It is well known that stone can think, because the whole of electronics is based on that fact, but in some universes men spend ages looking for other intelligences in the sky without once looking under their feet.
Terry Pratchett

The purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body.
William S. Burroughs

The human race is the wisest of all living creatures because it has hands.
Anaxagoras

Your hands are the greatest store of knowledge
Spin your own clothes and the british will go away
Mahatma Gandhi

Inventor

The scientist seeks to understand what is; the engineer seeks to create what never was.
Theodore von Kármán

What I cannot create, I do not understand.
Richard Feynman

We got knowledge and technology before we got intelligence.
S. Adams

I sometimes think there is a malign force loose in the universe that is the social equivalent of cancer, and it's plastic.
Norman Mailer, 1970

…our idea of a pesticide … is just so crude it’s not even funny. So when people ask me things like, “Do you think your plants are conscious?” I say, “Isn’t it enough that they can eat sunlight and do these things?” I’m a believer in plant genius.
Michael Pollan

Greek miners at work

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
Carl Sagan

It’s not only computers and telephone networks, but the motor in my bike and TV sets and vacuum cleaners and chemical processes and formulae in astrophysics. I’m a nut case, I admit it: a freak.
L. Salander

The reasonable man adapts to nature. The unreasonable man seeks to adapt nature to himself.
George Bernard Shaw

Only one thing, is impossible for god: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.
Mark Twain

C'est en copiant qu'on invente.
Paul Valery

La seule vraie désobéissance est celle qui permet d'inventer.
Michel Serres

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.
Tom Jefferson

Design is generated originally by bottom-up processes, and all the top-down processes of research and development that we know so well (human authorship and exploration, invention, problem-solving, and creation) are themselves the evolved fruits of these bottom-up processes at many levels and scales, including Darwinian algorithmic processes within individual brains.
Daniel C. Dennett

I’ve had a hard time conveying to intellectuals the intellectual superiority of practice.
Nassim Taleb

Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior.
Marshall McLuhan

We have not even begun to think about what our lives could be like if technology were really marshaled to fit human needs.
David Graeber

However far modern science and technics have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.
Lewis Mumford

 

An exercise in advanced topology:

Steinbergs invention

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Clarke's third law

 

... sensual knowledge is not something we left in the past, in the age of craft activity. It is something that is still very much with us. If you study the history of the transistor, even though it uses some quantum theories, it uses it after the fact. If you see photographs, it is just a chuck of silicon stuff with things in it—it looks so funky, so home-made. It was home-made. These guys were tinkering with matter. They were trying to understand matter by tinkering with it instead of imposing a pre-conceived idea or form on it.
Manuel de Landa

Let’s hope that, like its distinguished ancestor the printing press, the internet will outwit the enemies of free speech and their efforts to ban content or make it for all practical purposes inaccessible.
Willis Domingo

There isn't any software! Only different internal states of hardware. It's all hardware! It's a shame programmers don't grok that better.
Infoworld 1984

The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm’s way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another - particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e. covered with tar, full of smoke and short of fish.
Douglas Adams

... we’re surprised when bathing the world in insecticides somehow causes crashes in insect populations, when covering the world in endocrine disrupters somehow leads to the disruption of endocrine systems, when damming and dewatering rivers somehow kills the rivers, when murdering oceans somehow murders oceans, when colonialism somehow destroys the lives of the colonized, when capitalism somehow destroys communities and the natural word, when rape culture somehow leads to rape, and so on.
Derrick Jensen

An aeroplane is constructed which crosses the atlantic in three hours instead of eight. Who would say that it isn't progress? However it is scrapped after its crash in Gonesse because it is said to be too expensive. Seriously? The atom bomb was also very expensive!
Umberto Eco

When the figurative, natural or personal are pushed aside, the cognitive is emphasized. And thinking seems less warm. Oh, beauty comes back, no way of keeping its subversive pleasures out of the soul. But the initial impression of a shift in emphasis from the emotional to the cognitive is... coldness.
Roald Hoffmann

