31 results for “Theory”

The Biosphere Code Manifesto

NextNature.net
October 10th 2015
During the event The Biosphere Code, Stockholm University researcher Victor Galaz and colleagues outlined a manifesto for algorithms in the environment.

Miracles Happen… Again

Hendrik-Jan Grievink
November 18th 2014
Miracles in the digital era.

The Anthropocene Explosion

Van Mensvoort
September 28th 2014
We have entered the Anthropocene epoch, in which humanity and its instrumentalities are the most potent and influential geological force.

Love your monsters

Bruno Latour
September 7th 2014
Why we must care for our technologies as we do our children.

Pyramid of Technology: How technology becomes nature in seven steps

Van Mensvoort
August 30th 2014
How technology becomes nature in seven steps

50 Years Ago Asimov Predicted WiFi, Smartphones and Today’s World Features

Alessia Andreotti
January 12th 2014
Isaac Asimov predicts in 1964 what the world will look like today, in 2014.

Napkin Sketch

Van Mensvoort
April 3rd 2011

Ying Yang style refinement of the classical nature-culture divide.…

Douglas Coupland: A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years

Hendrik-Jan Grievink
October 10th 2010

Douglas Coupland is a writer and artist based in Vancouver. For the canadian newspaper Globe and Mail, he wrote The ‘radical pessimist's guide to the next 10 years’ a dystopian view on the near future. One of the the underlying ideas behind the guide could be translated as the observation that evolution continues, whether we like it or not. Our next nature might be as wild, unpredictable and out of control as ‘old nature’ once was. Read the original article …

There is not enough Africa in Computers

Van Mensvoort
June 8th 2010

Brian Eno - artist, composer, inventor, thinker - spoke to Kevin Kelly about the meaning of Africa for music and technology.

"Africa is everything that something like classical music isn’t. Classical—perhaps I should say “orchestral”—music is so digital, so cut up, rhythmically, pitchwise and in terms of the roles of the musicians. It’s all in little boxes. The reason you get child prodigies in chess, arithmetic, and classical composition is that they are all worlds of discontinuous, parceled-up possibilities. And …

The Playboy Interview

NextNature.net
December 24th 2009

In 1961, the name of Marshall McLuhan was unknown to everyone but his English students at the University of Toronto – and a coterie of academic admirers who followed his abstruse articles in small-circulation quarterlies. But then came two remarkable books – The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) and Understanding Media (1964) – and the graying professor from Canada's western hinterlands soon found himself characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle as "the hottest academic property around."…

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But their environmental impact may be even greater, demanding public scrutiny. Here the Biosphere Code Manifesto v1.0, with its seven principles.Algorithms are transforming the world around us. They come in many shapes and forms, and soon they will permeate all spheres of technology, ranging from the technical infrastructure of financial markets to wearable and embedded technologies. One often overlooked point, however, is that algorithms are also shaping the biosphere – the thin complex layer of life on our planet on which human survival and development depend. Algorithms underpin the global technological infrastructure that extracts and develops natural resources such as minerals, food, fossil fuels and living marine resources. They facilitate global trade flows with commodities and they form the basis of environmental monitoring technologies. Last but not least, algorithms embedded in devices and services affect our behavior - what we buy and consume and how we travel, with indirect but potentially strong effects on the biosphere. As a result, algorithms deserve more scrutiny.It is therefore high time that we explore and critically discuss the ways by which the algorithmic revolution – driven by applications such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, logistics, remote sensing, and risk modelling – is transforming the biosphere, and in the long term, the Earth’s capacity to support human survival and development.Below we list seven Principles that we believe are central to guiding the current and future development of algorithms in existing and rapidly evolving technologies, such as block chains, robotics and 3D printing. These Principles are intended as food for thought and debate. They are aimed at software developers, data scientists, system architects, computer scientists, sustainability experts, artists, designers, managers, regulators, policy makers, and the general public participating in the algorithmic revolution.

Principle 1. With great algorithmic powers come great responsibilities

Those involved with algorithms, such as software developers, data scientists, system architects, managers, regulators, and policymakers, should reflect over the impacts of their algorithms on the biosphere and take explicit responsibility for them now and in the future. Algorithms increasingly underpin a broad set of activities that are changing the planet Earth and its ecosystems, such as consumption behaviors, agriculture and aquaculture, forestry, mining and transportation on land and in the sea, industry manufacturing and chemical pollution. Some impacts may be indirect and become visible only after considerable time. This leads to limited predictability in the early and even later stages of algorithmic development. However, in cases where algorithmic development is predicted to have detrimental impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity or other important biosphere processes on a larger scale, or as detrimental impacts do become clear over time, those responsible for the algorithms should take remedial action. Only in this way will algorithms fulfill their potential to shape our future on the planet in a sustainable way.

Principle 2. Algorithms should serve humanity and the biosphere at large.

The power of algorithms can be used for both good and bad. At the moment there is a risk of wasting resources on solving unimportant problems serving the few, thereby undermining the Earth system’s ability to support human development, innovation and well-being.Algorithms should be considerate of the biosphere and facilitate transformations towards sustainability. They can help us better monitor and respond to environmental changes. They can support communities across the globe in their attempts to re-green urban spaces. In short, algorithms should encourage what we call ecologically responsible innovation. Such innovation improves human life without degrading the life-supporting ecosystems - and preferably even strengthening ecosystems - on which we all ultimately depend.

Principle 3. The benefits and risks of algorithms should be distributed fairly

It is imperative for algorithm developers to consider more seriously issues related to the distribution of risks and opportunities. Technological change is known to affect social groups in different ways. In the worst case, the algorithmic revolution may perpetuate and intensify pressures on poor communities, increase gender inequalities or strengthen racial and ethnic biases. This also include the distribution of environmental risks, such as chemical hazards, or loss of ecosystem services, such as food security and clean water.We recognize that these negative distributional effects can be unintentional and emerge unexpectedly. Shared algorithms can cause conformist herding behavior, producing systemic risk. These are risks that often affect people who are not beneficiaries of the algorithm. The central point is that developing algorithms that provide benefits to the few and present risks to the many are both unjust and unfair. The balance between expected utility and ruin probability should be recognized and understood.For example, some of the tools within finance, such as derivative models and high speed trading, have been called "weapons of mass destruction" by Warren Buffet. These same tools, however, could be remade and engineered with different values and instead used as “weapons of mass construction". Projects and ideas such as Artificial Intelligence for Development, Question Box, weADAPT, Robin Hood Coop and others show the role of algorithms in reducing social vulnerability and accounting for issues of justice and equity.

Principle 4. Algorithms should be flexible, adaptive and context-aware

Algorithms that shape the biosphere should be created in such a way that they can be reprogrammed if serious repercussions or unexpected results emerge. This applies both to accessibility for humans to alter the algorithm in case of emergency and to the algorithm’s ability to alter its own behavior if needed.Neural network machine learning algorithms can and do misbehave - misclassifying images with offensive results, assigning people with the “wrong” names low credit ratings - without any transparency as to why. Other systems are designed for a context that may change while the algorithm stays fixed. We cannot predict the future, but we often design and implement algorithms as if we could. Still, algorithms can be designed to observe and adapt to changes in resources they affect and to the context in which they operate to minimize the risk of harm.Algorithms should be open, malleable and easy to maintain. They should allow for the implementation of new creative solutions to urgent emerging challenges. Algorithms should be designed to be transparent with regards to operation and results in order to make errors and anomalies evident as early as possible and to make them possible to fix. Also, when possible, the algorithm should be made context-aware and able to adapt to unforeseen results while alerting society about these results.

Principle 5. Algorithms should help us expect the unexpected

Global environmental and technological change are likely to create a turbulent future. Algorithms should therefore be used in such a way that they enhance our shared capacity to deal with climatic, ecological, market and conflict-related shocks and surprises. This also includes problems caused by errors or misbehaviors in other algorithms - they are also part of the total environment and often unpredictable.This is of particular concern when developing self-learning algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data. Such algorithms should not only be designed to enhance efficiency (e.g., maximising biomass production in forestry, agriculture and fisheries). they should also encourage resilience to unexpected events and ensure a sustainable supply of the essential ecosystem services on which humanity depends. Known approaches to achieve this are diversity, redundancy and modularity as well as maintaining a critical perspective and avoiding over-reliance on algorithms.Also, algorithms should not be allowed to fail quietly. For example, the hole in the ozone layer was overlooked for almost a decade before it was discovered in the mid-1980s. The extremely low ozone concentrations recorded by the monitoring satellites were being treated as outliers by the algorithms and therefore discarded, which delayed our response by a decade to one of the most serious environmental crises in human history. Diversity and redundancy helped discover the error.

