What Technology Wants, Part II

I am by no means the first to notice that technology and nature are deeply and increasingly intertwined. In a way that I think somewhat echoes Brian Arthur’s view of technology in his 2009 book “The Nature of Technology”, I see a feedback loop going on between our discoveries and our inventions, as follows:

  • We observe phenomena in the natural world and we strive to understand them;

  • We develop technologies based on that understanding;

  • We use those technologies to alter our experience of the natural world, and understand natural phenomena at a deeper level.

So the cycle of Discovery, Invention and Exploitation creates a positive feedback loop that amplifies both the rate and capability of our technology and the rate at which we alter our relationship with, and experience of, nature.

So far so good. But to answer Kevin Kelly’s question, “what does technology want?” I have to take a path less well trodden.  For while the politically correct and majority viewpoint seems to be that our exploitation of nature is a Bad Thing That We Need To Do Something About, I’d suggest that our actions speak louder than our words. And that if you look at our actions, you’d have to conclude that as a species we are not only consciously but also deliberately on a mission to control, improve and even replace nature. Everything we do speaks of our rejection of nature, from deforestation and overfishing to pest and disease control, from dam construction to our mass migration towards the city.  If you take into consideration the positive feedback loop of Discovery and Invention, you’d also conclude that we want technology to be the executor of our mission.  In other words, we want technology to be Second Nature. And that’s what technology wants too.