What Technology Wants

I finished Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants this weekend. I rank this book up there with Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near in terms of importance. I won’t attempt to review the book, since I’m still try to absorb some of the mind-bending ideas. Like the evolution of technology:

Here are a few ideas that got some highlighter:

Technology and life must share some fundamental essence. … However you define life, its essence does not reside in material forms like DNA, tissue, or flesh, but in the intangible organization of the energy and information contained in those material forms. Both life and technology seem to be based on immaterial flows of information.” – pg 10

Technium – The greater, global, massively interconnected system of technology vibrating around us. – pg 11

How many neurons do you need to have a mind? – pg 13

We can think of technology as our extended body. – pg 44

Ideas fly in flocks. To hold one idea in mind means to hold a cloud of them. – pg 45

Even the tiniest disposable item with a bar code shares a thin sliver of our collective mind. – pg 48

For most humans, for most of time, real change was rarely experienced. – pg 73

“What was impossible billions of years ago becomes increasingly inevitable.” — Simon Conway pg 126

There is only one life. All life today is descended along an unbroken line of duplication from one ancient molecule that worked inside one primeval cell that worked. – pg 127

Technologies have a social dimension beyond their mere mechanical performance. We adopt new technologies largely because of what they do for us, but also in part because of what they mean to us. Often we refuse to adopt technology for the same reason: because of how avoidance reinforces or shapes our identity. … Groups or individuals will reject all kind of technologically advanced innovations simply because they can. Or because everyone else accepts them. Or because they clash with their self-conception. – pg 291

You can no longer tell what a person does by looking at their workplace, because they all look the same: a personal computer; 90 percent of employees are using the same tool. – pg 295

Humans are the reproductive organs of technology. – pg296

It took electrification 75 years to reach 90 percent of U.S. residents, (but) it’s taken only 20 years for cell phones to reach the same penetration. – pg 299

Eventually, every surface of the built world will be covered with a screen and every screen will double as an eye. When the camera is fully ubiquitous, everything is is recorded for all time. We have a communal awareness and memory. Ubiquity changes everything.

One thousand live, always-on cameras make downtowns safe from pickpockets, nab stoplight runners, and record police misbehavior. One billion live, always-on cameras serve as a community monitor and memory, they give the job of eyewitness to amateurs, they restructure the notion of the self, and they reduce the authority of authorities. – pg 299-300

One thousand humanoid robots revamp the Olympics and give a boost to entertainment companies. One billion humanoid robots cause massive shifts in employment, reintroduce slavery and its opponents, and demolish the status of established religions. – pg 300

Within the lifetimes of all born in the last decade (2000-2010), computers of some sort (connectors, really) will cost $5. – pg 305

If you want to worry about something, don’t worry about the folks who are currently offline. They’ll stampede on faster than you think. Instead you should worry about what we are going to do when everyone is online. When the internet has six billion people, and they are all emailing at once, when no once is disconnected and always on day and night, when everything is digital and nothing offline, when the internet is ubiquitous. That will produce unintended consequences worth worrying about.” – pg 306

Being totally dependent on technology to add and subtract doesn’t spook us, but being dependent on the web to remember facts sometimes does. – pg 313

For the next 10 to 20 years, the socializing aspects of the technium will be on of its major traits and a major event for our culture. – pg 314

I don’t have to shoot yet another photo of the Eiffel Tower, because the community can provide a better one than I can take myself. – pg 315

Altogether, roughly 460,000 people around the world are currently working on an amazing 430,000 different open-source projects. That’s almost twice the size of General Motors’ work-force, but without any bosses. – pg 316

“We think with the objects we love, and we love the objects we think with.” – MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle

KK: “I am one of them. I am no longer embarrassed to admit that I love the internet. Or maybe it’s the web. Whatever you want to call the place we go to while we are online, I think it is beautiful. People love places and will die to defend a place they love, as our sad history of wars proves. OUr first encounters with the internet/web portrayed it as a very widely distributed electronic dynamo –a thing one plugs into– and that it is. But the internet as it has matured is closer to the technological equivalent of a place. An uncharted, almost feral territory where you can genuinely get lost. At times I’ve entered the web just to get lost. In that lovely surrender, the web swallows my certitude and delivers the unknown. Despite the purposeful design of hits human creators,the web is a wilderness. Its boundaries are unknown, unknowable, its mysteries uncountable. The bramble of intertwined ideas, links, documents, and images creates an otherness as thick as a jungle. The web smell like life. It knows so much. It has insinuated its tendrils of connection into everything, everywhere. The net is now vastly wider than I am, wider than I can imagine; in this way, while I am in it, it makes me bigger, too. I feel amputated when I am away from it.”

Think of the 100 billion times per day humans click on one web page or another as a way of teaching the web what we think is important. Each time we forge a link between words, we teach an idea. We think we are merely wasting time when we surf mindlessly or blog an item, but each time we click a link we strengthen a node somewhere in the supercomputer’s mind, thereby programming the machine by using it. – pg 331

The one kind of mind I doubt we’ll make many of is an artificial mind just like a human. The only way to reconstruct a viable human species mind is to use tissue and cells — and why bother when making human babies is so easy? – pg 332

The universe is so huge, so vast in its available mysteries, that it will require every possible type of mind to comprehend it. The technium’s job is to invent a million, or a billion varieties of comprehension. – pg 333

Minds are highly evolved ways of structuring the bits of information that form reality. – pg 333

The smallest thought could not exist unless the entire universe and the laws of physics were in some way encouraging it. – pg 356

I find it hard to believe that we could manufacture robots that actually work and not have them disturb our ideas of religion and God. Someday we will make other minds and they will surprise us. They will think things we never could have imagined, and if we give these minds their full embodiment,they will al themselves children of God, and what will we say? – pg 358

No one person can become all that is humanly possible; no one technology can capture all that technology promises. It will take all life and all minds and all technology to begin to see reality. – pg 359

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