Principle 6. Algorithmic data collection should be open and meaningful

Algorithms, especially those impacting the biosphere or personal privacy, should be open source. The general public should be made aware of which data are collected, when they are collected, how they will be used and by whom. As often as possible, the datasets should be made available to the public - keeping in mind the risks of invading personal privacy, and made available in such a fashion that others can easily search, download and use them. In order to be meaningful and to avoid hidden biases, the datasets upon which algorithms are trained should be validated.With a wide range of sensors, big data analytics, blockchain technologies, and peer-to-peer and machine-to-machine micropayments, we have the potential to not only make much more efficient use of the Earth’s resources, but we also have the means to develop innovative value creation systems. Algorithms enable us to achieve this potential; however, at the same time, they also entail great risks to personal privacy, even to those individuals who opt out of the datasets. Without a system built on trust in data collection, fundamental components of human relationships may be jeopardized.

Principle 7. Algorithms should be inspiring, playful and beautiful

Algorithms have been a part of artistic creativity since ancient times. In interaction with artists, self-imposed formal methods have shaped the aesthetic result in all genres of art. For example, when composing a fugue or writing a sonnet, you follow a set of procedures, integrated with aesthetic choices. More recently, artists and researchers have developed algorithmic techniques to generate artistic materials such as paintings and music, and algorithms that emulate human artistic creative processes. Algorithmically generated art allows us to perceive and appreciate the inherent beauty of computation and allow us to create art of otherwise unattainable complexity. Algorithms can also be used to mediate creative collaborations between humans.But algorithms also have aesthetic qualities in and of themselves, closely related to the elegance of a mathematical proof or a solution to a problem. Furthermore, algorithms and algorithmic art based on nature have the potential to inspire, educate and create an understanding of natural processes.We should not be afraid to involve algorithmic processes in artistic creativity and to enhance human creative capacity and playfulness, nor to open up for new modes of creativity and new kinds of art. Algorithms should be used creatively and aesthetically to visualize and allow interaction with natural processes in order to renew the ways we experience and understand with nature and to inspire people to consider the wellbeing of future generations.Aesthetic qualities of algorithms applied in society, for example, in finance, governance and resource allocation, should be unveiled to make people engaged and aware of the underlying processes. We should create algorithms that encourage and facilitate human collaboration, interaction and engagement - with each other, with society, and with nature.The principles presented here are the result of discussions that took place at the event The Biosphere Code in Stockholm October 4th, 2015. Contributors include (in alphabetical order) Maja Brisvall (Quantified Planet), Palle Dahlstedt (University of Gothenburg, Aalborg University), Victor Galaz (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University), Daniel Hassan (Robin Hood Minor Asset Management Cooperative), Koert van Mensvoort (Next Nature Network, Eindhoven University of Technology), Andrew Merrie (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University), Fredrik Moberg (Albaeco/ Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University), Anders Sandberg (University of Oxford), Peter Svensson (Evothings.com), Ann-Sofie Sydow (The Game Assembly), Robin Teigland (Stockholm School of Economics), and Fernanda Torre (Stockholm Resilience Centre). [post_title] => The Biosphere Code Manifesto [post_excerpt] => During the event The Biosphere Code, Stockholm University researcher Victor Galaz and colleagues outlined a manifesto for algorithms in the environment. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-biosphere-code-manifesto [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-10 13:31:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-10 11:31:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=57364 [menu_order] => 513 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 41700 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2014-11-18 15:10:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-11-18 14:10:59 [post_content] => Ever landed in that weird part of the internet where you click your way from alien abduction and ghost appearances to mermaids washed ashore? Think of this napkin sketch. [post_title] => Miracles Happen… Again [post_excerpt] => Miracles in the digital era. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => miracles-happen-again [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-11-18 15:10:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-11-18 14:10:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=41700 [menu_order] => 845 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 41045 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2014-09-28 11:00:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-09-28 09:00:59 [post_content] => Biologically, there is nothing remarkable in the fact that humans are agents of ecological change and environmental upset. All species transform their surroundings. The dizzying complexity of landscapes on Earth is not just a happy accident of geology and climate, but the result of billions of years of organisms grazing, excavating, defecating, and decomposing. Nor is it unusual that certain lucky species are able to outcompete and eventually entirely displace other species. The Great American Interchange, when North American fauna crossed the newly formed isthmus of Panama to conquer South America three million years ago [1] is just one among countless examples of swift, large-scale extinctions resulting from competition and predation.What is remarkable, however, is the stunning speed of human adaptation relative to other species, and that our adaptation is self-directed. From sonar and flight to disease immunity, humans can “evolve” exquisite new traits in a single generation.The Anthropocene represents a catastrophic mismatch between the pace of human technological evolution and the genetic evolution of nearly every other species on Earth. As with many other geological epochs, the Anthropocene has been heralded with a mass extinction, one which is generally accepted to be the sixth great one to occur on Earth. [2][pullquote]The Anthropocene represents a catastrophic mismatch[/pullquote]Mass extinctions, however, have always been succeeded by a recovery of biodiversity. The Permian mass extinction made room for dinosaurs to flourish; the Cretaceous extinction gave rise to the marvellous diversification of mammals and birds. These massive adaptive radiation events, where surviving populations swiftly speciate, take anywhere from tens of thousands to tens of millions of years, depending on the degree of the initial extinction and the stability of the Earth’s climate. [3]No matter the severity of the extinction, however, vacant ecological niches are eventually filled and new ones are created as life adapts to a newly empty Earth.Keeping this in mind, it’s possible to argue that not all human activity is antithetical to biodiversity. Our destructive tendencies might actually be a form of creative destruction, [4] clearing the playing field so marginalized actors can dominate.More controversially, human activity may actually create new species and modes of being, just as the Cambrian explosion 530 million years ago was marked by biological breakthroughs such as active predation, hard exoskeletons, and the beginning of the vertebrate body plan. [5][pullquote]Our destructive tendencies might be a form of creative destruction[/pullquote]What if we already are in the midst of a previously unnoticed adaptive radiation phase, an “Anthropocene explosion”, that has so far gone unnoticed? Where should we look for this evolutionary event?In our eyes, three groups of entities are at the cusp of notable speciation events: human-associated animals, genetically engineered organisms, and manmade technologies, both physical and digital.Human-associated animalsFirstly, the most obvious beneficiaries of the Anthropocene explosion are those that have been the sole actors in past adaptive radiations, that is, living organisms. Synanthropes—organisms that associate with human settlements—have adopted the human environment as their native habitat, and therefore likely have a bright future ahead of them.Our cultural evolution is mirrored in their genetic evolution. Pests and pathogens, for instance, evolve in concert with pesticides and medicines. Many city animals already show specific adaptations to the loud, hectic and artificially bright urban wilderness. [6]As the Anthropocene marches onwards, the speculative naturalist may be tempted to hope that rats, cats, coyotes, and cockroaches will diversify into new and splendid forms. In the realm of “true” wilderness, certain creatures are thriving as the human machine decimates others.In this area, the ocean is perhaps the starkest example. Scraped clean by long lines and bottom-trawlers, and acidified by a carbon-heavy atmosphere, the oceans face a “gelatinous future” dominated by jellyfish and microbes, [7] which will flourish in the ecological niches vacated by fish. Only the most nihilistic observer, however, would argue that an ocean dominated by jellyfish and microbes has the same value as one teeming with corals, sharks, and whales, or that a rat-and-trash filled alley is as ecologically productive or philosophically inspiring as a forested valley.