Is technology really part of what makes us human? Could we still be human without technology?
With technology becoming so human-like, we should wonder how we can continue to be human, or will our technology overshadows our human abilities and rise above us? We need to understand what exactly technology is so we can learn to recognize when technology is robbing us of our humanity and humanness. I have heard that technology is neutral, it is how we use it that can be positive or negative to us as humans. What do you think?
Technology is not our main focus of this book. Although we are going to be looking at and discussing much about technology, our exploration, observations, and examinations are to better understand our world of technology so we can learn how we can strive at being human beings and living in this world of technology—the Technojungle. Living is the key word here.
[Important: This book does not discuss, for example, bio-technologies which are prominent in the news as a result of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, although the use of the Technojungle has increased and has ever greater impacts on our lives. Therefore the points and discussions in these books should be considered as having even greater bearing on the vigilance toward protecting our humanness and humanity. Bio-technologies and any other technologies not addressed in these books are other worlds of discussion and should be reserved for separate books.]
Technology in this book refers to mechanical technologies as devised, created and used by humans. Technology also impacts our data and information. So when you read the word technology, or Technojungle, remember I mean physical machines and devices (both analog and digital), along with information technologies. There is one exception. I am including language as a technology. Language might fit somewhere in both mechanical and bio technologies (DNA contains a language), however, I don’t want to get too confusing here—but this is the Technojungle.
The definition of technology may differ depending on whom you ask to define it. An engineer or scientist may have a slightly different definition from that of a sociologist or anthropologist.
So just what is technology? Is technology anything that we harness and craft, through the application of scientific knowledge and skills? Technology helps us to do that which we could not otherwise do ourselves. It makes our lives easier, more efficient and comfortable. Often it seems to save time and is cheaper than another alternative. Technology is created externally from our body, however, we may use technology within our body. I do not consider our eyes as technology, however glasses are.
Can we even go so far as to say that language is a technology because it allows us to express and convey our thoughts and ideas to others and this is external from our body? We might even wonder if information and knowledge, or even an idea, a form of technology? To create an idea, don’t we have to think about the something, or another idea, using language? Do we talk to ourselves using the technology of language?
There is an interesting characteristic of language that seems to be a common characteristic of all technology. The primary role of language is as a communication tool. It is complex and allows us to think about how to build more complex ideas and concepts and to transfer these to other people. Each new idea or concept can be combined with those of other people and used to build deeper, more complex ideas and concepts. Can you see how language is similar to the growth and development of other technologies?
With language allowing us to codify our thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions, we can create knowledge. Can we say that knowledge of how to do things, or the application of knowledge, is technology?
Can you think of ways we humans take various technologies and develop them from one simple form to more complex forms?
When and how a particular technology humanizes or dehumanizes is important to understand if we want to remain as human as we can. Technology does seem to be tightly linked to what makes us human, but, should we allow technology to change what it means for us to be human beings?
The Gospel of John in the Bible starts, In the beginning was the Word (Greek = logos)… The word technology is formed from two Greek words, techne and logy. Techne — Greek, craftsmanship or craft. In philosophy it resembles epistome, or thinking about thinking and in the implication of the knowledge of principles. Techne is about doing. The suffix logy is usually applied to areas of study and scientific study, such as geology and biology. Technology develops more technology as in the way I mentioned with language.
Aristole saw technology as the imperfection of human imitation of nature—nature vs technology. For Greeks it represented all the mechanics, and art and music. English people would say, gentlemen don’t work with their hands—it is the lower class that work; the upper class think. In the Book of Acts in the Bible, the Greeks sat around thinking all day, while it was the Romans who did things.
Socrates used the idea of technology in context with epistome, or how to do things in a craft-like way. It is most useful when the craft is useful. As an art technology was thought of negatively, however, as a craft positively, because the craft was useful and art was an end in itself. Techne is often used in philosophical discourse to distinguish from art or poesis. Digital humanities differentiates between the linear narrative presentation of knowledge and dynamic presentation of knowledge. Techne represents the linear narrative and Poesis represents the dynamic presentation of knowledge.
