Evolution of Technology

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Kevin Kelly is an icon of the Internet Age. He co-founded Wired Magazine in 1993, where his current title is “Senior Maverick”. In the 1980s he was publisher and editor of Whole Earth Review, which, under his direction and editorship, “was the first consumer magazine to report on virtual reality, ecological restoration, the global teenager, Internet culture, and artificial life.” Many more milestones of his career can be found on his biography page.

He has also written several books, including Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, and one that is the main focus of this conversation, What Technology Wants.

It is easy to see why Kevin’s perspective is relevant to our own investigation into the Science of the Noosphere. The coevolution of humanity and technology began with the birth of the noosphere, and has been closely linked ever since. Interestingly, one of the ideas in What Technology Wants is that technology has a sort of autonomous evolutionary path of its own. He puts it this way:

“At some point in its evolution, our system of tools and machines and ideas became so dense in feedback loops and complex interactions that it spawned a bit of independence. It began to exercise some autonomy.

At first, this notion of technological independence is very hard to grasp. We are taught to think of technology first as a pile of hardware and secondly as inert stuff that is wholly dependent on us humans. In this view, technology is only what we make. Without us, it ceases to be. It does only what we want. And that’s what I believed, too, when I set out on this quest. But the more I looked at the whole system of technological invention, the more powerful and self-generating I realized it was.”

This idea is closely akin to Teilhard’s description of The Mechanical Apparatus in The Formation of the Noosphere, where he writes:

“The significance and biological function of the tool at last separated from the limb has, as I was saying, long been recognized; and it has long been realized that the tool separated from Man develops a kind of autonomous vitality. We have passive machines giving birth to the active machine, which in turn is followed by the automatic machine.”

This all makes for a lively and highly relevant conversation between Kevin and David Sloan Wilson, another valuable and fascinating discussion that contributes to a deeper understanding of the Science of the Noosphere.

Kevin Kelly Transcript