[pullquote]Human activity may create new species and modes of being[/pullquote]Although breeding domesticated species for selected traits speeds up genetic change, it will not gift the Anthropocene with fantastic new species. We’ve pushed the genetic envelope in terms of how much milk a cow can produce, or how small a chihuahua can shrink while still remaining a functioning organism.Despite their extravagant appearances, these animals are not distinct species from their wild counterparts. It will be thousands or even millions of years before truly novel species emerge from the diversification of synanthropes and other tenacious clingers-on.Genetically engineered organisms It therefore secondly falls to genetic engineering to add truly novel organisms to the “Anthropocene Explosion”. The transgenic GlowFish, for instance, is one of the most well-known and appealing “charismatic microfauna” of the GMO world, a creature which is in many ways as wonderful as the common zebrafish. The GlowFish is a first step towards creating a new, valid species. A creature even more marvellously engineered, perhaps even pieced together gene by gene to construct an organism from the ground up, would be equally valid and worthy of our appreciation and protection as a species that arose through natural selection.Manmade technologiesThirdly, we need to look at technology to see a potential for a new type of evolutionary event. There is something poetic in the fact that the widespread acceptance of the Anthropocene coincides with the moment that our technologies are poised to become as complex and autonomous as organic life.The sphere of human thought, culture, and technology—sometimes called the noosphere or the technium [8]—is not just dependent upon the biosphere but intimately bound up with it, and vice versa. Though we have maintained a stubbornly mechanical conception of technology, in truth the technosphere may be, or be becoming, a valid form of nature, populated by actors that are “species” in everything but name.[pullquote]It falls to genetic engineering to add truly novel organisms to the “Anthropocene Explosion”[/pullquote]Up until now, what has prevented humans from viewing individual technologies in more organismal terms are their predictability and simplicity. A hammer is totally and undeniably inanimate. It does not manipulate or transform matter. A smartphone or simple robot are semi-animate. Their awareness of the world is on par with that of a tick. They exhibit utterly stereotyped behaviours that can only be altered through evolution, in the case of the tick, or by a human designer, in the case of the phone or robot.We have trouble conceiving of a smartphone as an independent actor because its actions appear so dependent on our own. Like a virus, smartphones rely on a vector, human consumers, for their reproduction. Before the dawn of digital devices and biotechnology, technology has largely taken on the role of a simple parasite or symbiont. It needs the caring, repairing, manufacturing environment of human society in order to prosper.What we are beginning to see are the very early stages of man-made technologies that may one day become as richly complex as DNA-based organisms. If technologies should someday exhibit true autonomy, able to gather energy on their own, repair themselves, and reproduce, it would be difficult to argue in good faith that their existence is any less “natural” than that of a grasshopper or anemone.A technological species does not need to mimic an organic one in order to be viable. In fact, a digital or genetically engineered copy of the original is bound to pale in comparison. To bastardize that famous quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein, “If a robot could speak, we could not understand him” [9].Rather than creating artificial sentience that matches that of an animal or human, it may be far more interesting to foster new, unprecedented forms of mind and embodiment, ones that may be as different from ours as ours is from a tuna’s.[pullquote]We need to look at technology to see a potential for a new type of evolutionary event[/pullquote]However, individuals of any species in isolation cannot exactly be said to constitute a nature. “Nature” is a highly complex, unpredictable assemblage composed of interacting individuals. No matter how majestic a reminder of the wilderness, a polar bear in a zoo is more a cultural artefact than an aspect of nature; no matter how much it reminds us of a living dog, the Big Dog robot [10] is still more cultural than natural.For a contemporary example of a truly man-made nature we have to turn to something that, at first blush, looks totally artificial: the stock market. Economics and programmers have created such an arcane system of trading algorithms that we no longer understand precisely how they interact [11]. Artificial natures, especially when they are endowed with the ability to reproduce and evolve, will rapidly become ever more inscrutable.Though humans often wrongfully categorize the natural world through the lens of technology—the body is a machine, a forest is a factory—there is a strong resonance between the digital and the genetic.An organism’s “hardware” is encoded in the software of DNA and RNA. Life, in all its apparent glory, exists solely for the propagation of genetic information. Our bodies are elaborate (and disposable) vehicles for our genomes, which have been upgrading from body to body, species to species over the last four billion years [12].From this perspective, all of nature is merely the interaction of billions of genetic programs. If this is true, then interacting man-made digital technologies might be the equivalents of physical ecosystems. It’s therefore arguable that the sum total of earth’s information flow has not diminished during the Anthropocene, but rather that biodiversity has merely switched media from nucleotides to electronic circuits. It may be that one day we will invent a computer perfectly capable of simulating entire ecosystems, from an entire redwood down to the last neuron in a snail’s brain, and that we could run this simulation many times over.Human technology, then, could be responsible for many more manifestations of “nature” than the previous Earth was ever capable of sustaining.[pullquote]A contemporary example of a truly man-made nature: the stock market[/pullquote]If this “Anthropocene explosion” is indeed happening, if we are acting as the catalysts of an explosive diversification of life, both biological and technological, then the next logical question is whether our society-wide mourning over the vanishing of everything from passenger pigeons to pandas is warranted. If, after all, evolution is accelerating at the same pace as extinction, there’s little need to worry about the actors that get left behind. Brave new systems will arise in their place.But it would be risky to move ahead without considering the losses and dangers that come with the current changes.The forces that diminish and destroy organic ecosystems are the same ones that impoverish and endanger human life. Economic and ecological processes and crises are deeply linked. “Eco-eco catastrophes” are not only largely beyond our control, they are unpredictable and utterly devastating.We have allowed our technologies to dominate the Earth’s biota with a near-total lack of forethought or precision. Like docile domestic creatures, humans have, for example, accepted the unquestioning use of the automobile, constructing millions of kilometres of highways in its service, bulldozing and building urban centres to accommodate its passage. In return we’ve received our longed-for “faster horse” [13], along with suburban culture and global warming. We are in thrall to our technologies. The Anthropocene could therefore morph into something better termed the “Technocene”: the era when inhumane technologies dominate organic life.Is there an alternative trajectory? A world under the direct or indirect influence of humanity does not necessarily have to become a lifeless wasteland. It requires no great stretch of the imagination to envision a practical utopia where humans function not as bumbling builders of risky machines, but as the benevolent catalysts of evolution. We can encourage the creation of new niches and new forms of life, both organic and technological, while conserving those that still exist.[pullquote]The Anthropocene could therefore morph into something better termed the “Technocene”[/pullquote]Humans have created a technological wilderness, whether we care to recognize it or not. Our task for the next century is to reign in the catastrophic usage of our technologies, and to make explicit the interdependence between the biosphere and the technosphere—or to recognize that all three are different facets of the same thing. Only now are we entering the stage in our species’ development where we are capable of recognizing, and perhaps controlling, the planetary-scale impacts of our technologies. The world’s first national park was established a little over a century ago. The environmental movement is only a few decades old.Now, the concept of the Anthropocene has gone mainstream. If our emerging period of self-reflection morphs into action, we may have the chance to master technological phenomena as we once mastered wild horses and cattle.  Essay published in the exhibition catalogue Welcome to the Anthropocene: The Earth in Our Hands in the Deutsches Museum December 5, 2014 until January 31, 2016.References[1] David S. Webb, The Great American Biotic Interchange: Patterns and Processes, Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 93, 2006, p. 245-257.
[2] Barnosky, Anthony D, et al., Has the Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Already Arrived?, Nature, Vol. 471, 2011, p. 515-517.
[3] Chen, Zhong-Qiang and Micheal J. Benton, The timing and pattern of biotic recovery following the end-Permian mass extinction, Nature Geoscience, Vol. 5, 2012, p. 375-83
[4] An economic term coined by Joseph Schumpeter in 1942
[5] Simon Conway Morris and Jean-Bernard Caron, Pikia gracilens Walcott, a stem-group chordate from the Middle Cambrian of British Colombia, Biological Review, Vol. 87, 2012,  p. 480-512
[6] Emilie C. Snell-Rood and Naomi Wick, Anthropogenic environments exert variable selection on cranial capacity in mammals,  Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences Vol. 280, No. 1769, 2013, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1384; Erwin Nemeth et al., Bird song and anthropogenic noise: vocal constraints may explain why birds sing higher-frequency songs in cities., Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, vol. 280, No. 1754, 2013, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2798; Mary B. Brown, Natural selection and age-related variation in morphology of a colonial bird, ETD collection for University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Paper AAI3449889, 2011, http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3449889
[7] Anthony Richardson et al, The jellyfish joyride: causes, consequences and management responses to a more gelatinous future, Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol. 24, 2009, p. 312-322
[8] Kevin Kelly,  What Does Technology Want?, Viking, New York, 2010
[9] Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell, 1963 [Page number?? Translator?]
[10] http://www.bostondynamics.com/robot_bigdog.html
[11] Neil Johnson et al. “Abrupt rise of new machine ecology beyond human response time, Scientific Reports 3, September 2013,  doi:10.1038/srep02627
[12] Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976
[13] “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”. Quote attributed to Henry Ford.