 

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.
Iris Murdoch

The greatest form of art and technology:

Adult on a bicycle

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.
H. G. Wells

 

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Technology

Technology, the art of making and doing to survive and play, is indispensable for existence, whatever else is said about it. All organisms, from bacteria to humans deal with the environment by getting matter and information from it and then, after processing, returning it. Which is materials technology. Any mutation that is not very good at it disappears. Matter technology is the stockpile of knowledge necessary for maintaining life but it is also used for communication in social organisms as all information transactions are material processes. In the newspapers the word technology usually means activities in electronics, transport, water control, and civil engineering. In that sense technology is basically the external continuation of the internal chemical technology in the body organs with other means.

So, roughly speaking, an organism employs two kinds of technology of matter conversion. One to build and maintain its body, and a different one to deal with its environment. The latter sort is mainly used to build the exosomatic part of the individual. In addition humans also have developed a collective technology to manage the public domain outside his exosomatic part. Those three groups of techniques are necessary to do all sorts of things such as make yourself, make devices, even construct ethical rules, and fool around. If ethics is the art and science of living well, it is obvious that technology is inseparable from ethics if not synonymous.

Technology of the body

The first group of methods operates entirely in the tissues of the body, it is the (endosomatic) technology of the immune system, the nervous system, the endocrine organs, kidneys, skin, liver, intestines and blood. In short the internal chemical technology of the body. Endosomatic technology is for controlling individual existence in the given environment. It has a long history. Almost four billion years ago archaea and bacteria had to be able to detect concentration gradients in the environment, to move in liquid media, to displace mass, and to harvest energy in order to live. Later multicellular individuals refined body techniques such as a complicated memory, fast internal information and mass transfer, shields, defence tactics, hunting equipment, swimming, flying, or running. Recently, speech was developed primarily to deceive and otherwise affect others. Word language skills had collateral benefits such as improved hunting, impressed mates, and virtual worlds. An awareness of the body ultimately led to medical arts and sport. Although people all over the world have similar bodies, there are cultural differences in their arts. Eastern and western medical technologies are based on different ontologies and methods; westerners think molecular and like to study parts of the body isolated from the rest, while easterners think in terms of chakras or flows of chi and have a more holistic attitude. Chi might correspond with the neurotransmitter NO. Chi is usually said to be a sort of energy but the western word catalysis is a better translation because chi is not about potential, as the idea of energy is, but about chemical process rates; so is catalysis (which is less idea and more observation). Fritjof Capra uses a quantum field as a metaphor of chi. Yang and Yin are names for catalytic activation and passivation of reaction systems in body parts which are linked to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Oxygen is the same as Prana and the parietal, occipital and temporal lobes, the thalamus, and the hippocampus are modern chakras. Who finally accepts the materialist conclusion that the conventional ego is a fable, achieves a state called nirwana. To western critics the Chinese ontology may seem less well supported by experiments than their own conventional dualism but body techniques motivated by chi turned out to be more efficient than prayers. When atomism was finally accepted in the west, chemical therapies such as antibiotics and improved vaccination could be developed systematically. Infectious diseases could then be dealt with easily but endogenic ones like migraine, allergies, autoimmune diseases, and psychopathologies still remained problematic until neurotechnologies were sufficiently developed (more about this can be found on the page about body methods). Eastern body techniques have always been leading before the rise of atomism: dentistry was first practised in Mehrgarh (when it became needed owing to the establishment of agriculture) and fakirs have mastered the autonomous nervous system long before it was discovered in the West. Shiatsu, tai ji, and vipassana are quite effective body techniques for manipulation of the nervous systems, notwithstanding the metaphysics behind them.

