What Technology Wants (From the Oppressed)
Norman Kelly’s What Technology Wants (2010) argues that technology is falsely understood as physical outgrowth of human ingenuity. Instead, says Kelly, technology is a living force that predates human innovation and is somewhat of a cosmic sibling also spawned from life. For Kelly, the technium (the term he uses to describe technology’s autonomous attributes) is capable of not only fulfilling human desires but also to desiderate on its own terms.
I took liberty here to push Kelly’s line of reasoning into a realm of thought regarding exploitation that some would find absurd. Nonetheless, if the technium sent an email to oppressed people, what would it say?
Dear Species So Enthralled with Selfies That You Are Willing to Destroy Thousands of Lives to Procure Precious Metals and Millions More Through Narcissism and Snark:
- The technium wants oppressed people to understand that I prey on resources; I will aid in ‘progress’ as you call it but by my nature I must exploit the weaker. This is not personal though you may believe so. The technium needs resources to expand and simply follows “the path of least resistance” as you would put it. The rationale is a bit more complex but this simple heuristic will do. It’s not about you. It’s about me and my cronies.
- The technium wants oppressed people to understand that although it is used by the powerful, it also uses the powerful. The powerful claim that their particular genius and their scientific superiority is why they command wealth. This falsity is accepted as truth by both the strong and the weak. You should understand that the sole basis of power is consent. Is this not evidenced in how your cultures so willingly accept prevailing doctrines of wealth? In how you so willingly adopt every new innovation I deliver while accepting the loss of your own autonomy, resources, and sense of humanity in the process? The technium does not think of money as wealth but rather the ability to survive, to evolve, and to expand. While most humans, particularly the powerful, have signified money alone as a measure of these traits, technology wants more of the following: efficiency, opportunity, emergence, complexity, diversity, specialization, ubiquity, freedom, mutualism, beauty, sentience, structure, and evolvability. (270) Both the oppressed and the powerful base their faith in monetary instruments to achieve freedom. However, all living things that use me–including human beings–are my currency because they consent to allow my influence to reign. In this way, you can think of your powerful as larger denominations ($100) that I use to purchase my will as they help me to constitute the masses of lesser units ($1s, $5s, $10s) and the billions of pennies. Neither powerful nor weak have any inherent value to me beyond the ability for coordinate my will–to be my tools even as they use me.
- The technium wants oppressed people to listen to the insight of Max More’s philosophy but without abandoning the psycho-social inquiries of W.E.B. Du Bois. As Amilcar Cabral wrote: “…however fine and attractive the reality of others may be — can only be transformed by detailed knowledge of it, by our own efforts, by our own sacrifices.”
P.S. Stop wasting so much time on twitter.