What Technology Wants, apputated

1 minute read

On the ebook review site, Download the Universe, I have a new review of the app version of Kevin Kelly’s book, What Technology Wants. The link to my review: “Telegraphing What Technology Wants”.

Sure, humans are coevolving with technology. We've done so now for more than two million years. Does that make technology-enabled humans into a "new kingdom of life"? That fundamentally misrepresents what a "kingdom" means in biology. Kelly argues for a much more deterministic view of evolution than biologists accept, and worries about an impending population crash. His beliefs in these cases are not without basis, but stripped down to mere theses they utterly fail to convince. Meanwhile, the section on the Amish -- so characteristic of Kelly's approach to understanding the social role of technology -- seems out of place here in the app. Its deeper overall context has been lost.
So the app left me with a mental mismatch. As a reader who experienced both versions, I appreciated the synoptic view. It clarified my resistance to some of Kelly's ideas. Hopefully, many readers approaching the app for the first time will be motivated to investigate more deeply in the original book.

I think Kelly’s ideas about the nature of technological change deserve more critical attention from anthropologists, who seem to be sitting on their thumbs when it comes to technofuturism. We are adapted to technology, and we continue to change under its influence. That process of adaptation left castoffs, so that today’s humans are a limited subset of our past potential. I happen to think that subset is a pretty good one, but as the process of adaptation continues, will that still remain true? Or will we recover lines of potentiality that may have appeared closed in the past?