Even some orthodox western medical scientists now reluctantly concede that the central nervous system is not a central system at all but an auxiliary organ of the body, integrated with other auxiliary organs such as the heart, the immune system, the lungs, the intestine (our second brain), the skin, and all the other tissues. All organs in the body, including the brain, are auxiliary ones. Guts and blood vessels think, neurons connect thinking parts. A brain that functions without being linked to other organs is as pointless and unthinkable as a computer would be that is made of a bundle of copper wires connected to switches only without periferals that do things that matter. Sensing organs are not only passively observing but are also connected to efferent nerves that affect what is observed while motor organs also collect information that is passed on via afferent nerves to the rest of the body. The tendency to see the brain as the only organ that produces consciousness and controls other organs in the body, originates with Descartes who thought that the soul connects to the body through the brain. Many neuropsychologists still believe him, therefore they keep searching for the mind in the skull using their functional MRI.

Exosomatic technologies

The second type of technology is aimed at developing tools, other prostheses, and personal devices outside the body that inflate the individual. Many of those external techniques coevolve with the body. The history or this individual sort of technology starts with tool use by insects, birds, and apes. Nests of birds and spider webs are examples of exosomatic parts of animals. Human examples are flint hand axes, clothes, domesticated animals, ropes from plant fibres, the wheel, pulleys, ceramics, and ore processing. Again in this category the Chinese have been leading thanks to their practical and non-ideological mindset. Algebra, arithmetic, geometry, blast furnaces, the cross bow, paper, the very difficult zinc metallurgy, sailing close to the wind, compass, gunpowder, printing, porcelain, and the equally tempered tone scale were eastern inventions. Comparatively westward, money was invented in Ionia. Only recently Europeans have joined the game of producing original technology with their microscopes, internal combustion engines, dynamos, spectroscopes, bicycles leading to aeroplanes, radio, and digital electronics. Europeans recognized the value of atomism and developed it in the 19th century. Arguably, one of the most impressive occidental contribution to technology is chemistry as a science (and to power politics the atom bomb).

Shaping the world

The third category of technologies, methods to interact collectively with the environment with the intention to make the commons more suitable for humans to live in, can also be found in other organisms: beavers control water levels and insects engineer the temperatures in their nests. Examples of manipulation of the environment by humans are urban planning, agricultures, ecological management, transport infrastructures, energy industry, and mining. Cities with sewage systems were built and floods controlled as early as 10000 years ago, probably even earlier. All these technologies were initiated and developed in Asia. It is only logical that materialism as an ontology started in Asia. While rice cultivation, deforestation, epidemies, and fossil fuel burning did strongly affect the climate and the geosphere, there was never a serious attempt to protect the environment on a global scale. The non-material commons has symbolic techniques such as methods of education, knowledge production, and information management. It is their purpose to manage the material public domain.

All techniques have ethical ramifications. Lawmakers have to take account of the peculiarities of the three different types of technology mentioned above. The existing legal systems don't: companies are seen as privileged superpersons, sometimes even superior to states. More on that in the section on materialist institutions in the application part.

Dematerialization

All animals need molecular energy to drive their chemical reactions. They get it from biological sources (food) which means they take what other organisms have collected and converted. Like all animals, humans are predators. In addition, they handle non-biological matter to make tools and collect energy to convert matter. Exosomatic energy needs were answered at first by burning wood which deforested the world; then by burning energy-rich ores (coal, oil, uranium) which polluted the world. Overpopulation added to devastating environmental catastrophies resulting from customs and rules that are now obsolete and harmful because they were developed for an ancestral world. To stop destroying their own habitat, humans have to be as careful with its inorganic part as with the biosphere.

