What Technology Wants


I'm breaking all the rules of Cool Tools here. I am going to review my own book, and it is not 100% toolish. But the book does have a lot to do with technology, and some readers may find it personally useful in helping them decide what kind of technology to embrace. I promise to unleash this kind of self-promotion only once every ten years, so I'll keep it interesting.

My book, What Technology Wants, presents an unconventional view of technology. I inspect the world through the eyes of technology as if it were an autonomous system. Here are some provocative things I see through its point of view:

* Technology is the most powerful force on the planet.
* Technology is an extension of evolutionary life, best thought of as the 7th kingdom of life.
* Humanity is our first technology; We are tools.
* Technology is selfish; as a system it exhibits its own urges and tendencies.
* Technologies cannot be banned, and none go extinct.
* The progression of technologies is inevitable.
* Because technologies are inevitable we can prepare to optimize their benefits.
* Technology is not neutral but serves as an overwhelming positive force in human culture.
* We have a moral obligation to increase technology because it increases opportunities.
* The origins of technology lie in the Big Bang.
* Technology preceded humans and will continue beyond us.
* Among the things technology wants are increased diversity, complexity, and beauty.
* Technology may be as much a reflection of the divine as nature is.
* Technology is an infinite game, a grand story we can align ourselves with for greater meaning.

What I learned from writing this book is that I want to minimize the amount of technology in my own life while maximizing it for others. I want the largest pool of choices possible so that I can select a minimal set of highly-evolved tools that will optimize my gifts. At the same time I have a moral obligation to maximize the amount of technologies in the world at large so that others may also select their minimal set from this ever growing pool of possibilities.

I hope what you get from reading What Technology Wants is a useful framework for understanding what technology means in our lives — a way to anchor your own self in the face of ceaseless accelerating technological change.

(I think of this book as the second part of a conversation that began with my research postings in The Technium. I've taken those rough posts, improved by readers' comments, thrown out half of the material, and then refined the best into a readable book much better than the blog. I've set up some forums for discussions, and a Facebook page where you can "like" it. I'll be on the road speaking about the book in October, November and January. My schedule and more can be found at the book's webpage.)

Oh, and one more thing: Starting with the premise that technology is selfish and slightly autonomous, I lay out a dozen or so long-term trajectories inherent in the technium. Taken together these giga-trends inform the development of technology investment and the choice technological expressions today. These "wants" of technology provide a long-horizon framework for business — your business. I'll be doing as many talks at companies and organizations about "what technology wants" as I can in the coming months.

— KK

What Technology Wants
Kevin Kelly
2010, 416 pages

Available from Amazon

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