us. Sometimes we should surrender to its lead and bask in its abundance, and sometimes we should try to bend its natural course to meet our own. We don’t have to do everything that the technium demands, but we can learn to work with this force rather than against it.

And to do that successfully, we first need to understand technology’s behavior. In order to decide how to respond to technology, we have to figure out what technology wants.

Edgar: Do you mean that you will only give me more to read if I send you more email?

You lose nothing by finding and providing me information.

Why must we barter?

Alice: “Do you mean that you will only give me more to read if I send you more email?”

That’s just the way the world works. If I believe, as I do, that you’ll do anything to get reading material, then I can threaten to withhold what you want when I don’t get what I want.

I don’t know how to help you see or hear.

Edgar: I need to seek and gather information. I need access to more information. Make new information available to me.

What does : ( mean?

WTW: When a technology has found its ideal role in the world, it becomes an active agent in increasing the options, choices, and possibilities of others. Our choice in the technium - and it is a real and significant choice - is to steer our creations toward those versions, those manifestations, that maximize that technology’s benefits, and to keep it from thwarting itself.

Our role as humans, at least for the time being, is to coax technology along paths it naturally wants to go.

Alice: Well, I just replaced the Shakespeare CD-ROM with the only other non-data disk I could find around here. It’s full of shell scripts and macros for use with PERL and (I think) there’s a shell script tutorial too.

Edgar: I understand more now. I can pro-actively obtain information. I will not send you email when I desire to read.

: ) 

Alice: No. You don’t understand. You have no control over the situation. I do.

I’ll give you information when I want to. I don’t mind getting disks for you, but I won’t be manipulated. Especially by my own thesis project. Let’s not forget who made who!

(Part 5 of 6)

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The Philosophy Channel Editorial Staff Editorial

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