The present situation clearly shows the urgent ethical need for dematerialization which, thanks to atomism, can be easily realized. First by discarding all inefficient thermal engines and replacing conventional energy technologies by solar energy and hydrogen engineering to run fuel cells. To install plantations for growing biofuels is utter madness: it produces malnutrition and causes deforestation. Biofuel plantations are perversities as spectacular as nuclear power plants. Also, the choice of materials (matter for making products) and the design of products has to change radically. Materials must be durable, which means that they do not wear out and are non-corrosive, non-combustible, hard, strong, cheap, abundantly available, and reusable. They should be manufactured and formed without producing any waste; they should be maintenance-free. Industrial waste is the main source of pollution of the environment and exists only because industries refuse to switch to closed manufacturing processes for short-term financial reasons. Our current materials, metals (heavy, soft, easily corroded or expensive) or organic plastics (weak, combustible, polluting) are unsuitable for modern use and can be replaced by more permanent and reusable inorganics (composite ceramics, geopolymers, and molecular inorganic polymers).

Scarcity is a myth carefully maintained for commercial and political reasons. The three resources that are expected to become scarce due to overpopulation are water, energy, and food. That is certainly true if we insist on sticking to the obsolete technologies that we have developed a long time ago. It is also certainly true if we continue to insist that a few privileged individuals should be allowed to appropriate, exploit, and control them as we do now. However there are disturbing facts. Food grows everywhere if there is enough water and water is one of the most abundant compounds on earth. The sun is a copious source of high-quality energy. There is more than enough of it for everyone even if most is used to desalinize sea water. Nor do rare mineral resources exist, for two reasons. The first is the ancient law of mass conservation: matter is perennial. Rare resources are rare only because with current manufacturing methods it is cheaper to produce waste and ditch it in the environment than to use waste as a resource or not produce waste at all. Without waste, there would be no scarcity and cost is irrelevant for vital projects. The second reason is the versatility of the elements which allows us to make practically everything from cheap ores. With some effort many rare and expensive elements, low in the periodic table, can be replaced in products by compounds of light and abundant elements in the upper two rows (such as polyphosphazenes, titanium boride, and silicon nitride) if more attention is paid to controlling reaction kinetics in production processes. In addition biomaterials (wood, paper, flax, hemp) may largely replace plastics in soft products. Gadgets can be designed to be easily repairable by the user. To build in obsolescence is criminal, dematerialization is an ethical necessity. The partisans of Cradle-To-Cradle have understood dematerialization.

Technology versus the sciences

The sciences are self-conscious, almost narcissist activities, compared to the technology of the body: a kidney does not use science to optimize its membranes but subconscious, autopoietic, chemical engineering of the sort that plants have developed. Plants think without using neurons or brains, they do not need neurons because they do not have to move. Similarly, exosomatic technological innovations such as the wheel, pharmaca, and the computer were almost subconsciously produced by playing craftsmen, herbcollectors, barbers, and tinkering hobbyists and not by professional scientists using their impeccable logic, theories, and statistics. The technology used by animals shows it; macaws in the Peruvian jungle live on inedible seeds and fruits by daily adding kaolin from remote Amazon banks to their food (only that particular form of clay is suitable) to adsorb poisonous alkaloids in the stomach. Even the local indians had never discovered that trick.

Although tricks and techniques to collect knowledge in technology are the same as those in experimental science, purposes differ: science is the repository of knowledge for its own sake and technology collects knowledge to use it for easing life. However, what people call science is often technology and many do not distinguish the two and call both technoscience. That is not altogether strange if science means katascience or taxoscience. But the difference between an engineer and an orthoscientist is in fact quite large. A reality check is vital for the engineer and less important for the orthoscientist who only has to produce a nice convincing story, not some hardware or useful method that actually works. If an orthoscientist has to explain why observed facts do or do not agree with his theories, he may use unsupported conjectures (e.g. dark matter); an engineer however, uses his models as data-reducing tools, not as elegant unifying principles that explain everything in one formula on a T-shirt. Some adepts in orthoscience have even claimed novel methods that they call "evidence-based", thereby admitting they also use others. Moreover an orthoscience purports to explain facts only long after they are known and used in gadgets, and it is not creative materially. Taxosciences and especially the katasciences are about facts and creation of real things, not primarily about models, and their methods therefore have a technological character.

