Our tools don’t make us who we are. We make tools because of who we are.
Cyberculture legend RU Sirius, editor at the Acceler8or webzine, interviewed Joel Garreau and myself about the Prevail project. (Short summary for those who missed the earlier post: Prevail is an Arizona State University-sponsored non-profit organization looking to build collaborative knowledge about transformative technologies and culture.) In a series of back-and-forth email among the three of us, we discussed everything from the logic of transhumanism to the power of the Occupy movement.
In one of his comments, Joel gives one of the best summaries of the Prevail perspective I've yet seen:
The heart of Prevail is: perhaps there are two curves of change, not one. If our technological challenges are heading up on a curve, but our responses are more or less flat (like we’re waiting for House Judiciary to solve our problems), the species is clearly toast. The gap just keeps on getting wider and wider.
But suppose we are seeing an increase almost as rapid in our unexpected, bottom-up, flock-like social adaptations. Then you’d be looking at high-speed human-controlled co-evolution.
There are reasons for guarded optimism about this.
In other words, we can't wait for someone else to give us the future; we have to make it ourselves.
The title of this post is one of my comments from the interview.
It comes down to humanism.
One bit of snark I’ve used before is that transhumanists focus too much on the “trans” and not enough on the “humanist.” As I said earlier, I’m more adamant in my anti-Singularitarianism than in my anti-Transhumanism, but in both cases it’s not because I reject the notion that our technologies are changing rapidly. It’s because I firmly believe that it’s not a one-way process. Technologies change us, but we change the technologies, too. Technology is not an external force emerging from the very fabric of the universe (and, as you know, there are some Singularitypes out there who seriously believe that Moore’s Law is woven into the laws of nature); our technologies (plural, lower-case T) are cultural constructs. They are artifacts of our minds, our norms and values, our societies.
Our tools do not make us who we are. We make tools because of who we are.
It was a good conversation. Thank you to RU for inviting me along, and thank you to Joel for tolerating my presence!