A spirituality of technology…

In his recent article “Heart of Darkness: A mild polemic” Jon Kolko quotes a line from me. We had been discussing the article and the topic; here is the full version of what I wrote. I didn’t want it to get lost by the wayside…

# Jon Kolko (quoting from the article)

Neil Postman bemoaned the fragmented view of our complex world: “There is no consistent, integrated conception of the world which serves as the foundation on which our edifice of belief rests. And therefore, in a sense, we are more naive than those of the Middle Ages, and more frightened, for we can be made to believe almost anything.” He’s right, and that is, in summary, the backdrop for the end of our national dominance. For it is not that we created derivatives and sub-prime mortgages and pottery barn and subdivisons and a 24 hour news cycle and a four dollar cup of coffee. It’s that we had no integrated conception of the world – and more importantly, the people in the world – from which to judge that these things are bad. We were untrained in sensemaking, in creating an understanding of how systems work, and we ignored consequences that were diffused, but present. We are now, collectively, wiser, and in that regard, perhaps the glory day of design – as an integrated discipline of humanizing technology – is finally upon us.

# Steve Baty (in response)

Are we really collectively wiser, or simply more aware of our naivety and the danger that lies therein (a form of wisdom, granted). More cynical, certainly; and also perhaps more dissatisfied with our lot.

Kai Krause wrote a piece a couple of years ago calling for a new contentism which feels consistent with your notion of humanizing technology. “The emphasis is on quality of life. On the benefits of tools, the liberating freedom. My real point: Humans are feeble. We forget. We have become numb to all the wonder.”

He felt too much of what we view as progress is done ‘because we can’ instead of with a clear sense of progress in a human sense. A form of mindless, communal psychosis driven by and driving an unsustainable cycle of materialistic and consumptionist activity.

Although perhaps he simply sees us as ungrateful bastards, constantly clawing after more, and better, and cheaper.

“Quality of life” has ceased to be measured in terms most of us would acknowledge as reflective of real quality. This new generation has a shorter life expectancy than their parents; are less likely to earn more (however you measure it); will experience more, and more extreme weather events;…

We lack a ‘spirituality of technology’ or a clear purpose for ‘the march of progress’. As such, our progress is callous, cold, relentless, asocial, unapologetic. It cannot be human or humane for as long as the logic of progress is coached in terms of ‘achievement’ and not value. Value is inherently subjective; it necessarily views the world through the eyes of humanity. Achievement, on the other hand, is a more objective – and therefore more readily inhuman – measure.

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