I am noticing a particular style of futureology… I have not really grasped it fully, it might be a syndrome, which is a sort of illiteracy. Some tech has different meaning to others, and it is quite an art to get the difference. It is easy to over estimates the power and impact of technology as such, but underestimate the power and impact – i.e. meaning – of specific technology. Technology is media, it mediates between us and the world, and so lumping it all together as having one big impact – the message of technology – makes some sense. “Man is a tool using animal”.
But finer perception is needed. Looking at “technology” like that is to see all of the inventions in a meaningless way, like looking at the alphabet as 26 letters. The alphabet becomes more interesting once arranged in words, words have more meaning in their context too (Jaron Lanier mentions the importance of say, “I do” in certain contexts.) McLuhan was a literary critic and so looked at media with a sort of super-literacy. For example moveable type was, according to McLuhan and it makes sense, the fore-runner of the whole of industrialisation because it unconsciously impacted how we saw the world, as bits we could put together in different ways. Lego. The NET extends other media and exponentially extend moveable type, even if nothing more was ever be invented, we will be – are now – totally transformed once again, it keeps happening only faster and it is hard to notice.
This is a chapter, Singularity or Automorphosis, out of an online book Nanotechnology without Genies, (c) 1999 by Lyle Burkhead. Where does this interesting chapter fit into my hypothesis?
Adding this link on Sunday, 25 August 2002: Vernor Vinge on the Singularity
I have argued above that we cannot prevent the Singularity, that its coming is an inevitable consequence of the humans’ natural competitiveness and the possibilities inherent in technology. And yet … we are the initiators. Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things. We have the freedom to establish initial conditions, make things happen in ways that are less inimical than others. Of course (as with starting avalanches), it may not be clear what the right guiding nudge really is.
Here he makes it clear that some small tiny thing, unknown to us now could be triggering the avalanche. That allows the future to remain an unknown. This is from a 1993 article – better than the interview I post later.
I heard someone say in the movie about Stanley Kubrick, that 2001 was the first SF movie that left the future unknown.
One Reply to “Meaning”
Here are some links that I believe will be interested