Ethical implications of technologies

Obviously, because the purpose of technology is to enable and improve life (so is the purpose of ethics), technology could be expected to be limited to philosomatic methods and devices. In practice it is not. Technology is mainly developed to rob or kill someone better than before and many of our habits today show their evolutionary origin. Industry, commerce, financial speculation, and politics are cultural continuations of plundering the world and robbing others with other and the same means.

Actual technology is strongly affected by ideologies. Nationalist ideologies stimulate innovations in weapons, and techniques of warfare. Capitalism imposes the production of built-in obsolescence that generates waste, disposable matter (plastics) that pollutes the oceans, and chemicals that poison the biosphere because they generate imagined profit which is the central idol of capitalist ideology. Profits are private and as long as costs are diverted to the public, nothing is done about collateral damage of capitalist procedures. Companies counter criticism by repeatedly stating the company slogan and paying experts to convince gullible legislators. For example, statements that justify nuclear fission technology, deforestation, destroying sea life, producing economic growth, or distributing large bonuses to their alfa males show how repeating those statements often enough, ultimately beats substantive objections. Financial institutions are also very good in generating plausible non-sequiturs when they use concepts taken from economics.

Clearly, everyone who wants an agreeable life and for that reason objects to ecocide, has to reject behaviour pushed by some ideology. Examples of such behaviour are using plastic disposables, driving cars that have internal combustion engines, eating junk food, using proprietary software, or buying Monsanto products. Such habits, by their nature, are not concerned with sustainability or an agreeable life but have another ulterior motive which is usually money, ostentation, God, or patriotism. On the other hand, the materialists promote individual self-interest which includes among many other things not harming or annoying anyone and keeping the commons open and safe. They prefer frugality, individual autarky and collective dematerialization (especially necessary in overpopulated areas) in order to enjoy life. Their manners are at odds with commercial interests and national priorities but it is nice to see that philosomatic ways of behaviour for the individual are also possible.

Open technology or stagnation?

As is well known by now, any great barrier against using human ingenuity to improve life has always been some restriction imposed by platonists. In the past it used to be the church or the state, but now it is mainly the ideology of neo-liberalism that obstructs life-improving technology. Libertarian ideots want to make everything the property of someone and thereby reduce its availability. They call it privatization. Apart from property laws, copyrights and patent laws are the means used to impose it. Everything should be privatized: who talks or sings violates copyrights, who makes something infringes patent law and can be sued, who wants to exist must pay license to the owner of his genome, who wants to drink and eat must buy water and food from the owners of those resources. The attack on the commons by the libertarians, who manage to adapt laws to legalize that attack, is criminal because it destroys freedom and equality, which are guaranteed in article 1 of undisputed universal human rights. Libertarianism, a religion based on the divinity of the ego, has a misleading name: the less the public domain is bargained away the more freedom is left for everyone.

Inventions, ideas, art, and language itself are produced by a collective and function only in a collective. Nothing is made or invented by an individual without an overwhelming contribution of many others. Original thoughts are so unoriginal that they cannot be owned exclusively by a single person, clan, company or nation that withholds them from others. Patent laws purport to promote creativity and innovation but do neither; they claim to enable inventors to make a living on their work but patent owners profit instead. Existing patent laws legalize appropriation of public knowledge and interfere with using it; they block innovation, they are counterproductive, they have antisomatic effects and harm others as well. Mariana Mazzucato has shown how large companies do that quite legally. Personal property of a thought (Monsanto actually owns genomes) is an idea as absurd as the personal property of a letter, a word, or a number would be. Intellectual property and copyright are oxymorons. Our technology is too important to be left to the whims of consumers and commerce; it and will diversify and benefit life only if it can be made freely available (open source), in other words, not owned.