The Technium

Penny Thoughts on the Technium


Why do interviews have to rely on the same old talking head shot? They don’t. Hundreds of other forms are possible. The Dutch consultancy FreedomLabs  produces a series of audio interviews, called A Penny For Your Thoughts,  that are fantastically graphic — in a texty way. I think their approach is fabulous. They produced this interview with me talking about the Technium for their Future Studies.

  • Grego

    This production group has seen a lot of Lawrence Lessig talks!

  • Adam H.

    I found his comment about choosing which technologies we use interesting. My wife and I choose not to use cell phones. We see them as an unnecessary distraction. Our lives aren’t set up right now to where we “need” cell phones. I’m sure that if our lives were to change in some way that we felt the need for them we would join the multitude of users. In my opinion people waste a lot of time on their phones. Especially as newer apps become available.
    A productivity tool is a double edged sword. Computers and communications devices are wonderful tools that allow us to do many more things, often in a shorter amount of time. I do not think that all technologies are an improvement though. Certainly not all aspects of technology are improvements either.
    One thing I find particularly troubling is the move toward virtual world socialization at the expense of real world relationships. I have nothing against virtual socialization. However, I can think of instances where people ignore those around them in order to interact with someone on the phone. I have seen people get together for lunch and spend most of the time talking or texting with other parties on their cell phones.
    I have a relative that spends a great deal of time in an online, virtual world. They don’t get out and socialize with people in the real world very often. It is kind of sad.
    Another thing I find vexing is people who can’t drive without talking or texting, as if it were a necessary part of operating the vehicle. Since when has it become so important to be in constant contact with someone, anyone, instead of having a moment to oneself? What did we do before cell phones? Is this our slow creep toward wetware and a hive mind?

  • Simon G.

    interested by what sounds like a mis-quote & mis-match of the audio and the text. kk text reads “The only way we can sort our identity is by not using technology.” emphasis here on the word “SORT” whereas in the audio it sounds like kk says “ASSERT”. i’m intrigued by the possible mishearing. does the idea of identity as mishmash technological construct always therefore lean inexorably towards “sorting” through multiple identities, or are we allowed to still “assert” a singular identity without shame. whatever happened to coherence as a value?

  • Peter

    Very interesting as usual.

    Parts I think are particularly insightful/important:

    proactionary principle – idea that to a certain extent we have use things before we can really understand them; experimentation, bricolage

    fundamental design questions, e.g. open or closed, evolvable (generative) or not, prone to diversity or not.

    Parts I’m not so sure about:

    Taking anthropomorphization of the technium past its usefulness as a rhetorical/explanatory tool. I sometimes think you focus on “superorganism” and inevitable self-organization in a way that downplays the choice we have in shaping our collective destiny. For instance, you say law is technology, but who are the lawmakers? Can we not use the “technology” that is the law in ways that shape the evolution of the technium as a whole? Is it not our ethical obligation as a society to do so?

    Or is the development you foresee inevitable, something preordained in the Nature of cosmos/entropy/extropy/information, such that our ethical obligation is to let what (you know) is “supposed” to happen happen?

    Do you think the technium is inevitably moving towards a “mind” of its own, e.g. “organism in every sense of the word,” no matter what we do? Do you think it is inevitably moving towards a “conscious” mind? You hint at that interpretation in your Global Superorganism post, but I guess I don’t really understand your argument as to why we should expect the technium to inevitably evolve into anything we would associate with human consciousness in terms of qualia, phenomenal awareness, the “hard problem.”

    I look forward to seeing where you come out on these issues in your book.

