Question Forum 4

1. On page 78 Kelly describes how when given a chance we will always upgrade to better technology. He states, “This one-way pull toward technology is either a magical siren, bewitching the innocent into consuming something they don’t really want, or a tyrant that we are unable to overthrow.” Do you agree with any of these statements? Do you have a different perspective?

2. From page 128, what are your thoughts on humanity being “nothing more and nothing less than an evolutionary ordained becoming?”

3. In chapter six, Kelly argues that evolution has an inherent direction. That is to say, there is “self-propelling momentum pushing technology” (11). Which evolutionary theory are you more inclined to accept? That the technium is propelled by random variation (the widely accepted view that evolution is random and without direction), or Kelly’s theory that the technium will propel itself based on specific tendencies, processes, and directions?

4. On pages 97 and 98, Kevin Kelly gives several scenarios for the ability of a declining population to continue “deep technological progress.” Which of these scenarios (if any) do you agree with? Do the scenarios ignore other possibilities?

Question 1

At first I wanted to disagree with both of these statements but then I reflected more on Kelly's argument on the materialisticness of human beings and I have to agree with both statements. We are extremely materialistic and being so makes us want the best version of something. My dad was one of the first people at his place of work to get to try the iPad. He originally had a blackberry but when his office provided the iPhone, he got one right away. My dad cannot ignore the pull of a newer version of technology. I am not the same way for most instances. I would have been content to stay with the phone I had four or fives years ago. However, technology surpassed me. That phone was no longer available…I was forced to "upgrade." I personally fall more into the second category. Technology is a tyrant that is never going away! I will always be forced to upgrade to something better because my old version will become obsolete. (More or less.)
Question 4

I could definitely see scenario number 1 happening. I think that robotic nannies would definitely make people more inclined to have children. Even today people have more children when they have nannies to help them.

Scenario number 2 does not seem very realistic to me. I feel like engineers are much closer to robot nannies than to creating a fake mind for human beings.

I can also see scenario number 3 happening. We already look for ways to help us focus more or keep us awake longer (caffeine, 5 hour energy) so that we can accomplish more. I think that as a whole we would adapt these suggested forms of aid and help some people in society become powerful minds.

I'm not sure about scenarios 4 or 5. They are both so foreign to me. I definitely don't think that the population is just going to plunge to a small group…as long as people can reproduce, I think they will.

Scenario 4 seems similar to the utopia that Shirkey was talking about in his book. It's a green world, with less people. Organizations have to target smaller, more distinct groups with their products. It sounds nice to a certain extent, I just don't know how a nongrowth economy could work…


1. I do not agree with Kelly’s statement. Lack of money for new technology (new cell phone, more updated iPod), lack of resources to upgrade technologies (computer will not allow new updates), or lack of availability for a new technology (your county/state does not carry the new MacBook Pro) all add up to inabilities for updates. Kelly implies that we have an instinctive behavior for new technology; that when new technologies are available we absolutely need it and will do anything to get it. Many limitations come into play here; even if given a chance for a new technology, someone might have an aversion to it and completely refuse it. We are all individuals, and we make individual choices based on our own needs.
2. Humanity’s destiny is not predetermined. There is no known ending. I enjoy Kelly’s words and statements on many concepts in this novel, but I disagree that there is an ordained ending for all of humanity. Humanity evolves based on each generation’s needs; it thrives when needs are positive, and it falters when needs are negative. Our fate is not decided or mandated; it only moves based on what the public pushes for. Currently, most of the public wants new phones, thin and light computers, and constant updates for their smart phone/digital television/music players.
3. Evolution, though not random or directionless, changes based on what the public accepts and rejects. As each generation shifts, we evolve more and more to adapt to what is livable. I agree slightly with Kelly’s belief that we evolve based on specific processes, because the more popular actions that the public as a whole take become the only visible actions. The unpopular actions (not having a television, cell phone, or internet), though recognized by a small portion of the public, become invisible. Businesspeople in New York City have a hard time comprehending why someone in rural Georgia has never pursued a cell phone with internet capabilities. But as each generation ages, we evolve to fit more popular needs.
4. Number #3. The average mind will continue and become the most popular choice. We remember the movie Idiocracy? It was hilarious, satirical, and totally possible. We accept most of the public’s mediocrity, and it prevails. We take pills to supplement what we neglect in our diet because fruits and vegetables do not taste like candy and cookies, we keep buying products that do work for us until we barely have to think, and we continue watching television until it becomes a Fahrenheit 451 apocalypse where a television screen takes up an entire wall and we put television in our ears to help us go to bed. Overall, we just accept our average citizen and make life easier for them until we all adapt to this lifestyle.

