Q: How will we co-evolve with technology?

Hendrik-Jan Grievink
August 21st 2019

This question is an excerpt from the Pyramid of Technology toolkit

Cooking is a process through which humans outsource part of their bodily functions to technology (think barbebque, fireplace, microwave). It allowed early humans to intake more calories, which let their brains grow bigger but simultaneously weaken their jaw bones. This is a powerful example how technology is not only a nice tool that makes our lives a bit easier, but that it holds the power to transform us as humans as well. We co-evolve with the technology we create ourselves.

We co-evolve with the technology we create ourselves.

Technologies such as cooking, but also handwriting and agriculture are perceived as naturalized: part of human nature. They reside in the top of the Pyramid of Technology.

Visualization of the Pyramid of Technology

Note: This level is rarely attained. Not all technologies have the potential to become naturalized, yet they should at least be imagined as if they have that potential. Let’s be ambitious and make second nature first nature. But how?

Redesign nature?

One radical way would be to redesign nature itself. Humans have domesticated wolves into dogs and cattle to work the land. We domesticated the natural environment in ways that enhance our food supplies and reduces exposure to harsh climate conditions.

Put differently, on top of the biosphere (the worldwide sum of all ecosystems) we have built a technosphere. But instead of using this biosphere as a resource to build upon, we could also decide to redesign the biosphere itself.

Now let's do a thought experiment: Try looking at technology from a biologists' perspective and consider technological evolution as some kind of non-genetic evolution.

There are many similarities to be found between the development of technology and biological evolution; new technologies build upon the properties of previous ones. So following this logic, ask yourself, which adaptations are preserved and which ones are phased out during this proces? And how do these advancements adapt to the ecosystem in which they 'live'?

The following steps will help you formulate a vision for co-evolution with technology.

Do it yourself!

  • Think of a close-to-home example of a technology. It must be a technology you have evolved with over the past few years (tape recorder, video game console, mobile phone).
  • How would we co-evolve with comparable technology over the course of one generation?
  • Now think a few hundred, even a few thousand years ahead.
  • How do you expect humans to have coevolved with similar or comparable technology?
  • Create a systematic classification (taxonomy) of the technology you want to discuss (or are developing yourself).
  • Can you be as specific to include kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species?

Your next (nature) design tool

The Pyramid of Technology toolkit is our conceptual navigation tool that visualizes how technology becomes nature. The box contains 70 cards with insights, excericizes and questions to help you dream, build and live in your next nature. Visit the Next Nature Academy and learn more about our workshops, methods and tools.

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Joyce Nabuurs: To me this question seems to be a logical next step in the emancipation movement of the past century. More and more women entered the workspace, but the responsibility for pregnancy and childrearing remained female.

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