Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chapter 2 - What is Technology

This is the continuation of my last post which featured the first chapter of my book "Technomysticism". The next few chapters will arrive in the next weeks.


To understand the meaning of the vehement flux of technological developments which characterizes our time, we must first understand the meaning of technology and its implications. Technology is of course one of the most popular concepts in the modern vocabulary of our technophile society, however beyond the conventional meaning of the word “technology” lies a hidden and much deeper world of signification. The word technology, beside its modern connotation with shining gadgetry, also implies the manifestation of a cosmic power and a creational principle which stands at the basis of all things. Having this wider meaning of the term technology in mind, we can speak of technology with a lower case t and of Technology with a capital T. technology, is the technology to which we usually refer when speaking about technology: engines, computers, hardware, software etc. Technology, with a capital T refers to any new organ fulfilling a function, any way to manipulate reality, everything which disassembles unity into a multitude of higher degree.

technology is the continuation of Technology through directed and non-biological means. While early Technological systems created by the universe, such as the eye and the ear[1] evolved in a slow and long process of natural selection, the technology developed by mankind evolves in a deliberate way. Thus, it makes the Technological character of the universe more noticeable and furthers its development within the framework of a new paradigm.

When referring to Technology, that is, technology in its widest sense and meaning, as a cosmological force which has been with us since the dawn of creation, one can identify a few contours which characterize all Technologies:

A. Technology is a system fulfilling a function – Technology is a system fulfilling a function. This is true both in regard to an Artificial Intelligence system aiding a robot in navigating a three dimensional space, or to an organ of our body – in the same way in which an eye is a technology for seeing, digestion is a technology for the creation of energy and the brain is a technology for the processing of information and different tasks such as motor control, communication and memory. Technology is any tool which enables us to manipulate reality. A technique which allows us to make a decision regarding the right course of action which has to be taken is a thinking technology, the ability to perform it in the world might involve a physical Technology, and so we can talk about intellectual Technology (such as a highly developed nervous system or an excel table), an emotional technology (emotional intelligence which enables human beings to handle complex social situations and use them in a beneficial way) and even a spiritual technology. Technology is the way in which the one, from which everything was created copes with becoming many. Technology is the way life navigates itself in a world turning increasingly complex and challenging.

B. Technology is an objectifying force – Technologies are objectifying forces. The technological worldview sees the world as made of malleable objects continually subjected to manipulation, for the achievement of different goals. The Technological being searches for ways to fulfill itself along the spectrum of possibilities (The thing which technology adds to our perception of divinity is actually the dimension of time or evolution: the development of divinity), it operates in a world of complex beings – the technological being is a fission of reality. The objectifying force is the force of manipulation, of separating the one from the other, the self from the universe, body from spirit, ego from shadow. Technology is a general name to the ultimate object, the power of multiplicity. It can be identified with that force which is called in Kabbalah, the force of Judgement – the divine aspect which is responsible for setting the limits and for separating things from one another.

C. Technology disassembles unity into multiplicity – Technology is multiplicity, speciation, specialization. The beginning of this trend can be seen already in the Cambrian explosion, about 570 million years ago, in which the myriad forms of life evolved, which held the basic physical adumbrations to all future forms of life.

Before the Cambrian explosion, the world was inhabited by relatively simple life forms. Technological development disassembles the relative unity of the first life forms into different biological species and divides the bodies of these different species into different organs and senses which break down the unitary perception of reality into more and more separate impressions.

The nature of Technology is that is breaks reality into more and more complex patterns and parts. The eye, the ear and the nose break down reality into different impressions. The hand gives the body more information to process, ways to act, and things to notice. Print enabled humanity to be exposed to a greater variety of ideas, the car to a greater variety of places, the truck to a greater variety of products, the internet of a greater variety of everything. The addition of each technology expands the net of possibilities and fragments our attention into more pieces.

D. Technology creates consciousness - Evolution researcher Teilhard De Chardin was among the first to recognize that evolution is not just about skeletons and the development of bone structures but first and foremost about the evolution of consciousness. The history of technology is also the history of consciousness, an observation which is easy to understand once we see technological evolution as a direct continuation of biological evolution.

Each stage in the evolution of life is accompanied by a new stage in the evolution of the brain and consciousness. The evolution of the reptilian brain stem around 300 million years ago led to the development of habits, of territoriality and of the feelings of rage. The development of the mammalian limbic system led to the creation of new consciousness states such as love, playfulness or fear. The appearance of the new cortex in Man, led to logical thinking, abstract thinking, linguistic abilities and so on.

Technological developments, even those which have nothing to do with the brain, inevitably change and reshape our consciousness. Robotics expert Hans Moravec observes a relation between movement and intelligence, in his book Mind Children. According to Moravec, mobile creatures tend to develop the mental characters which we identify with intelligence, more than sedentary creatures.

Similarly, the evolution of technologies such as writing, cars, radio or the computer change the structure of human consciousness. Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media was dedicated to demonstrating this thesis. In this media-theory classic, McLuhan examines 25 different technologies – from the spoken word to clothes, money, clocks, printing, cars, games or cinema – and shows how each of these changed human consciousness and the perception of reality in the societies exposed to them.

technological systems determine the way in which we perceive the world. The invention of money changed and catalyzed economic development throughout the world. Newspapers have aided in establishing the idea of nationality. The first photograph of planet earth in its entirety, taken from space in 1968, is considered today to be one of the main catalysts to the evolution of the global consciousness of humanity.

The history of Technology is the history of consciousness: we think in a manner consistent with our technologies. We understand the world and ourselves through the metaphors and symbols supplied to us by our technologies. In the mechanical age human beings were seen as a mechanical system not unlike a clock, in the age of steam philosophers tended to explain the human body as an energetic system similar to that of a steam engine, during the age of information we tend to compare it to a computer and in recent years to a computer network like the internet.

Technology is not external to us. It is part of the primordial web of the cosmos, and part of the internal web which shapes our bodies and thoughts. We move in technology, think in technology, love in technology, and breathe in technology. Technology is part of who we are. Therefore, if we want to know ourselves well, we have too know technology intimately, as part of ourselves.

[1] The eye and the ear are Technologies. In fact, they are prime examples of Technologies which are currently being transformed to technologies by the multi-billion High-Tech industry.