A lot of the reading for week one got me thinking about what is “Technology” or a particular bit of technology. Jesse B posted a link to a good article on cyborg humans and then followed it up with a post “We Are Already Cyborgs: How should we feel about that? #EDCMOOC”
So if the cyborg is a blend of human and technology I thought I would try to go back to first principles – what is Technology.
I would say that “Technology” is tools. Either individual tools or collections of tools. A tool can be defined as something that lets us do something better or with less effort than we could do it without the tool.
Doing it better = a force multiplier.
Less effort = reducing the effort/cost of the action.
Our first tools were generally tools that helped us physically, a hammer was a force multiplier allowing us to hammer in nails better, a horse and cart reduced the effort required to get somewhere.
However there are mental tools as well, tying knots in a bit of string reduced the mental effort/cost of knowing how many sheep you counted in and out of the field, in contrast an abacus is a force multiplier allowing people to calculate better.There is a 3rd category of tools, those that store something until it is needed. A physical example would be the energy stored in a catapult when it is cranked, that is used when it is fired (a more modern example would be a battery)
Writing on papyrus allowed your thoughts/instructions to be stored so you could read them later or they could be passed on to anyone who had the papyrus (and could read).
Finally because humans are a social animal there is the use of tools to help communication and collaboration. Now technically the improvements to communication are just the tool being a force multiplier or cost reducer or storage, but because the act of collaborating and working together with other humans is so important (is it stretching the point too far to call it using other humans as tools?), I think it needs mentioning as a distinct use.
Now the internet (with all its applications), computers and smart phones don’t do anything different to the previous mental tools. They just do it much much more effectively! The force multiplier for mental tasks done with the computer allow us to do easily things that would take ages without (a good example is maths), the effort/cost of doing something is getting closer to zero (example planning a big family gathering) and storage is vast and easy.
My argument is they are doing it at a cost that is approaching zero for an individual human. Now what this means and its possible effects on how humans organise themselves I will look at in my next blog post
– Oh and for those of you that cant wait Ivo Correia da Silva shared this link earlier “The Impending Social Consequences of Augmented Reality“, I hope to work some of the ideas into the next post