Having been an avid reader of Wired Magazine from it’s beginning I always enjoyed anything I read from Kevin Kelly. When I heard he was going to be at the Q Conference this last spring I had to go. He was truly inspiring. Below is the beginning of an essay by Kevin entitled, The Technium and The 7th Kingdom of Life – A Talk with Kevin Kelly. Enjoy!
The main question that I’m asking myself is, what is the meaning of technology in our lives? What place does technology have in the universe? What place does it have in the human condition? And what place should it play in my own personal life? Technology as a whole system, or what I call the technium, seems to be a dominant force in the culture. Indeed at times it seems to be the only force – the only lasting force – in culture. If that’s so, then what can we expect from this force, what governs it? Sadly we don’t even have a good theory about technology.
I’m trying to investigate ways to understand the long-term consequences of technology in the world and place it into some position along with other grand things like biological nature, big history, the physics of the cosmos, and the future. It’s a very ambitious project and, surprisingly, there isn’t really much thinking about technology in terms of its sphere of influence in a way that might be useful to thinking about how to evaluate what we make.
There’s no predictive theory of technology either. I’ve been inculcated with the fundamentals of GBN-style scenarios to understand that all predictions are wrong by default. So, when I say predictive, I don’t mean in the sense that we could actually predict, in detail, what technology will do. I mean predictive in the sense of a theory that would give us the tools to guide its direction at the large scale. A theory that would let us say that we know enough about technology’s past that we can expect certain things about it in its future. Right now, we basically take technologies as they come up, and each novel technology, one by one, catches us caught off-guard. Though I don’t think I’m capable of generating it, a useful theory of technology is what I would love to find.
Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired Magazine and author of the best-selling “New Rules for the New Economy,” and the book on decentralized emergent systems, “Out of Control.” He is currently editor and publisher of the popular Cool Tools, True Film, and Street Use web sites.