-Rosalie Wind

Question 1
I honestly think that both of these statements can be true. I have never been one to be "up" on technology. My mac is four years old, I have a touch phone with no internet capabilities (that I pay for at least), no DVR (although the convenience of that is appealing) and my GPS has outdated maps because I don't want to pay to download new ones. That being said, clearly technology is a part of my daily life. I upgrade when I have money to, because technology makes things more convenient, but I am definitely one to shy away from change. It is easy to feel like we are forced to upgrade, because the upgrades are inherently a "siren." They are beautiful and mesmerizing and different and new. Our friends have them and rave on about them, and make us desire them. My boyfriend has a "smart" phone with Google at his fingertips and an internal GPS system, which made looking up types of beer and directions to the brewery that much easier. It made me want one. But with that, comes the burden of charging said phone, at least once a day, if not twice. And that is a pain. Technology can be a tyrant, ruling our wallets. When "old" technology becomes outdated, we have to shell out the money for upgrades, even though the original technology works just as well. My laptop battery had to be replaced recently, because it was only manufactured to last 500 battery charging cycles. When I purchased this, I was told about a new 1000 cycle battery, and asked if I could purchase that one instead. Much to my dismay, the battery was not made for my "outdated" laptop. I got this laptop as a freshman in college. It has only been four years! It still works, much better now thanks to a new battery, and still has a ton of life left in it (hopefully). However, I was tempted to look into new computers when I was told of this small upgrade, because 1000 battery cycles means that I would only have to shell out the 100 dollars for the battery, half as often. Ridiculous, I know, but it was still a thought. I understand the desire for better, as humans we are constantly looking for better ways to do things, quicker ways, easier ways, ect. However, we allow ourselves to be sucked in by the siren and overtaken by the tyrant, merely because we have no other choice in the matter. Or at least, it appears that way.
-Megan Forbes

Question 1

From a purely personal point of view, I find the latter option more convincing—although both imply that we are pulled against our will. I find the opposite is true, because we tend to want these advances—that’s why we keep improving gadgets and inventing newer ones. Otherwise, where would the market be for all this technology? So if we are required to use laptops in school, is that really against our will? Who wants to hand-write 6 pages of critical literary analysis? I remember feeling ecstatic over getting my own laptop, and although I did not want a newer and faster one, I came to love the new one just as much as (if not more than) my old one. So I don’t see "technology" as a siren so much as something that our own desires draw us towards. To me, it’s not so much technology that pulls us, but us that push it, and in that way, each other.

At this point, however, I can see it also as something we “are unable to overthrow,” but if we are dominated by something, it is by our own greed and strive for convenience—smaller, faster, better—and simply because it results in the form of progressive technology does not give us the right to blame technology as if it had an agenda. We push each other. Mac pushes against PC, Bing against Google, Nook versus Kindle. Who will mark the next “new thing” that will pour in the money? And why would it pour in the money? Because consumers—us—want those products, and create the incentive and drive to make them.

Shannon Yen

Question 1

I agree with the statement that technology is “a tyrant that we are unable to overthrow.” We always want to improve technology to make it more advanced and easier to use. By improving technology, we think we can improve our lives by making them easier and more efficient. However, with every new improvement comes a new problem. There is always a way to make it better. In this day and age, because technology is such a huge part of our lives, and because it is constantly being reinvented, we cannot get away from it. We are forced to use technology such as phones and computers to stay connected and informed. But we are also forced to constantly change and update these forms of technology to keep up. An example of this is a computer. In order to keep up in society, we need computers. However, because of the drive to always make technology better, new computers come out all the time. Not only do we need a computer to keep up in society, we need a reasonably new computer. A computer 10 years old will not have the capabilities to keep up with the technology we need to stay connected. This forces us to buy new computers every couple of years so that we can continue to live the way we want.

Question 2

I generally agree with the idea of the evolutionary ordained being. As Kelly explains, if the circumstances are right, evolution will play out the same. I thought the experiment for replaying evolution on p. 126 was very interesting. It makes sense that, given the same materials (DNA) and limitations, evolution will play out similarly. Of course, as pointed out in the experiment, small differences emerge, and this is due to chance, but overall evolution will be the same every time.

The idea the humanity is an evolutionary ordained being makes sense for the most part. Because the circumstances were right, evolution produced humans. If the same circumstances occurred again, I believe that humanity would most likely evolve again. However, I believe that there is still room for chance. If the same circumstances for humans appeared again, there is still a chance that evolution could turn out differently.

