Sunday, January 23, 2011
What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly
Kevin Kelly views technology as a natural organic living process. He calls it the technium. He views it as being part of human evolution. I found the ideas to be fascinating but overly anthropomorphic. He gave living qualities to stone, steel, spoons, bricks, and computers. There is both a humanizing and a dehumanizing aspect to this writing.
The humanizing aspect is a view of increased possibilities, more opportunities to create greater freedoms and greater choice. The author shows how machines improve our lives and expand our possibilities. He also includes systems of thought like science, art, and law as part of technology. He describes how technology evolved as we evolved from the stone age to modern cities.
Where it fails and seems a bit dehumanizing is his taking a picture of nature that seems very utilitarian. He describes that eventually there will be no waste with biophilic technology. I think this lessens nature and makes it machine like. He even claims the Amish are part of the technium because of how they use technology. This was a bit far fetched to me. I don't like to think of myself as evolving in a similar way to a machine.
The unabomber, Ted Kaczynski's anti-technology views are gone into. This was quite daring to do. Kevin Kelly does not shy from tackling some opposing view points. He even talks about primitivism. This makes the book different.
There is a deeply philosophical bent to the writing. I can recognize some of the philosophy. Some of it is very much at the edge of high technology. He seems to be trodding a slightly different path than transhumanism where the idea is that we will become more than human when we integrate with machines. Kevin Kelly also does not argue for the singularity where machines become smarter than humans. Machines are a different kind of intelligence than human intelligence. His ultimate goal is to open infinite games for people, more choice, more freedom, more opportunities through technology.
Read this book it will open your mind to new ideas. It makes you think. Kevin Kelly helped launched Wired Magazine. His website is http://www.kk.org/
The book is fairly dense reading. It includes notes, an annotated reading list, black and white photographs, charts, and an index. It is very much a popular science title.