  • jeffrey

    you say you are interested i the process of the decision to not use certain technologies, and that this is how we will increasingly deine ourselves. I myself draw the line at the epidermis level. both on a physical level, and i suppose metaphorically on a psychological level. Anything implanted, anything that is to be transfixed permanently (aside from medical technologies) are flat out refused by me. This lends to all sorts of notions of technology going bad. Both in the sense of big brother being able to track me more precisely then my cell phone ( i can leave that at home) and i nthe sense of not being fully aware of any effects a certain chip (or what have you) is having on my mind and body. the idea of Gadgets, and material inventions becoming the dominate species is a frighetning prospect. I could talk ages on the fine line of losing ourselves in the heap of human potentail, but ill wrap up my other point. Being i also draw the line at virtual reality (video games specifically) the dependability of the validity of our world outside of screens as been debated ad infinitum by philosophers, there is no need to ad false realities. It is the protocol of our ability to invent to alleviate problems not hidefrom them. Though there is the interesting prospect of consumerism turning towards VR in order to be more ecologically friendly. The idea of buying what essentially be light, instead of plastic, has its ups. but then one must be “plugged in” in order to enjoy such things.

  • Sander Duivestein

    I have taken the liberty to make a transcript of your Penny For Your Thoughts:

    The technium is anything useful that a mind makes. That doesn’t even have to be a human mind. Any mind. So that includes not just the gadgets but it also includes the law, our writing. Many aspects of civilization are part of the technium. Not just hardware. And I go on to say that in fact that the greatest technology humans ever invented is humanity itself. We domesticated ourselves. We turned ourselves into part of the technium because we cannot live as a species. We cannot live without technology. We’ve invented ourselves. And it’s our greatest invention so far.

    Technology as a whole is deterministic. It has an agenda and there are certain aspects of it that are inevitable. And what our choices are is in how convivial we make them. Whether we make them open or closed. Whether we make them evolvable (or not). Whether we make them prone to diversity (or not). So we have choices in the character of these technologies. And not necessarily whether we have the technologies (or not).

    What I’m proposing is the pro-action aproach to technology which means we have to use things in order to find out about them. That we actually have to engage with technology. The only way we can determine whether something is good or bad for us, is through use. I don’t think we can control it because I think that technology is a cosmic force. Technology began not with humans but preceded it into biological evolution. And even preceded it further back to the big bang. So this exotropic force. A force of self-organization is running through galaxies, stars and planets. It runs through life and is extended into technology and that self-organizing living force is what we are having to ride. What we’re doing with the web is actually making a very large scaled global organism that in a few decades or so we will be able to identify as an organism in every sense of the word.

    For many years the dogma was that evolution was offloaded from the genes into culture. Our bodies stopped evolving because culture took it over. But in fact it turns out that genetically we are actually accellerating in our evolution. That our genes are evolving faster because of technology. Reading & writing changes. Permanently rewires the brain. It’s for sure we’ll see (with enough evidence) that people who use Google and offload their memory to the cloud, it will affect our brains. So we are absolutely changing ourselves.

    I‘m interested in how people personally decide to refuse a technology. I’m interested in that process, because I think that will happen more and more as the number of technologies keep increasing. The only way we can sort our identity is by not using technology. We’re used to be that you define yourself by what you use now. You define yourself by what you don’t use. So I’m interested in that process.

  • Berend Schotanus

    It is indeed a very attractive and original presentation. I like it.

  • jdubb

    insightful and provocative, thnx!

    errata corrige:
    The only way we can assert our identity is by not using technology. It used to be that you define yourself by what you use. Now, you define yourself by what you don’t use.

  • Alice M

    I think the texty way of presenting an interview thus linking tightly what’s heard and how to write is *fabulous*, thank you for this!
    However, I am with Vanderleun’s comment : the sentence he quoted kind of made me laugh!

  • vanderleun

    A fascinating interview and, as you say, done in a compelling manner.

    I am always interested when I see people of deep insight saying things like “A force of self-organization is running through galaxies, stars and planets.” and such.

    I always wonder if they’re running away from or towards the “G” word.

    I’m sure you saw the long video on cosmology by Sean Carroll that was promulgated through Edge. Something like the same thing going on there.