What Technology Wants | Kevin Kelly

Summary of: What Technology Wants
By: Kevin Kelly


In ‘What Technology Wants’, Kevin Kelly delves into the deep relationship between humans and technology, exploring how the ‘technium’ – the ever-growing complex of inventions and achievements – has shaped our lives. The book illustrates how the development of technology goes beyond human endeavor and follows a path akin to living systems. This summary will delve into key themes such as the characteristics and evolution of technology, its effects on humanity, and how our society should evaluate and navigate our relationship with technology. Read on to understand how technology has transformed our world and where it is headed, while also discovering the implications of the technium’s self-propelling nature.

The Technium’s Impact

Technology shaped humanity for thousands of years. The technium, a self-reinforcing system of creation, is composed of soft and hard technologies that guide societies and reshape the planet. As technology becomes increasingly pervasive and intelligent, people must consciously assess their evolving relationship with it. The technium has a life of its own, dictated by human impulses and desires, and its impact cannot be overlooked.

The Evolution of Technology

Technology has been a part of the natural world long before humans even existed. Early human ancestors adapted and improved their tools, which eventually led to an explosion of ideas and innovations 50,000 years ago. With language, people were able to coordinate and learn from one another, leading to longer lifespans and the passing of knowledge from generation to generation. As technology and society advanced, progress became a concept that was expected and embraced. Today, technology continues to improve and change the nature of human society, but it also has its negative effects such as waste and pollution. Despite this, the overall effect of technology on humanity is positive and has led to a better quality of life.

The Forces that Shape Technology

Technology, like a person’s personality, follows a predetermined path shaped by three forces: the physical universe, history, and free will. The line of development from ancient Roman roads to the space shuttle offers a tangible example of how history shapes technology. Nature and history impose limits on choices, but technological progress offers new opportunities. Using the example of satellite images at night, the book highlights how political decisions can drive technological choices. Grandparents play an essential role in passing down knowledge over time, making them the conduits of culture. Understanding where technology is going requires looking at where it has come from, a task that is challenging but necessary.

The Paradox of Technology

With each emergence of a new technology, there is a claim that it will improve society and resolve conflicts. However, it can also create new problems. Technology has become omnipresent and seems to intrude into every thought. Mechanization and the larger technological system regulate people and deprive them of freedom. While people idealize the pretechnological world as one of communal freedom, technology increases individual choices. It has its own agenda, reshapes people to meet its needs, and appears to have no boundaries. People should evaluate each technology deliberately and methodically, weigh its potential, possible impact, uses and risks. They must learn to make better technology-related decisions.

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