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Ten Sentences on Technology as a Human Practice

1. There are two reasons to take the time to develop a careful understanding of what technology is. Firstly, it is the most fundamental expression of our power – of human agency – within the physical world.1


2. While the metaphor is a bit circular, imagine a person using a lever to lift a boulder. W/ every obstacle humans face progressing toward our goals, technology decides where we can put the fulcrum.


3. The second reason is that discussing the nature technology is often place where lot of “Smart People hand waving” happens: "It’s a force, a power, it 'wants' something, it will 'save us.'"


4. It's where Smart People have a tendency to become a bit religious, to lean into elevating what they may see as the highest expression of humanity to a level higher than the humanity that animates it in the first place.


5. Here’s the hand wave: “Technology has driven so much human progress, has brought so much good to the world. It's a child of reason and must be [ insert divinity/ mysticism here ].”


6. That is correct, but if we just reframe the question w/ a bit more granularity, we see there really isn't any room or need for divinity or magic. Technology has no agency of itself, humanity does.


7. We humans are cognizant of our own needs and aspirations, we do the work, undertake the explorations. We isolate appropriately antigenic proteins, encapsulate stability and thermal properties into materials, create and converge around communications platforms and economic markets.


8. A vaccine, a brick, a book, or a lever -- these all reflect humans subjectively identifying problems and offloading them to the physical world by discovering how to convert nature into tools that benefit us. 2


9. If it feels diminishing to say we don’t really “create” anything, then let’s offset that and give ourselves due credit elsewhere, in that we have never required permission, external inspiration, or divine guidance to learn, problem solve, or propel ourselves forward.


10. We can let physics belong to God, but technology and engineering are entirely and rightfully our own.


- Jones, 2023-05-04



Notes:


1 In the Moat, the "physical world" includes the subjective space of others who one doesn't have influence over. E.g., fans of your favorite team's rivals.

2 This is abstraction, discovering ways to wrap up or reform the complexities and energy intensive aspects of a problem into an automatic process. Abstraction itself is a process of observation, representation, and implementation.

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