Sarah Joseph

Question 1

Kelly has an interesting view here, but one that isn’t supported by any social norm in the U.S. In other words, I don’t agree with these statements at all. The appeal of technology, as we’ve discussed repeatedly in class, is that it creates convenience and efficiency. My first issue with this statement is that the pull toward technology is completely clear. The appeal of technology isn’t unknown or “magical,” people strive to be as efficient as possible and technology enables us to do so. More than that, people don’t purchase the latest technologies because they don’t want them. If you truly don’t want a technology, you don’t buy it. Period. Kelly disregards every generation except the up-and-coming technology-crazy generation. Older generations don’t feel as attached to technology as we, or even younger generations, are. Each time Apple comes out with a new gadget I definitely don’t feel a need or even a desire to purchase a new technology just because it’s available. For example, I don’t have a smartphone and I hopefully never will. I carry my laptop with me when I foresee a need for the Internet. And guess what I use my phone for…making calls! Granted, there are people who stand in line until midnight to get Apple’s latest technology, but I attribute that to brand loyalty (or obsession) rather than technology’s magical powers of temptation. That’s just ridiculous. There are still families that rely on basic technologies and are exceedingly happy. I don’t understand how Kelly can be an active part of society and still make some of the claims he does. I feel like he comes up with these ideas and doesn’t check them with previous study or even his own observations. The only way I can see Kelly supporting his arguments is by looking at his own life and assuming that he is the norm….clearly he isn’t. I was with Kelly to a point when he explained that technology has wants, but here I’m trying to figure out how this guy is considered a reputable source in academia. Technology is not a “tyrant we are unable to overthrow.” People created digital technology. Technology is an aid. We control it, and it makes out lives easier. Technology, in some form or other, is indeed available and used by almost everyone, but that doesn’t make it a tyrant. It’s poor word choice. Certainly, we need technology to survive in THIS world, but we can easily overthrow it by turning off the computer and going outside. I’ve completely lost interest in anything Kelly has to say. To me, he’s a paranoid guy who’s afraid of the technology that he, himself supports. Why else would he write about it’s tyranny?

Katelyn McDaniel

Question 1

Kelly also offered a third possibility here. He said that technology was either a magical siren, a tyrant, or something desirable “that indirectly leads to greater satisfaction.” He also says that it’s possible that all three could be true, and this is the position I take.

Technology is a siren because it offers us conveniences that we think we want, but these “conveniences” sometimes have the potential to degrade our quality of life. For example, though I do not have Internet on my phone, I think that if I did, it would degrade the quality of my life. If I had this technology, I would feel that I was required to respond to all my emails as I got them, which would further integrate work and school into my personal life. (Cell phones already do this to some degree, since they make it so that people are accessible all the time.) I think that consumers are lured by these technologies because many people only see the potential good of a technology until they buy it and use it.

After the consumer buys the new technology, it may become a tyrant. A few technologies that I think have made it to “tyrant” status are the computer, the Internet, the car, and the cell phone. Living in our society without these four technologies, would make life very difficult, and for some of these technologies, I think it would be nearly impossible to break away. Small computers are in so many things that it would be very difficult to individually decide to cut them out of one’s life, and we are rising to a similar degree of dependence on the Internet. Cars and cell phones might be a little easier to live without, since there are still people out there with home phones, and some people, especially those in cities, walk or bike to places.

I would argue that technological tyrants and sirens are not always bad. I don’t hear anyone complaining about how easy it is to travel or how much information computers can store, though these technologies control our lives. I do not think that we would be able to “overthrow” our technologies, but would we really want to do it? I know I can think of a few technologies that I would like to disappear, but if we don’t want to overthrow the tyrant, I don’t think we can pick and choose. Some technologies that have become woven into our society may be a nuisance, but many of them help us to live longer, more satisfying lives, and in this way, technology is something desirable.

Amy Gay

Question 4

I agree with a combination of Scenarios 2 and 3. This combination takes into account that humans have a cyclical relationship with technology. Humans invent new technologies to increase their capabilities which results in newer technologies. This is what we perceive as progress. I think that technology will influence our ideas and promote innovation that will offset the slow population decline.
Kelly writes on page 44, “If technology is an extension of humans, it is not an extension of our genes but of our minds. Technology is therefore the extended body for ideas.” This passage explains how technology is a product of our minds. We use our ideas to create technology, which in turn produces new ideas and new technology. Kelly supports this when he writes on page 38 how one invention can lead to another.
Kelly also talks about how the invention of language was a major breakthrough for humans. It changed the way we think. He writes, “Language is a trick that allows the mind to question itself…Until we tame the mind with an organization tool capable of communicating to itself, we have stray thoughts without a narrative (26-27). I think that we will continue to invent technologies, like language, that will change our thinking.
I believe that technology will increase the potential of human minds so that we can do more with less people. Perhaps the solution will rely on a technology that resembles the human mind, but I do not think that artificial minds will ever overtake or substitute the power of human minds. Human minds are needed to guide the progress of technology because I think that artificial minds could never match the complexity of the human mind. For example, humans are capable of understanding and feeling emotion. The emotional aspect of life is very important and must be taken into account when determining what is best for humanity. Because emotions are illogical, I do not think that artificial minds will ever be capable of replicating or comprehending this aspect of human life. For this reason, I believe that artificial minds can supplement, but never substitute, human minds.
Furthermore, I believe that the ideas generated by the artificial mind will assist the human mind. Then humans will use these new ideas to create new technologies. I do not believe that the artificial mind will ever be capable of applying ideas to create something new. A human mind is needed to do this. In this way, the artificial minds or technologies will increase the potential of human minds. People will use their increased cognitive abilities to make progress. The power of these new ideas will compensate for the decline in population.

