Question Forum 1

Chapter 1:
On page 5 of “What Technology Wants”, Kelly says, “I acknowledge that my relationship with technology is full of contradictions.” Do you agree with this statement, and if so, what are some of your own contradictions with technology?

Chapter 2:
On page 29, Kelly writes about how hunter-gatherers are often unencumbered by items, even advantageous items. They carried nothing, and knew how to make what they needed, when they needed it. We don’t make things; and we have all the information we could ever need at our fingertips. Are we becoming less creative/innovative? Are we facing an over-abundance of technology, or is the technology we have just sufficient enough to meet our needs?

Chapter 2:
In exploring the concept of hunter-gathers, Kelly points out the paleolithic diet, which consists of meat and crops. Today's innovative technology has created many other food sources, some of which have proven to be beneficial, but others are more harmful than healthful to humans. What are some other technological advancements that do not necessarily benefit society, but might actually harm it?

Chapter 3:
In the reading on page 44, Kelly states that the evolution of the technium, the organism of ideas, mimics the evolution of a genetic organism. Organisms that fail to mutate become extinct. Is the “extinct” technology in the technium really extinct if it is still used today? Is a car “better” than a horse and buggy if it is used for the same purpose? Will a book really ever become obsolete, or is there value in having a “hard copy” of something?

Chapter 4:
Kelly argues that technology is the most dominant and powerful force on the universe. He claims that technology is more powerful than the human brain. Do we control and affect technology, or does technology control and affect us? Is this never-ending change of technology beneficial or detrimental to the human race?

Response to Question 2
09/07, 4:57pm - Jonathan Lutton

Given the circumstances in which hunter-gatherers live—constantly having to move from place to place in order to follow food sources—it seems culturally necessary that they should distance themselves from carrying material possessions. “When you are primarily dependent on natural systems (…) working more does not tend to produce more,” and doing what is merely necessary helps to prevent your efforts from being wasted (Kelly, 29). They know how to craft and create advantageous items out of the naturally occurring resources around them; consequently, they have little need to hold onto something which is seen as being easily replaceable / replicable. Now, relative to the culture in which we currently reside, it appears as though we have all of the information we could ever need at a moment’s notice, and yet we don’t appear to create or innovate in order to better our global community. Perhaps this occurs as a result of a lack of readily available materials, but I have a different theory concerning our reduction of wasted effort. I believe that our apparent lack of creativity and inspiration is actively diminished by the same information that we have at our fingertips every day, and I will use myself as an example to elaborate upon my meaning.

I am predominantly a consumer of information, meaning that I rarely contribute to the ever-growing database of information which I reference on a daily basis. When I reflect upon my consumptive ways, it occurs to me that I lack the motivation to engage the creative community because, well, I simply have no need to do so. The very fact that I have all of the information that I could need at any given point in time diminishes my incentive to participate in this already exhaustive community of information developers / innovators. Let’s say I need information on how to change my car’s tire. I consult a search engine and there are literally thousands of listings for “how to fix a tire.” Consequently, there’s no need or incentive for me to create or innovate in that manner. In terms of topics that aren’t already available online, we might look toward my own musings as a means by which I could contribute originality to the database of information rather than redundancy; however, even if I were to have something worth sharing with the community, it’s mere existence wouldn’t necessitate that it would be read or even seen. The conceptual resultants of this scenario always amount to a time-consuming activity without an inherently necessary payout, or a means by which I come to believe my efforts haven’t been in vain. When it comes down to it, I think that there is simply so much information made available to us every day that we cannot help but lack that creative spark to spur us towards innovation (or contribution to the database of knowledge) due to the belief that perhaps our efforts will have been wasted at the end of the day.

Response to Question 1
09/08, 2:16pm - Jonathan Roberts

I completely agree with Kelly’s statement about having a very contradictory relationship with technology. I use “technology”—and I just mean the sort of modern technologies here like laptops and smart phones and not things like the wheel, even—extensively everyday. I am completely comfortable with these technologies and seamlessly incorporate them all the time, but I also hate staring at screens mindlessly as I so often do. This makes me frequently strive to loosen my bonds with these technologies and remind myself I don’t require the addiction all the time. I’m very into many types of outdoor pursuits and find that I this is one of the easiest times to cast my iPhone aside and refuse most of the modern technology that I use all the time. The worst that ever happens is a few people get mad that I’m “bad” at responding to texts, but my world goes on just fine without these technologies. At the same time, though, day-to-day I’m strapped to laptop and typing away at a fast pace for many hours all the time. This doesn’t mean I like to do so—but I also don’t always like to completely ignore these things either.

I don’t feel like a luddite: I have a smartphone, and laptop, a nice tv at home, and consume a lot of “modern” (read: electronic) media all the time. I just don’t like it all the time. I like to think about how a generation ago lived, without constant contact. For a modern consumer, though, that in itself in a contradiction because we don’t have to.