[post_title] => The Anthropocene Explosion [post_excerpt] => We have entered the Anthropocene epoch, in which humanity and its instrumentalities are the most potent and influential geological force. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-anthropocene-explosion [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-28 15:53:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-28 14:53:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=41045 [menu_order] => 893 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 40825 [post_author] => 831 [post_date] => 2014-09-07 15:59:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-09-07 13:59:59 [post_content] => In the summer of 1816, a young British woman by the name of Mary Godwin and her boyfriend Percy Shelley went to visit Lord Byron in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. They had planned to spend much of the summer outdoors, but the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia the previous year had changed the climate of Europe. The weather was so bad that they spent most of their time indoors, discussing the latest popular writings on science and the supernatural.After reading a book of German ghost stories, somebody suggested they each write their own. Byron's physician, John Polidori, came up with the idea for The Vampyre, published in 1819,1 which was the first of the "vampire-as-seducer" novels. Godwin's story came to her in a dream, during which she saw "the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together."2 Soon after that fateful summer, Godwin and Shelley married, and in 1818, Mary Shelley's horror story was published under the title, Frankenstein, Or, the Modern Prometheus.3[pullquote]We have failed to care for our technological creations[/pullquote]Frankenstein lives on in the popular imagination as a cautionary tale against technology. We use the monster as an all-purpose modifier to denote technological crimes against nature. When we fear genetically modified foods we call them "frankenfoods" and "frankenfish." It is telling that even as we warn against such hybrids, we confuse the monster with its creator. We now mostly refer to Dr. Frankenstein's monster as Frankenstein. And just as we have forgotten that Frankenstein was the man, not the monster, we have also forgotten Frankenstein's real sin.Dr. Frankenstein's crime was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology, but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself. When Dr. Frankenstein meets his creation on a glacier in the Alps, the monster claims that it was not born a monster, but that it became a criminal only after being left alone by his horrified creator, who fled the laboratory once the horrible thing twitched to life. "Remember, I am thy creature," the monster protests, "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed... I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous." Written at the dawn of the great technological revolutions that would define the 19th and 20th centuries, Frankenstein foresees that the gigantic sins that were to be committed would hide a much greater sin. It is not the case that we have failed to care for Creation, but that we have failed to care for our technological creations. We confuse the monster for its creator and blame our sins against Nature upon our creations. But our sin is not that we created technologies but that we failed to love and care for them. It is as if we decided that we were unable to follow through with the education of our children.4[pullquote]We confuse the monster for its creator and blame our sins against Nature upon our creations.[/pullquote]Let Dr. Frankenstein's sin serve as a parable for political ecology. At a time when science, technology, and demography make clear that we can never separate ourselves from the nonhuman world -- that we, our technologies, and nature can no more be disentangled than we can remember the distinction between Dr. Frankenstein and his monster -- this is the moment chosen by millions of well-meaning souls to flagellate themselves for their earlier aspiration to dominion, to repent for their past hubris, to look for ways of diminishing the numbers of their fellow humans, and to swear to make their footprints invisible?The goal of political ecology must not be to stop innovating, inventing, creating, and intervening. The real goal must be to have the same type of patience and commitment to our creations as God the Creator, Himself. And the comparison is not blasphemous: we have taken the whole of Creation on our shoulders and have become coextensive with the Earth.What, then, should be the work of political ecology? It is, I believe, to modernize modernization, to borrow an expression proposed by Ulrich Beck.5 ?This challenge demands more of us than simply embracing technology and innovation. It requires exchanging the modernist notion of modernity for what I have called a "compositionist" one that sees the process of human development as neither liberation from Nature nor as a fall from it, but rather as a process of becoming ever-more attached to, and intimate with, a panoply of nonhuman natures.[pullquote]We can never separate ourselves from the nonhuman world[/pullquote]1. At the time of the plough we could only scratch the surface of the soil. Three centuries back, we could only dream, like Cyrano de Bergerac, of traveling to the moon. In the past, my Gallic ancestors were afraid of nothing except that the "sky will fall on their heads."Today we can fold ourselves into the molecular machinery of soil bacteria through our sciences and technologies. We run robots on Mars. We photograph and dream of further galaxies. And yet we fear that the climate could destroy us.Everyday in our newspapers we read about more entanglements of all those things that were once imagined to be separable -- science, morality, religion, law, technology, finance, and politics. But these things are tangled up together everywhere: in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in the space shuttle, and in the Fukushima nuclear power plant.[pullquote]We have taken the whole of Creation on our shoulders and have become coextensive with the Earth[/pullquote]If you envision a future in which there will be less and less of these entanglements thanks to Science, capital S, you are a modernist. But if you brace yourself for a future in which there will always be more of these imbroglios, mixing many more heterogeneous actors, at a greater and greater scale and at an ever-tinier level of intimacy requiring even more detailed care, then you are... what? A compositionist!The dominant, peculiar story of modernity is of humankind's emancipation from Nature. Modernity is the thrusting-forward arrow of time -- Progress -- characterized by its juvenile enthusiasm, risk taking, frontier spirit, optimism, and indifference to the past. The spirit can be summarized in a single sentence: "Tomorrow, we will be able to separate more accurately what the world is really like from the subjective illusions we used to entertain about it."The very forward movement of the arrow of time and the frontier spirit associated with it (the modernizing front) is due to a certain conception of knowledge: "Tomorrow, we will be able to differentiate clearly what in the past was still mixed up, namely facts and values, thanks to Science."[pullquote]The dominant story of modernity is of humankind's emancipation from Nature.[/pullquote]Science is the shibboleth that defines the right direction of the arrow of time because it, and only it, is able to cut into two well-separated parts what had, in the past, remained hopelessly confused: a morass of ideology, emotions, and values on the one hand, and, on the other, stark and naked matters of fact.The notion of the past as an archaic and dangerous confusion arises directly from giving Science this role. A modernist, in this great narrative, is the one who expects from Science the revelation that Nature will finally be visible through the veils of subjectivity -- and subjection -- that hid it from our ancestors.And here has been the great failure of political ecology. Just when all of the human and nonhuman associations are finally coming to the center of our consciousness, when science and nature and technology and politics become so confused and mixed up as to be impossible to untangle, just as these associations are beginning to be shaped in our political arenas and are triggering our most personal and deepest emotions, this is when a new apartheid is declared: leave Nature alone and let the humans retreat -- as the English did on the beaches of Dunkirk in the 1940s.[pullquote]Leave Nature alone and let the humans retreat[/pullquote]Just at the moment when this fabulous dissonance inherent in the modernist project between what modernists say (emancipation from all attachments!) and what they do (create ever-more attachments!) is becoming apparent to all, along come those alleging to speak for Nature to say the problem lies in the violations and imbroglios -- the attachments!Instead of deciding that the great narrative of modernism (Emancipation) has always resulted in another history altogether (Attachments), the spirit of the age has interpreted the dissonance in quasi-apocalyptic terms: "We were wrong all along, let's turn our back to progress, limit ourselves, and return to our narrow human confines, leaving the nonhumans alone in as pristine a Nature as possible, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa..."Nature, this great shortcut of due political process, is now used to forbid humans to encroach. Instead of realizing at last that the emancipation narrative is bunk, and that modernism was always about attachments, modernist greens have suddenly shifted gears and have begun to oppose the promises of modernization.[pullquote]Why do we feel so frightened at the moment that our dreams of modernization finally come true?[/pullquote]Why do we feel so frightened at the moment that our dreams of modernization finally come true? Why do we suddenly turn pale and wish to fall back on the other side of Hercules's columns, thinking we are being punished for having transgressed the sign: "Thou shall not transgress?" Was not our slogan until now, as Nordhaus and Shellenberger note in Break Through, "We shall overcome!"