Sunday, January 30, 2011

So, What is "Inevitable" Anyway?

Reading through Kelly the last few weeks has affirmed my beliefs in "technology." When I say this, what I mean is - I believe in technology. I believe that it has made our world better and will continue to help us advance as a country in an ever-expanding technological world. The one thing my etherpad group and I talked about in class last Tuesday was how to define technology. What we decided on was that technology couldn't really be defined as a thing. And, the more I think about it, the less tangible technology becomes to me. Technology has become more of an idea than a computer or fax machine.

The thing that is starting to trip me up is the term "inevitable." On one hand I think, of course it is inevitable. Technology is just going to keep continuing and moving forward. But then I think, how in the world can it be inevitable without human hands to keep making it. Technology cannot make itself - well, not yet, anyway. And, until that happens, I don't see how it can truly be inevitable.

The Webster Dictionary defines inevitable as "incapable of being avoided or evaded." Kelly writes on page 272 "But, if the trajectories of the technium are long trains of inevitability, why should we bother encouraging them? Won't they just roll along on their own? In fact, if these trends are inevitable, we couldn't stop them even if we wanted to, right?

Our choices can slow them down. Postpone them We can word against them."

Here is my question - and maybe I am just putting a little too much thought into this. So, what Kelly is saying is that regardless of what we choose, as humans, there is nothing we can do to stop the inevitability of technology? Not even if every single one of us decide we are fed up and will never make anything ever again - technology will just continue to evolve without us? Obviously this is extreme - but, I think there has to be some limit.

Then he goes on to put inevitability in different terms - for us to imagine what it would have been like to have accepted the inevitability of political self-goverance or massive urbanization ... maybe it wasn't accepted because it wasn't inevitable. If it was inevitable, it doesn't seem like we would have had a choice of whether to accept it or not.

Since Kelly says this inevitability is less like a supernatural force and more like an "urge," he lists out 13 facets of that urge. But, I could only find 10 (What am I missing?):

1. Complexity - "What's more complex, a Boeing 747 or a cucumber?" And how do we measure that? p. 274
2. Diverstiy - the rise of diversity has been uneven, but "the trend toward diverstiy is further accelerated by the technium." p. 284
3. Specialization - "Evolution moes from the general to the specific." p. 292
4. Ubiquity - def. the state of being everywhere at once. "The consequence of self-reproduction in life, as well as in the technium, is an inherent drive toward ever-presence." p. 296
5. Freedom - "free will precedes even life." p. 307
6. Mutualism - The natural world is a "hotbed of shared existence." p.311
7. Beauty - "Most evolved things are beautiful, and the most beautiful are the most highly evolved." p. 317
8. Sentience - def. endowed with feeling and unstructured consciousness. Intelligence is subjective.
9. Structure - "Even when w create something that is information based to start with, it will generate yet more infomration about its own information. The long-term trend is simple: The information about and from a process will grow faster than the process itself." p. 335
10. Evolvability - "Natural evolution is a way for an adaptive system - in this case, life - to search for new ways to survive." p. 340; changeablility

1 comment:

  1. He lists the other three trajectories in the first full paragraph on 274 (energy density, possibilities and opportunities, and emergent organization).

    Inevitability is one of those ideas Kelly introduces and then steers away from, right? I think he is suggesting that this "urge" is entangled with human activity so thoroughly that everyone could not simply stop. That is, we do not have the means to intervene into the Technium at the grand scale of all of humanity. Now, certainly some sort of legislative action could halt automobile use on certain days, right? But this would be a local or national response, not a global intervention. Kelly is, again as I read it, creating a linkage between the Technium and human activity that means tool use will continue for as long as humans are active.

    Re: "What we decided on was that technology couldn't really be defined as a thing."

    What do you make of instrumental understandings of technology? Would you agree that there is some sense of technology that applies (as a noun) to objects, instruments, or tools?