What does technology want?

“One of the species on earth – homo sapiens – makes a lot of stuff. Like termite mounds or colony bird nests, this stuff appears to be an extension of animal bodies. In broad strokes this is the stuff we call technology. Marshall McLuhan, among others, have noted that clothes are people’s extended skin, wheels extended feet, camera and telescopes extended eyes. Our technological creations are great extrapolations of the bodies that our genes build. In this way we can think of technology as an extended phenotype. During the industrial age it was easy to see the world this way. Steam-powered shovels, locomotives, television and the levers and gears of engineers were a fabulous exo-skeleton that turned man into superman.

A closer look reveals the problem with this view: the extended phenotype of animals is the result of their genes. They inherit the basic blueprints of what they make. Humans don’t. The blueprints for our stuff stem from our minds, which may create something none of our ancestors ever made or thought of. If technology is an extended phenotype of humans, it is a phenotype not of our genes, but of our minds. Clearly technology is not built by inheritable genes but by spontaneous ideas.” <excerpt from Kevin Kelly‘s The Seventh Kingdom>

More essays by Kevin Kelly on technology from The Technium:

  • Technology wants to be Free <link>
  • Humans are the Sex Organs of Technology <link>
  • The Paradoxical Nature of Technology <link>
  • Major Transitions in Technology <link>

Kevin Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog. He has also been a writer, photographer and conservationist. Kelly is a student of cultures (Asian ones in particular) and is considered by some an expert in digital culture.” <wiki>

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