?6In the name of indisputable facts portraying a bleak future for the human race, green politics has succeeded in leaving citizens nothing but a gloomy asceticism, a terror of trespassing Nature, and a diffidence toward industry, innovation, technology, and science. No wonder that, while political ecology claims to embody the political power of the future, it is reduced everywhere to a tiny portion of electoral strap-hangers. Even in countries where political ecology is a little more powerful, it contributes only a supporting force.Political ecology has remained marginal because it has not grasped either its own politics or its own ecology. It thinks it is speaking of Nature, System, a hierarchical totality, a world without man, an assured Science, but it is precisely these overly ordered pronouncements that marginalize it.Set in contrast to the modernist narrative, this idea of political ecology could not possibly succeed. There is beauty and strength in the modernist story of emancipation. Its picture of the future is so attractive, especially when put against such a repellent past, that it makes one wish to run forward to break all the shackles of ancient existence.[pullquote]The paradox of "the environment" is that it emerged in public parlance just when it was starting to disappear[/pullquote]To succeed, an ecological politics must manage to be at least as powerful as the modernizing story of emancipation without imagining that we are emancipating ourselves from Nature. What the emancipation narrative points to as proof of increasing human mastery over and freedom from Nature -- agriculture, fossil energy, technology -- can be redescribed as the increasing attachments between things and people at an ever-expanding scale. If the older narratives imagined humans either fell from Nature or freed themselves from it, the compositionist narrative describes our ever-increasing degree of intimacy with the new natures we are constantly creating. Only "out of Nature" may ecological politics start again and anew.2. The paradox of "the environment" is that it emerged in public parlance just when it was starting to disappear. During the heyday of modernism, no one seemed to care about "the environment" because there existed a huge unknown reserve on which to discharge all bad consequences of collective modernizing actions. The environment is what appeared when unwanted consequences came back to haunt the originators of such actions.But if the originators are true modernists, they will see the return of "the environment" as incomprehensible since they believed they were finally free of it. The return of consequences, like global warming, is taken as a contradiction, or even as a monstrosity, which it is, of course, but only according to the modernist's narrative of emancipation. In the compositionist's narrative of attachments, unintended consequences are quite normal -- indeed, the most expected things on earth![pullquote]The environment should be integrated and internalized in the very fabric of the polity[/pullquote]Environmentalists, in the American sense of the word, never managed to extract themselves from the contradiction that the environment is precisely not "what lies beyond and should be left alone" -- this was the contrary, the view of their worst enemies! The environment is exactly what should be even more managed, taken up, cared for, stewarded, in brief, integrated and internalized in the very fabric of the polity.France, for its part, has never believed in the notion of a pristine Nature that has so confused the "defense of the environment" in other countries. What we call a "national park" is a rural ecosystem complete with post offices, well-tended roads, highly subsidized cows, and handsome villages.Those who wish to protect natural ecosystems learn, to their stupefaction, that they have to work harder and harder -- that is, to intervene even more, at always greater levels of detail, with ever more subtle care -- to keep them "natural enough" for Nature-intoxicated tourists to remain happy.Like France's parks, all of Nature needs our constant care, our undivided attention, our costly instruments, our hundreds of thousands of scientists, our huge institutions, our careful funding. But though we have Nature, and we have nurture, we don't know what it would mean for Nature itself to be nurtured.7The word "environmentalism" thus designates this turning point in history when the unwanted consequences are suddenly considered to be such a monstrosity that the only logical step appears to be to abstain and repent: "We should not have committed so many crimes; now we should be good and limit ourselves." Or at least this is what people felt and thought before the breakthrough, at the time when there was still an "environment."[pullquote]What we call a "national park" is a rural ecosystem complete with post offices, well-tended roads, highly subsidized cows, and handsome villages[/pullquote]But what is the breakthrough itself then? If I am right, the breakthrough involves no longer seeing a contradiction between the spirit of emancipation and its catastrophic outcomes, but accepting it as the normal duty of continuing to care for unwanted consequences, even if this means going further and further down into the imbroglios. Environmentalists say: "From now on we should limit ourselves." Postenvironmentalists exclaim: "From now on, we should stop flagellating ourselves and take up explicitly and seriously what we have been doing all along at an ever-increasing scale, namely, intervening, acting, wanting, caring." For environmentalists, the return of unexpected consequences appears as a scandal (which it is for the modernist myth of mastery). For postenvironmentalists, the other, unintended consequences are part and parcel of any action.3. One way to seize upon the breakthrough from environmentalism to postenvironmentalism is to reshape the very definition of the "precautionary principle". This strange moral, legal, epistemological monster has appeared in European and especially French politics after many scandals due to the misplaced belief by state authority in the certainties provided by Science.8When action is supposed to be nothing but the logical consequence of reason and facts (which the French, of all people, still believe), it is quite normal to wait for the certainty of science before administrators and politicians spring to action. The problem begins when experts fail to agree on the reasons and facts that have been taken as the necessary premises of any action. Then the machinery of decision is stuck until experts come to an agreement. It was in such a situation that the great tainted blood catastrophe of the 1980s ensued: before agreement was produced, hundreds of patients were transfused with blood contaminated by the AIDS virus.9The precautionary principle was introduced to break this odd connection between scientific certainty and political action, stating that even in the absence of certainty, decisions could be made. But of course, as soon as it was introduced, fierce debates began on its meaning. Is it an environmentalist notion that precludes action or a postenvironmentalist notion that finally follows action through to its consequences?Not surprisingly, the enemies of the precautionary principle -- which President Chirac enshrined in the French Constitution as if the French, having indulged so much in rationalism, had to be protected against it by the highest legal pronouncements -- took it as proof that no action was possible any more. As good modernists, they claimed that if you had to take so many precautions in advance, to anticipate so many risks, to include the unexpected consequences even before they arrived, and worse, to be responsible for them, then it was a plea for impotence, despondency, and despair. The only way to innovate, they claimed, is to bounce forward, blissfully ignorant of the consequences or at least unconcerned by what lies outside your range of action. Their opponents largely agreed. Modernist environmentalists argued that the principle of precaution dictated no action, no new technology, no intervention unless it could be proven with certainty that no harm would result. Modernists we were, modernists we shall be![pullquote]Unexpected consequences are attached to their initiators and have to be followed through all the way[/pullquote]But for its postenvironmental supporters (of which I am one) the principle of precaution, properly understood, is exactly the change of zeitgeist needed: not a principle of abstention -- as many have come to see it -- but a change in the way any action is considered, a deep tidal change in the linkage modernism established between science and politics. From now on, thanks to this principle, unexpected consequences are attached to their initiators and have to be followed through all the way.4. The link between technology and theology hinges on the notion of mastery. Descartes exclaimed that we should be "maîtres et possesseurs de la nature."10 But what does it mean to be a master? In the modernist narrative, mastery was supposed to require such total dominance by the master that he was emancipated entirely from any care and worry. This is the myth about mastery that was used to describe the technical, scientific, and economic dominion of Man over Nature.But if you think about it according to the compositionist narrative, this myth is quite odd: where have we ever seen a master freed from any dependence on his dependents? The Christian God, at least, is not a master who is freed from dependents, but who, on the contrary, gets folded into, involved with, implicated with, and incarnated into His Creation. God is so attached and dependent upon His Creation that he is continually forced (convinced? willing?) to save it. Once again, the sin is not to wish to have dominion over Nature, but to believe that this dominion means emancipation and not attachment.If God has not abandoned His Creation and has sent His Son to redeem it, why do you, a human, a creature, believe that you can invent, innovate, and proliferate -- and then flee away in horror from what you have committed? Oh, you the hypocrite who confesses of one sin to hide a much graver, mortal one! Has God fled in horror after what humans made of His Creation? Then have at least the same forbearance that He has.[pullquote]The link between technology and theology hinges on the notion of mastery[/pullquote]The dream of emancipation has not turned into a nightmare. It was simply too limited: it excluded nonhumans. It did not care about unexpected consequences; it was unable to follow through with its responsibilities; it entertained a wholly unrealistic notion of what science and technology had to offer; it relied on a rather impious definition of God, and a totally absurd notion of what creation, innovation, and mastery could provide.Which God and which Creation should we be for, knowing that, contrary to Dr. Frankenstein, we cannot suddenly stop being involved and "go home?" Incarnated we are, incarnated we will be. In spite of a centuries-old misdirected metaphor, we should, without any blasphemy, reverse the Scripture and exclaim: "What good is it for a man to gain his soul yet forfeit the whole world?".This essay is republished from The Breakthrough Journal under a Creative Commons license. Read the original essay.REFERENCES1. Polidori, John, et al. 1819. The Vampyre: A Tale. Printed for Sherwood, Neely, and Jones.2. Shelley, Mary W., 1823. Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus. Printed for G. and W.B. Whittaker.3. Ibid.4. This is also the theme of: Latour, Bruno. 1996. Aramis or the Love of Technology. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.5. Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.6. Nordhaus, Ted, and Michael Shellenberger. 2007. Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.7. Descola, Philippe. 2005. Par dela nature et culture. Paris: Gallimard.8. Sadeleer, Nicolas de, 2006. Implementing the Precautionary Principle: Approaches from Nordic Countries and the EU. Earthscan Publ. Ltd.9. Hermitte, Marie-Angele. 1996. Le Sang Et Le Droit. Essai Sur La Transfusion Sanguine. Paris: Le Seuil.10. Descartes, Rene. 1637. Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings. Translated by Desmond M. Clark. 1999. Part 6, 44. New York: Penguin. [post_title] => Love your monsters [post_excerpt] => Why we must care for our technologies as we do our children. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => love-your-monsters [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-03 11:28:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-03 10:28:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=40825 [menu_order] => 911 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 40776 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2014-08-30 11:08:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-08-30 09:08:51 [post_content] => From stone-axes to mobile phones, throughout history people have given birth to a wide range of technologies that extend our given physical and mental capabilities. Today, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without technology. Every human being on the planet employs technology of some sort, and every human has to cope with technological change at various points during his or her lifetime. Yet, despite our deep-rooted relationship with technology, and the fact that we are wholly surrounded by it, most of us are still relatively unaware of how new technologies are introduced, accepted or discarded within our society.[pullquote]Today, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without technology[/pullquote]If you walk onto the street and ask the people you meet to describe ‘technology’, they will likely mention things that were recently introduced to their lives: mobile phones, tablets, Internet, computers. Most of us have an unspoken definition of technology as “anything that was invented after you were born” or “anything that doesn’t quite work yet” (Alan Kay and Danny Hills in Kelly, 2011). Such definitions may make us laugh because they are funny and because they are true, yet they also confront us with our limited perspective on technology. Only when we start to reflect upon technology do we realize that, besides the latest electronic gadgets, technology also entails housing, roads, cars, wheels, clothing, money, writing, agriculture and clocks.Like the fish that doesn't know it is wet, we are submerged by technology, yet we are relatively oblivious to its omnipresence. When it comes to technological change, we are sleepwalkers at best, moving from gadget to gadget, sensing our environment one step at a time, but lacking a clear vision or framework on how to cope with emerging technologies and where they will bring us. Especially in a time of astounding technological developments this seems like a missed opportunity, to say the least. If we are to set out a course towards a desirable technological future, it is important to develop a more profound understanding of how technology develops and what role it plays in our existence.[pullquote]Technology can become so accepted that we experience it as a vital or even a natural part of our lives[/pullquote]With the Pyramid of Technology I propose a model to describe the various levels at which technology may function in our lives. The pyramid is inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1943), which describes human requirements like nutrition, shelter, security and love in subsequent stages. Similar to Maslow’s model, technologies can move up and down through various levels of the pyramid, while lower stages need to be fulfilled before the next stage can be attained. Although the Pyramid of Technology will certainly not answer all our technology related questions, it can serve as a tool for scientists, inventors, engineers, designers and entrepreneurs to position themselves in the playing field of technological development and eventually create better technology.Moving through the seven stages we will learn that new technology may seem artificial at first, but as it rises from the base of the pyramid towards the top, it can become so accepted that we experience it as a vital or even a natural part of our lives. Further on I will discuss how this naturalization of technology provides an important new perspective on the relationship between people, nature and technology. But let us begin by discussing the various stages of the pyramid. Starting at the base, we may ask: If lower stages need to be fulfilled before the next stage can be attained, then what would be the absolute bottom level at which technology can function? Surely this has to be the envisioned stage.Level 1. EnvisionedThe lowest and most primary level at which technology can exist is the envisioned level. All technology is born in the human mind. Prior to the engineering, production and acceptance of any technology, there has to be an idea, dream or vision of how our existing capabilities can be extended. Many of the technologies that are commonplace today have spent an extensive amount of time in the envisioned stage. Think, for example, of geostationary communication satellites, which enable today’s global communication networks. Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke proposed the concept of a geostationary communication satellite in 1945 (Clarke, 1945). This idea lingered in the envisioned stage for almost two decades before Sycom 3, the first geostationary communication satellite, was launched in 1964 and used for communication across the Pacific starting with television coverage of that year's Summer Olympics.[pullquote]The envisioned level is a dream stage, it is the birth chamber of all technological innovation[/pullquote]While some technologies are implemented immediately after being envisioned, others remain indefinitely stuck in this stage. Cold nuclear fusion, teleportation, time traveling, or human-powered wings have all been a feature of our collective imagination for some time, but due to their infeasibility, they have yet to rise to a higher level on the pyramid. Although many technologies never make it out of the envisioned stage, they are still valuable as reference points for our imaginative capacity and desire to augment our bodies and minds. More than any other, the envisioned level is a dream stage, the province of artists, poets, science fiction writers and other visionaries. Although more practically oriented people sometimes underestimate this stage, it is in fact the birth chamber of all technological innovation.Level 2. OperationalThe second lowest stage at which a technology may linger is the operational level. Here, an operational prototype or proof of concept exists, but it isn’t widely applied, let alone accepted. Lab-grown meat – sheets of muscle produced from cultured animal cells – currently resides at the operational level. Some researchers predict a bright future for in vitro meat as a more sustainable, animal friendly alternative to raising livestock (Post, 2011). Although it is currently possible to grow small pieces of muscle tissue in the lab (Van der Schaft et Al, 2011), it remains extremely expensive and elaborate to do so. More research and funding are required before lab-grown meat can rise to the third level, if ever.[pullquote]Some high potential technologies are stalled in the operational level[/pullquote]Other examples of technologies currently residing in this stage are the quantum computer, wireless electricity and engineered microbes that turn plant waste into oil. They’ve proven to work in the lab, but are far from being applied. Tragically some high potential technologies are stalled in this level, because the perspective on being applied – and hence making money – is too flimsy for investors. More than any other level, the operational level is the home of fundamental engineering research.Level 3. AppliedOnce a technology moves out of the lab and into society it attains the applied level. An example of a technology that has just entered this level is the Google Glass – a piece of eyewear packed with electronics and a semi-transparent visual interface that adds a layer of information onto your normal vision. At the time of writing, only a happy few techies have had the chance to buy and try a Google Glass. Despite the enthusiastic responses of those early adaptors, it remains to be seen if we will soon all be talking to our intelligent eyewear.The transitional stage between invention and acceptance is often underestimated. Countless technologies are stuck in the applied stage for decades before moving up to a higher level of societal acceptance, or falling back into a merely operational level. Sometimes a technology is stalled in the applied phase for economic reasons. Solar cells, for instance, were of marginal use for years before they became cost-effective enough to be widely applied. Other technologies are stuck in the applied stage due to principles, like nuclear energy, which is widely applied but has never truly been accepted because of the moral objections against nuclear waste and the perceived risks of nuclear disasters.The electric car is another example of a technology that, not only due to the limits of its energy cells but also due to opposition from the gasoline-powered vehicle industry, took a long time before moving through the applied stage (Paine, 2006). Although electric cars date further back than gasoline-powered cars (Kirsch, 2000), the mass production of the more powerful combustion engine superseded and pushed the electrical car back into the operational level. Only recently, sustainability awareness, longer lasting batteries and the desire for clear air in cities, are initiating a comeback of the electric car.