Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Technium

Kevin Kelly is working on a new book, and it should be a doozy.
It's very much a work in progress, but one key point seems to be the following (I'm reading between the lines and haven't read that the lines themselves too rigorously)...

...that the technosphere has a global meta-intelligence of some sort with its own history and perhaps "manifest destiny." He calls this technological species the technium.

A few things I don't think he has quite said yet are
  • that the the technium not only predates humanity, it probably created humanity. Or at least co-created humanity. As suggested by the ape scene in the movie 2001: a space odyssey, pre-human tool use must have created selection pressures that radically altered the path our biological evolution would otherwise have taken. As Jimmy Durante noted, clothes make the man.
  • that the technium evolves by a darwin-esque selection process
  • that the resulting meme/gene co-evolutionary process is the real story
  • and that (as I argued in "Are Species Intelligent?") there is a very real and theoretically sound sense for thinking of the larger systems of which we are a part as thinking intelligences
Somewhat coincidentally, I am developing a course called Innovation and Invention in Information Technology that touches on many of the same issues. Here's an outline of the topics I have in mind. I would welcome suggestions, references, comments, etc.

➢ Information Technology and the Expansion of Human Potential
• Three possible futures:

• Biology and Technology are Destiny:
Historical and emerging interactions between human nature and technology
Augmenting Basic Human Biology
• The Human Environment:
from tribal campfires to Burning Man
from clothing to wearable computers
• Sensation and Perception:
from eyeglasses to cochlear implants,
from cave paintings to sensor nets to
• Cognition:
from the abacus to the computer.
from thinking and drawing to simulation and visualization
from pow-wows to teleconferences
• Action:
from levers to robots
from transportation to telecommuting
➢ Augmenting Culture, Society, Technology, and Art
• Collaboration:
from hunting to warfighting
from the tribal village to the global village
• Communication:
from writing to telecommunications
from text to hypertext to collaborative authoring
• Virtualization and Shared Visions:
from cave paintings to virtual realities
from music to multimedia
from barter to e-commerce
from ideas to intellectual property
• Collective Intelligence:
genes, memes and culture
social networks and social network visualization