On Technology Anthromorphism…

Here’s some random philosophy for you on a Sunday morning –

I’ve read a number of books in the last year that theorize technology is …alive (?), and it’s just using humanity as a vector to spread itself.

You know how certain lifeforms are parasitic? They hitch themselves on some other lifeform to spread? Kind of like how pollen hitchhikes on the legs of bees so that flowers can spread? (Is that right? I was awful at science…)

Same thing with technology. The theory is that “technology” is sort of alive, and it’s using humans to spread. It uses humans to nudge itself forward, knowing that we’ll always take the next step. We’re incapable of resisting the temptation to push technology further, and “it” depends on this.

In John Leinhard’s “The Engines of Our Ingenuity,” he talks about how his son learned BASIC on a home computer. Who taught him this language?

The computer did. It expanded his mind and made him more than he was. He came out of his room changed. Like all of us, he was being shaped by his technology.

Technology presents us with opportunities to do new things. We inevitably take those opportunities, and we evolve them to even newer things. Those newer things bring new opportunities, which we take, and we evolve those to newer things. All along, we think WE are in control, and using technology.

But, what if the technology is actually in control? What if it’s really a parasite just using us as a vector to spread itself? It’s the ultimate meme.

Consider the opposable thumb. Did we evolve our thumbs to use tools, or did they evolve because the promise of tools existed? Did we evolve around the potential of technology? Who led who?

(Leinhard claims we shouldn’t be called “homo sapiens,” which means “the wise ones.” We should be called “homo technologicus,” which means “the ones who use technology.”)

This raises the question: to what end? If technology is spreading itself …why? Where is it going?

I’m reminded of the old chain emails that made up fake news of a virus, and encouraged you to tell your friends about it. There was no “virus,” except for the message itself. The message was the virus. It was just using humans as a vector to spread itself for no reason other than to spread.

I’m not trying to be being apocalyptic. As a deist (a Christian, specifically) I have a concept of the soul that I firmly believe technology can never encroach on. I’m optimistic that humans will always be human.

(Read “The Singularity is Near” if you want the counterpoint to that belief.)

But, it’s an interesting thing to think about, regardless. There are some book recommendations in the image, if you want to dig into it.

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