[pullquote]The transitional stage between invention and acceptance is often underestimated[/pullquote]The electric car example shows that a technology doesn’t enter the pyramid in isolation, but always moves within a larger context of competing technologies. Its success is typically dependent on its ability to adapt and transform an existing playing field and out compete established technologies. Energy-saving light bulbs, for instance, would have never reached the applied stage if they didn’t have the same fittings as the traditional light bulbs they are bound to replace. In 2012, after more than a century of lighting up the world, the European Union banned the production and retailing of most common types of light bulbs. This legislation effectively pushed the incandescent bulb down the pyramid from the accepted level into the applied level. Having replaced candlelight and gas lamps a little over a century ago, the electric light bulbs are now in turn being superseded and driven in to nostalgia by emerging competing technologies.While technologies that rise into the accepted stage from a lower level are still perceived as new, unfamiliar and artificial by the larger public, technologies that slide down from higher regions of the pyramid are considered nostalgic and outdated. Examples of such falling technologies, besides the already mentioned light bulb and candlelight, are steam trains, vinyl records, fax machines and hot air balloons. You might occasionally come across them and make use of them, but they are no longer part of our everyday existence.Level 4. AcceptedFrom cars and telephones to cash dispensers and GPS, accepted technologies are part of our daily life. These technologies have reached a significant level of reproduction, standardization and familiarity within society. In contrast to the lower levels of the pyramid, entrance into the accepted phase is primarily dependent on how a technology is perceived by its users. At this level, its social and cultural role is of great importance.As a technology reaches the accepted phase, it makes the profound transition between being seen as new and artificial, to being seen as normal and familiar. While controversial technologies like nuclear energy have great difficulty entering this level, other technologies like television, mobile phones and microwave ovens gained their acceptance almost effortlessly. Why? Presumably this is because they seamlessly connect with existing habits, traditions and intuitions of its users, while presenting a clear benefit in comparison to existing technologies like cinemas, landline phones or stoves.[pullquote]Accepted technologies are part of our daily life, but are not yet a lifestyle[/pullquote]Sometimes new technologies are even deliberately designed to mimic the behavior of older technologies in order to ascend to this level of the pyramid. For instance, the digital bookshelf on the iPad tablet computer refers to a traditional, physical bookshelf, helping to familiarize people with electronic books – even though, in the long run, electronic books may push paper books and wooden bookshelves down the pyramid of technology into obsolescence.Clearly, the extent to which technologies are accepted is largely culturally defined. While some people get lost driving without a GPS system, others may have never heard of it. While some may view a dishwasher as a basic, routine feature of everyday life, in many areas of the world it is still perceived as a wondrous and extravagant machine. As a general rule, accepted technologies are part of our daily life, but are not yet a lifestyle. As soon as a technology becomes a mandatory part of our lives it rises to the next level.Level 5. VitalIn the upper reaches of acceptance, technologies become vital. At this stage, they have been so incorporated into our lives that they feel like second nature. Only a few decades ago, mobile phones were an unfamiliar new technology. Many of us still remember questioning whether we really needed to buy our first one. Today however, they are such a part of our daily routine that it feels as though we are missing a limb if we accidentally lose or forget them. Even though your mobile phone isn’t implanted in your body, it is nonetheless part of your lifestyle and identity. You immediately miss it when it’s gone. Will a similar dynamic unfold with the recently launched Google Glass, which promises to enable everyday augmented reality, but is currently still residing in the applied level?A technology moves from the acceptance stage into the vital stage when its disappearance would cause a lifestyle-changing crisis for its users. These technologies are primary, essential and undisputed. Large cities, for example, are dependent on water and sewer systems. The city itself is on the verge of becoming a vital technology, with over 50% of the world’s population living in urban areas. Other examples include electricity, money, antibiotics, the printing press and arguably the Internet, which rapidly reached the vital level after its invention some 50 years ago.[pullquote]A technology moves into the vital stage when its disappearance would cause a lifestyle-changing crisis for its users[/pullquote]Vital technologies often facilitate infrastructures upon which technologies at lower levels depend. Without electricity, there would be no Internet. Without Internet, there would be no email. Without the financial system, there would be no cash dispensers.The border between the accepted and the vital level is typically vague due to personal and cultural differences. Once a technology has reached the vital level it is fundamentally rooted in society. At the accepted level, technologies may easily slip down to a lower level on the pyramid because they are outpaced or driven into nostalgia by newly emerging technologies. In contrast, only major cultural changes or disruptions will drive vital technologies down the pyramid. Historical examples of technology that passed this stage would be agriculture, the wheel, sewage systems and electric lighting. More recently, digital computing, the Internet and mobile phones have entered the vital stage. Since vital technology cannot be easily removed, we have to carefully consider the desirability of such technologies before making ourselves dependent on them. They not only impact the lives of individuals but also society at large and, more often than not, future generations. Therefore, rather than naively entering into a dependent relationship, it is important to develop a good overview of the pros and cons of any technology that’s knocking at the door of the vital level.Level 6. InvisibleWhat more is there to gain after a technology has become vital? Truly successful technology becomes invisible. It is no longer recognized as technology at all. Rather, it is woven into the fabric of everyday life to such an extent that it becomes indistinguishable from it (Weisser, 1991). Consider writing. The ability to capture spoken language into a symbolic representation is an ancient information technology that made our thoughts and voices physical and permanent. Today, writing is omnipresent in most countries. Not only books, newspapers, magazines, and digital screens convey written information, but also street signs, billboards, and graffiti.[pullquote]Truly successful technology becomes invisible[/pullquote]Although young children still need extensive time and effort to master reading and writing, it’s difficult to imagine modern life without it. Writing technology is so successful that we don’t even recognize it as a technology anymore. Money, clothing and agriculture are also technologies that have become invisible. While they were invented thousands of years ago, and had a noticeable impact on the lives of our ancestors, today we no longer recognize them as technology. Within the invisible stage technology moves from the conscious realm – where we recognize it as a tool that we deliberately use – into the realm of the unconscious, where it becomes an invisible partner in our existence.Level 7. NaturalizedWhile the technologies at the base of the pyramid feel artificial and alien, halfway up the pyramid they’ve become familiarized and accepted up to the point that we start to experience them as second nature. Technologies that further rise towards the top of the pyramid become vital and subsequently invisible. The ultimate level a technology can achieve is to become naturalized. As with Maslow’s original pyramid, however, this summit is rarely attained. Most technologies climb no higher than halfway up the pyramid before they either stabilize or are pushed back down to lower levels by newer, emerging technologies. Some technologies, like sewers and digital computing, have climbed up to the ‘vital’ stage. Only a handful of technologies, like writing, are so integrated and omnipresent that they are no longer experienced as technology.[pullquote]Naturalized technologies are so integrated in our lives we consider them part of our human nature[/pullquote]Naturalized technologies have moved beyond being a vital tool or habit within our society: they are so integrated in our lives we consider them part of our human nature. Perhaps the best example of a technology that is entirely naturalized is cooking. Here, cooking doesn’t refer to specific baking technologies like the microwave, but to the basic principle of heating food. Today we think of cooking as a universal aspect of human nature, but some 200,000 years ago, when early humans first started cooking, it was an innovative new technique. Without cooking a modern human being would have to eat five kilos of raw food to get enough calories. By pre-digesting our food before it is eaten, cooking allowed us to absorb more calories from the food we ate, and to expend less energy in the process. According to the gut-brain swap hypothesis, which has been described by Aiello & Wheeler, the human digestive tract shrank while the brain grew, as successive generations of our hominid ancestors relied on cooking (Aiello & Wheeler, 1995). The work of cooking and tending a fire may have even given rise to pair bonding, marriage, the household, and even the division of labor (Wrangham, 2010). Cooking changed the course of human history. Second nature became first nature.[pullquote]The best example of a technology that is entirely naturalized is cooking[/pullquote]MISTY SUMMITOverlooking the entire pyramid there are some important lessons to be learned about our relationship with technology. For one, it is striking that the technologies at the summit of the pyramid aren’t perceived as technology by most of us: as if the peak of the pyramid is occluded by a cloth of mist. Typically, when we think or talk about technology we mean the technologies on the lower levels of the pyramid. Yet, if we are to reflect on the role of technology in our lives, or more specifically, what role we want it to play, it is important to understand the bigger picture. While the partial perspective on the lower levels of the Pyramid of Technology may serve to explain today’s popular view on technology as an unnatural and artificial phenomenon, the misty higher levels demonstrate that technology takes a more profound position in our human existence than most of us realize. At the top of the pyramid linger the technologies – like cooking, clothing, agriculture, the clock – that have become such unconscious and intimate entities in our existence that we consider them part of our human identity.