Response to Question 1
09/08, 11:52pm - Angela Kim

I also agree with Kelly's statement. Kelly's relationship with technology is contradictory because he strove to live without it but when he did use it, he used it because it was so useful and practical - it just made sense to use technology to cut down trees and branches. I think many of us have a love-hate relationship with technology. We use it everyday, especially our phones, laptops, and cars. I get sucked into the internet and hours later, I find myself wondering what I've been doing for the past couple of hours. When I spend the day indoors watching television or on the internet, I always make a resolution to stop using my laptop or phone so much and go outside. I feel worthless after hours of television and social networking - I feel like I wasn't doing anything productive. Regardless, I continue to use my computer and go on Facebook or constantly text friends. It's refreshing to get away from it and spend a day outside with friends face to face, but I always go back to using technology.

Sometimes I wish the internet or smart phones didn't exist - if they didn't, I think we would all be fine, but since they do exist, there's the expectation to keep up with the world so we don't get left behind. In addition to that, we enjoy it. We enjoy the mindless internet surfing and the apps on our phones. It kind of ties into the last question of whether or not technology controls us - I don't think "control" is the right word, but it does have a particular hold on us and how the modern world is evolving.

Response to Question 3
09/09, 11:12am - Alex Lamb
I'm not so sure that I agree with Kelly's statement that technology never truly goes extinct. He uses examples of steam car engines and arrowheads that reside in the homes of collectors. Does this mean that they're still considered technology? Are they being used mainstream, by the average person, as a means to an end? Or are they simply a hobby? And does this distinction matter?

The horse and buggy type of technology is kept in use by the Amish community as a strict way of life. They do not allow any other type of transportation, therefore they are still using the horse and buggy transportation as a means to an end. Whereas, the steam engine car collectors are not using their technology for any functional purpose. Will there always be at least one person who fuels the steam car industry? Maybe, maybe not. But the Amish are a strong-willed group of people with a purpose behind their way of life.

My point is that some technologies may be ancient or outdated and still used for a functional purpose, while others may not be as outdated, but not used for any functional purpose. So does this mean that the newer one is extinct because of its usefulness or lack thereof?

Response to Question 1
09/09, 11:15am - Susan Nguyen

I agree with Kelly’s statement because while I rely on technology on a daily basis, I have many mixed feelings about it. As we discussed in class, the term “technology” is still rather ambiguous, but in my response I am referring to current technologies such as iPods, Kindles, smart phones, and the like.

When I was younger (elementary school), I was actually afraid of computers because I didn’t know how to use them – I literally thought that I would break one if I tried. Now, I feel completely comfortable using most forms of modern technology. I use my laptop every day whether it is to do homework, Google any imaginable question, or wander the internet aimlessly to keep myself entertained. While I don’t have a smart phone, I still keep my dumb phone on me at all times for fear of missing an important text – yes, I send and receive more texts than I do calls, and none of them are ever really that important. I have come to realize that when I am in an environment where these forms of technology are so easily accessible and where it seems that everyone else is using them, I feel the need to do so as well. If I don’t, I feel restless. I feel like if I don’t keep up, I am inevitably missing out on something.

However, I have also come to realize that I am usually happier when I don’t have the need for (or access to) my cell phone, wifi, or social media. I feel naked if I don’t have my phone with me, yet the times that I have forgotten it at home while at work or in class, I realize that I don’t really need it. Since I have a dumb phone, all I can do is text/call anyway. I know this isn’t exactly ideal due to emergency reasons, but I found it was actually nice not constantly waiting for a text or call. It was nice to be unreachable for a little bit. I’ll admit that I’m always a little surprised whenever I get back on my phone or the internet and find that nine times out of ten, nothing of significance has happened or changed.

Being without these forms of technology (phone, laptop) didn’t make me feel anxious or restless if I didn’t have easy access to them in the first place. Instead, this made me feel more at peace because I usually stopped wondering about what others were sharing on social media and therefore what they were up to. Maybe I only felt this way because I knew that in the end, after a few days, I would have access to them again. An example of this is when I went to the beach with some family friends this summer. The house we were staying at didn’t have wifi, so I didn’t bother bringing my laptop. All my other friends had smart phones, which they would constantly use to check/update their social media sites or to keep busy if there was any moment of downtime. It felt like they couldn’t fully live in or appreciate the moment unless they were Tweeting or Instagramming about it. I was hyperaware of this because I, on the other hand, barely touched my phone because I couldn’t do any of those things. It felt extremely nice not having to keep up with all of these social media sites and to just enjoy where I was with the people I was surrounded by for a few days.

