Team 2 Keywords

Within the contexts of his book, What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly routinely hits on the idea of humanity’s freedom or capacity for choice in relation to our lives as well as the technium. We created the technium and it appears symbiotically bound to us in such a way that we couldn’t be rid of it even if we tried (according to Kelly). Civilization has arrived at a point where we depend upon it for our day-to-day existence; however, “we are at a second tipping point where the technium’s ability to alter us exceeds our ability to alter the technium” (197). This is more than moderately disconcerting. Are we merely subject to technological advancement and its place in our lives without the ability to exercise our own freedoms/decisions over it? Even more disturbing is the thought that we may be willingly relinquishing our personal freedoms in favor of technological advancement.

Ted Kaczynski believes that, as technological prominence increases in society, personal freedoms proportionately diminish and “technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior” (204-5). We gave life to the technium and its motives reflect our own, but to what degree has it outstripped even our control? We have so little control over this progression and we—as a society—are addicted to furthering the “latest and greatest” mindset without considering what we may be losing along the way. Increased anxiety over not being connected online, having to scrutinize every email that enters your inbox, and the list goes on and on. Studies have shown that we are less and less satisfied with our lives, and Kelly notes that it’s possible we are less content due to our being in an ever-present flux of technological anxiety. Yes, our freedoms are enhanced by the technium, but are they not also somewhat negatively affected in other ways?

When Kevin Kelly uses the term “convivial,” he is referring to the process of making individual technologies more “compatible with life” in such a way as to spur a more prolific ends to our technological endeavors (263-4). The introduction of new technologies into society releases what may be called “first-order” and “second-order” effects in the world. First-order effects are those which are anticipated or intended by the developers/creators and therefore unsurprising in their presence within the span of activity associated with the given technology. Second-order effects may be understood as those which were not apparent in the development of that same technology but which nevertheless make themselves apparent as it comes in contact with individuals and society as a whole.

As a result of the uncertainty we encounter in the introduction of new technologies to society, it becomes necessary to consider how we might go about diminishing negative effects or results. Kevin Kelly examines two differing approaches to technology’s advancement and integration into society—the precautionary and proactionary principles—both of which aim at reducing the amount of negative consequences that technology can inflict and maximizing the benefits from technological development. The precautionary principle holds the axiom that “a technology must be shown to do no harm before it is embraced… [and] disseminated” in an effort to anticipate and prevent harm; however, this may bring advancement to a halt (247). Kelly holds little faith in this principle and chooses rather to trust in the proactionary principle, which advocates society’s “constant engagement” with technological progress while emphasizing “provisional assessment and constant correction” (255). There are five steps to his version of this principle: attempted anticipation of technological effects, continual assessment as well as reassessment, “prioritization of risks, including natural ones,” “rapid correction of harms [incurred],” and the redirection/re-envisioning of “dubious technologies” towards productive ends (255-7). Effectively, his conception of conviviality is humanity’s ability to grant technologies—both new and old—new roles and expressions for them which better conform to the character features we wish to have it express (264-5).

In Kelly's book, the term control is used many times to discuss whether we have control over the technologies we have created or the other way around. There's a constant back-and-forth to this argument because without human intelligence, the technology would not be able to run. Without our need for the technology, there is no purpose for it. Others can argue that the technium has control over us. We have grown to become so dependent on the technium that we would not be able to survive without it, and generally, people do not desire to live without it. We enjoy the new upgrades and the luxury of this era. "[Technology's] shiny new benefits instantly blind us to its powerful new vices. We operate under some kind of spell" (214).

We like to think that we have control, though. We have control over what we choose to use and what we reject (which is not much). One group that has more control over the technology in their lifestyles is the Amish. While they do use some technology, they decide whether or not they want to use certain items. They aren't sucked into the newest inventions and even some old ones. They carefully evaluate the pros and cons, and decide if the item ultimately improves their community as a whole. They can boldly say "no" to technology, while the rest of us are susceptible to snatching the newest gadget off the shelf.

Note: For those with eBooks, the page numbers in the hardcopy book run from 191-216, 217-238, and 239-265; hopefully this should help you to gauge approximately where in each chapter to find the references above.