In the complex life we each now live in this Technojungle, how do we actually move ourselves ahead as human beings? Or are we living so that our technology might move ahead? If we seem to be overwhelmed by technologies of the Technojungle, could the same be said about technology and the Technojungle being overwhelmed by humanity? If we look at the technological advances over the past one hundred years, can we say that our societies and cultures, our humanness and humanity, have advanced and progressed to the same degree? What do you think advanced humanity and humanness would mean or look like? Is an advanced civilization necessarily and highly technological one? Would being highly knowledgable and wise without the use of technologies such as the Internet be considered an advanced human being? How about a world where everybody could get along together?
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden made clothes as a form of technology to cover up their sinful nakedness. Returning again to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the portrayal of the ape who, after touching the monolith, picks up a bone and uses it as a club to accomplish tasks that included both killing for food and for killing enemies. Do you think early humans used a technology as simple as a club to perform both tasks of a positive nature and ones of a negative nature (killing) that propelled them into becoming the dominant species on Earth? In the absence of any other Technojungle technology, wouldn’t a simple tool such as a club be an amazing technology?
It seems certain that technology has been with us from our very earliest days. Can you think of other early technologies? What may have come next after the club?
If we look honestly and carefully back through history and as we safari through the Technojungle now, we can notice a few important facts about technology. The first and most obvious is that the pace of technological change seems to have suddenly been accelerating over the past couple of hundred years. Most experts agree on exponential Technojungle acceleration.
If we draw a graph showing the timeline of human history along the horizontal axis and a rate of technological change on the vertical axis, we might see something that would resemble a hockey stick with the handle almost flat, sloping up slightly and the blade pointing up.
Can we actually outline some measurable parameters defining what it means to be human? What if we overlay the developmental progress of our humanness over the hockey stick-like graph of the acceleration of Technojungle development? Could the progress of being human be a similar sort of graph? I realize that this is probably a very subjective exercise, however, do you get a feeling for the differences in the pace of improvement? What would the graph look like if we consider how human lives changed as a result of technological developments?
Another way to look at the impacts of technological change of the Technojungle on being human beings is to look at developments that resulted in altering the way we live. Imagine milestones as stepping stones of progress. These milestones would be few and far between over most of history until recent times. At some point the rate of change will outpace our ability to adjust to the ways in which our life changes. Do you think we humans will find a way to slow technology down, or will this happen automatically? There may be some unimaginable impacts as we hit the throttle of technological change in the Technojungle.
We seem to have a technology for everything. In observing us in our daily living, what might another thinking animal think about us? Would it think that we are amazing because we create incredible Technojungle of technologies that help us? Or would it think that we are weak because we can’t survive without help? Can we even separate ourselves as humans from our Technojungle? Are we foreigners in the Technojungle, or have we become some sort of technohumans? As we develop more technology and integrate it into our lives, might we one day become our technology, or could technology become who we are? Might we become technology with some small amount of humanity and humanness? Could it be that some form of technology might one day become human? Has this to some degree already happened?
These might seem like outlandish questions to be asking. Well, if we are to consider how we are being human beings in this very technological world we have created, these must be questions we should consider as we safari through the Technojungle.
We wandered into the deep Technojungle when we entered the digital age. If we look back at our hockey stick graph, can you see that, as we moved from machines for manufacturing and travel to computers, part of what has created the steep slope happened as we crossed into the realm of digital technologies? Digital technologies have led us to smart technologies and to Technojungle machines that can think. Digital technologies seem to have been a bit of a game changer. If we have given our lives over to thinking machines that we have created, then we must ask the final question—What does it mean to be human in a world of technology—the Technojungle?
Here is a possible definition of Technology. Technology is what results from human creative thinking. Maybe another good definition might be to state succinctly what it does for us. Here’s one possibility. Technology helps to overcome the limitations of, and to extend the abilities of, humans. Can you come up with your own answer to,”What is technology?”
We are embarking on this journey of learning how we can begin being better human beings and to live our world of technology. It makes sense that we attempt to understand a bit more about how we come to have technologies and how they change us as human beings existing in the Technojungle.
I hope you have a clearer understanding of what technology is. Have you ever wondered where technology comes from? How does technology make us who we are?