While I always enjoy my relatively short breaks from technology, I always feel the need to start using them all the time once I have access to them. I don’t hate, or even dislike, technology because I feel like I need to use it regularly (perhaps this is because everyone else seems to be doing so), yet I am always relieved when I have an excuse to break away from it. I like to think that since I am fine with not using these forms of technology all the time, I could go without if need be. Luckily, I don’t think I’ll ever be put in that position.

Response to Question 3
09/09, 11:38am - Brooks Tiffany

I don’t think the technology can really become extinct once it has become a part of the technium. There might be a few exceptions where a certain technology of a culture was “lost” to unfortunate circumstances of the past (such as the rope-knot counting technology Kelly mentions on p55); however, that culture/technology broke the “rules” of the technium’s existence and became extinct as a result. By that I mean it appears that language was the birth of the technium and, consequently, failing to use language to pass on knowledge about a technology is a failure of the very concept that drives the technium, therefore, it cannot become a lasting part of the technium and becomes extinct.

I think these extinct species of technology are flukes and that as long as a technology is “remembered” (orally, analog, digital) by the technium, it will never be extinct because at any given moment it might be found useful. Cars for instance are not always better for certain terrains, where horses would be better suited. Books, for instance, will never be obsolete because other forms of record keeping require power of some sort and I can think of many instances where power may not be a viable option: even if every person on the earth had their very own, never-ending power-source, there might be circumstances where using power to transmit information could reveal your position and your only other means of communicating is the old-fashioned, pen and ink, print variety.

Response to Question 4
09/09, 11:47am - Samantha Pedersen

There are positive and negative aspects to every technological advancement. As we’ve said in class, sometimes when we put a technology out there, we don’t know where it’s going to end up. Our culture demands that we get what we want right away, as opposed to waiting even just a few days for it. I spent time over the summer working for a wellness writer, and one of her primary concerns was the constant demand for the newest treatment, whatever it may be: surgery or pills. We’re so concerned with getting the latest technology that we don’t step back and think about what could be the consequences. In many situations, these wellness treatments had barely been tested before they were put on the market. These oftentimes had disastrous consequences. In some cases, people would pay for laser treatments to rejuvenate their skin, but instead the laser caused nasty scarring.

In some cases, we don’t know about the consequences until years later, when it’s too late to solve anything. For example, back when the atomic bomb was first being tested, scientists were unaware of radiation. They would invite U.S. soldiers to come watch the demonstrations. It wasn’t until years later that they discovered that these soldiers were dying from radiation poisoning.

Response to Question 3
09/09, 1:16pm - Erika Lower

It is possible, in certain circumstances, for a technology to "go extinct", but it's also somewhat unusual. Even when technologies fall out of favor or common use, they are still preserved in the technium if there is some record and documentation of their existence, and if it is possible to recreate them from that information. So long as a technology is preserved in the technium through language, it is never fully lost.

I am curious as to where "cryptozoological" technologies — those that may or may not be able to be duplicated in spite of their inclusion in historical texts, like the general Hannibal's use of "vinegar" to cut a path through the Alps — might fit into the technium. Would this sort of thing be a truly lost technology if there's a record of it and its impacts, but it is no longer able to be reproduced?

Although certain technologies fall out of popularity, they are by no means made fully irrelevant by the march of progress. There are plenty of circumstances in which low-tech, "primitive" technology is actually better than the more advanced alternative: a bow is going to be much more useful than a gun if you're stuck in the middle of the woods long-term, as you can fire an arrow, but not a bullet, multiple times. Preserving these "low" technologies is a valuable investment not just from a historical perspective, but because there are actually instances in which the most high-tech solution is not the most useful.

Response to Question 1
09/09, 5:50pm - Hobs Towler

I would say that I probably agree with that statement if agreeing with it means that I also feel that my relationship with technology is fraught with contradictions. Although I would like to take the opportunity to clarify, as Kelly seems to do as well, and suggest that the contradiction perhaps does not originate with wanting more or less technology or more or less intrusive items, but that I seem to exclude certain technologies from consideration when everything in our class discussions seems to suggest that anything we are not born with is a type of technology.

My contradiction with technology therefore is not that I desire less, but acquire more (The truth is that I generally want more; really, all I can get), but that I don’t consider a knife technology, nor do I consider a blanket or even clothing technologies, as we discussed to death in class last Tuesday. I also don’t consider websites like Facebook or Twitter to be technologies, but I can’t really, effectively deny that they aren’t.

Technology, to me, is the new. Technology is also something I can hold or touch or see or smell. Technology is shiny and chrome and full of mystery. And isn’t that just cliché? Technology is always cutting edge.
Technology is computers and robots and fast engines and bio-engineered corn. Technology is a cyborg eye that records video. Technology is my TiVo. But that little sphere is only one little finger of a vast, vague notion of a concept that we conveniently call technology. Because really, technology is everything isn’t it? Even us. Maybe. Eventually.