Emily Whitesell

Question 1

I must disagree. In the book, he states that the Amish are the only exception to this rule, but I think we can find exceptions everywhere. When shopping, we see products with large labels urging us to buy them. Special features are bolded and enlarged; features that are enhancements to the technology of the product. When compared to the original product, these enhanced products can even be in the same price range, and yet we still choose the original. I can not count how many times I have asked myself shopping, “Why do I need this?” Perhaps I am cynical in believing that most enhanced products are nothing more than a marketing department desperate to beat the competition.
Maybe this is not quite on track with what Kelly was talking about, but I'll use the example of the iPod. New iPods now have a camera built in. While I see a camera being helpful for Apple's other products, when purchasing a new iPod I again was forced to ask “Why do I need this?” Fact was, I didn't even want it. I do not think I am alone in saying that “better” technology can actually turn me off from upgrading. Truth be told, I don't immediately trust new technology; few people do. I spent days convincing my parents that it was time for them to get a DVD player. My father's tool set is about as old as I am, and he likes that, refusing to buy the “new” and “better” tools offered today. Even I will not upgrade to Firefox 4 until I get an all-clear from a friend.
And yet, I am not totally against Kelly's claim. Where I may be cynical when it comes to upgrading, some products do indeed “bewitch the innocent.” My roommate has already vowed to buy the iPhone 5; a product that is not yet on shelves, not yet announced. He has no idea what features it will have, and therefore does not know how it will improve his life. But he'll still line up to get it on the first day.
Kelly spoke of happiness in this section, and I agree that when we upgrade, we are not guaranteed happiness. My roommate was the same guy he was when he had the iPhone 3. He will still be that same guy when he has an iPhone 5. Yes, he may be happier the first day or two after getting his new phone, but that wears off. Kelly says that this pull towards technology is like a siren or tyrant; I say it is a drug.

John Del Terzo

Question One:

I find these statements to be a bit farfetched. As a young adult raised in the up and coming technological era, it is easy for me to see how the human body has been attracted to technology that simplifies, streamlines, and makes tasks more efficient. Using this technology seems like a no brainer: if it gets it done faster- use it. But on the other side of this coin, one has to acknowledge the group of superfluous, excessive, and unnecessary technological advancements that the population has refused to adopt. Book lights, wine vending machines, and the upcoming 3D television are all examples of products that have been release to the open market and have not been widely accepted simply because people feel that they are content with the technology they have; that is, they do not need excessive technology.

Will the masses upgrade to a computer that eliminates load, wait and lag time completely? Yes. Will they buy the new smart phone that boasts faster speeds and more computing capabilities? Probably. Will they stop picking out their wine from and isle and opt for the vending machine? No.

So, no, I do not agree with Kelly in this sense. Just because it is new does not mean that people will flock to it. There MUST be a quality that people cannot live without. For me this entire book is based on sheer opinion and does not stand on any foundation of fact. It is Kelly’s choice to live as the Amish do. While it isn’t my place to judge him for the choices he makes to avoid technology every day, I feel that it is hypocritical him to preach that everyone who believes otherwise is wrong and “bewitched” by technology.

Carey Bald

Question 2:

Kelly seems to believe that we are all destined to be used/corrupted/changed by technology and its ever-evolving tendency to seep into our lives. His statement, “nothing more and nothing less than an evolutionary ordained becoming”, seems to probe readers in a way that leads them to his opinion. Like a lawyer "begging the question", this book carefully strings together many facts, yet they are swimming in the theory of Kelly's chosen way of life.

Yes, I do think that humanity is a process and we are open-ended when it comes to technology, its use, and its effects, but I do not believe that we are only going to escape its spell if we move to the forest and live in the trees! As we have discussed in class, technology is man's creation. So ultimately we have created it— it has not created us. We have learned to depend on it but ultimate survival does not rely on technology.

Rachel Blackwell