[pullquote]Humankind is intertwined in a co-evolutionary relationship with technology[/pullquote]As the mist around the summit of the pyramid dissolves, we realize technology is not some add-on to our lives we might one day decide to discard and live without. Since the origins of humanity we have employed technology. We are technological beings by nature (Gehlen, 1988; Plessner, 1975) and similar to the bees and the flowers that co-evolved in a symbiotic relationship – the bees spread the pollen from the flowers and help them propagate while gathering their nectar – humankind is intertwined in a co-evolutionary relationship with technology.This brings an entirely new perspective on the relationship between people, nature and technology. While we traditionally see nature and technology as opposites, like black and white, we now learn that our technologies can be naturalized over time. Throughout human history we practiced technology to emancipate us from the forces of nature – this starts with building a roof above our heads to protect us from the rain, or wearing animal furs to survive in a colder climate – yet, as our technologies become successful they in turn constitute a new milieu, a new setting, that may eventually transform our human nature.WHY IS IT SO LONELY AT THE TOP?Now that we have the complete overview of the pyramid before us, a simple yet important question springs to mind: Why is it that so many technologies stall halfway up the pyramid or even drop down, instead of ascending to the summit. Why is it so lonely at the top? The easy answer would be that any summit is by definition difficult to triumph. It takes a lot of luck and time to reach the summit of the pyramid. Point taken, yet, could it be that our lack of awareness of the misty higher levels plays a role as well? After all, it is not only ordinary people who have a naïve or at least limited understanding of technological development. Many professionals, whether they are inventors, engineers, visionaries, designers or entrepreneurs, who claim to improve our lives with innovative new technologies, also seem to have a one-sided focus on the lower stages of the pyramid.[pullquote]It takes a lot of luck and time to reach the summit of the pyramid[/pullquote]If you are a professional working in the field of innovation and technology you could ask yourself the question: At which level of the pyramid am I the most active? It turns out specific levels are occupied by specific professions and some levels are more crowded than others.1) The envisioned level houses visionary artists and science fiction writers. Think of people like Jules Verne who helped define the science fiction genre with books like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and who famously said: “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real”.2) The operational level is the domain of principle scientists and inventors like Nikola Tesla, who pioneered wireless electricity as early as in 1891.3) At the applied level we find engineering entrepreneurs, like Thomas Edison, who was half inventor, half businessman.4) The accepted level is where we see a lot of activity from designers, user experts and marketing people. Steve Jobs is an example of someone who has done great things at this level. Although he didn’t invent the MP3 standard and the Sony Walkman already existed for decades, he nonetheless managed to combine these technologies in the utterly accessible and utterly successful iPod.[pullquote]Specific levels are occupied by specific professions[/pullquote]5) The vital level is a bit more difficult as we see relatively little activity there. Arguably a politician like Barack Obama is operating at this level, with his efforts to turn healthcare into a basic right, while at the same time aiming to get rid of the notion that guns are a vital accessory for every American.6) The invisible level is pretty much ignored by the traditional technology professionals, however, its proper functioning is maintained by schoolteachers who teach kids reading, writing, clock reading and, nowadays, digital skills also.7) At the naturalized level we seem to have a vacancy. I could not think of a profession that has a clear focus on the summit of the pyramid. Does this level maintain itself like a natural ecosystem?Although I emphasize that this overview is somewhat of a simplification, as most professionals don’t constrain themselves to a single level of the pyramid, it is surprising that none of our traditional technology professions have their primary focus on the upper levels. Would the summit be more accessible if there were more experts active on these higher levels?[pullquote]It might be helpful to compare technologies with children[/pullquote]Before we get into that issue, we first have to address another question: “Is it desirable for more technologies to rise all the way to the top?” In short, the answer is: “Yes, but with a footnote.” While technologies at the middle levels of the pyramid can be successfully used and may improve our lives, they still need our conscious attention and often maintenance. Technologies at the top levels are more powerful as they’ve become part of our human identity and operate on a subconscious level. This makes them extremely powerful, but also risky. In order to understand why, it might be helpful to compare technologies with children.TECHNOLOGIES AS CHILDRENIf we compare technologies with children (Kelly, 2011), the technologies at the lowest levels are like babies that need to be nourished. The mid levels resemble young kids that constantly seek our attention. They can be beautiful, exciting and delightful, but they also nag us at times and are not as mature as the technologies at the top levels, which are like full-grown friends or partners in our lives. Imagine how delightful it would be if all technology in our life would operate on such a mature level: We would have 100% risk-free clean energy, fast and silent transport without traffic jams, haute cuisine food printing, telepathic speech interfaces; life would be grand. The footnote we must add is that the technologies we allow up to the highest levels aren’t neutral. They transform our identities and become part of who we are. This doesn’t always resonate with our human strengths. A good example here is the clock. Its invention allowed the measurement of time intervals shorter than the natural units of the day, month and year. This helped us to schedule meetings with great precision, but it also conditioned us to live with the clock and stick to exact units of work and leisure, which may have resulted in more stress and a detachment from the here and now. Similar footnotes could be made with agriculture that, some theorists have argued (Zerzan, 1994), may have decreased the variety in our diet, weakened the bone structure of the human skeleton and increased the chances of infectious diseases. In saying that, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to verify such claims and, in any case, we can hardly begin to imagine a world without agriculture today.[pullquote]Rather than realizing technology to its full potential, we settle for half-baked solutions[/pullquote]Carrying on with the comparison of new technology as a child, you could ask yourself for every new technology you encounter in your life, if you would be willing to marry it as it matures, or more precisely: if you would allow your own children to marry it, and your children’s children for that matter. Although it may sound absurd, we could ask if our far ancestors – who centuries ago first experienced technological innovation like clothing, agriculture or money – would have endorsed a marriage with these technologies. For us, this has never been a question as we were all born in a world in which money, clothing and agriculture already existed and a divorce from these technologies would be difficult and painful. Hence we must be selective of which technologies we allow to reach the upper levels, as they not only affect our everyday life, but also, very likely, the lives of our offspring.So how do you create technology that will not only improve the lives of your fellow members of society, but also the lives of generations yet to come? That is a huge responsibility. Perhaps technology professionals don't focus on the higher levels of the pyramid because they are too modest? This could be, yet, we would be better off if they did pay more attention to the higher levels. The limitation of many of today’s technology practice is that it doesn’t go full circle. Rather than realizing technology to its full potential, we settle for half-baked solutions. We dream of telepathy, but settle with the mobile phone. We dream of flying like a bird, but end up in a crowded airport. If only we would dare to pursue our dreams and carry technology through to its full potential, we could do better.[pullquote]In the long run, any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from nature[/pullquote]I hope the Pyramid of Technology provides us with a model to envision where the technologies we develop today might eventually take us. For every new technology we encounter, we can already extrapolate a potential path through the levels of the pyramid. We can ask questions like: Does this technology have the potential to rise to the top? What actions will have to be taken to get it there? How will it mature? How will it empower us? How will it extend our senses? How will it resonate with our intuitions? How will it transform us? Will it benefit humanity as a whole? What are the risks? What can we win, what might we loose? What dreams will it realize? Clearly the answers to such questions will not always be easy. Yet, they should give us some relevant discussion points and hopefully provide us with some leverage in the co-evolutionary game people and technology are now caught up in.If we can put our minds to creating technologies that have the potential to one day mature and rise to the summit of the pyramid, this will give us a clear guideline on where we want technology to go. As these technologies mature and climb the pyramid, they will in turn transform us. Hence, we need to project the best of our humanity onto them. We will not immediately get it right. There will be pitfalls, but at least we will know where we are going. Luckily, we can already be sure of one thing: in the long run, any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from nature.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThe author wants to thank Hendrik-Jan Grievink for our wonderful collaboration on the basic idea, definition of the seven stages and the design of the Pyramid of Technology poster. Lisa Kooijman for her assistance with the research of the pyramids stages. Kwen Chueng for her exquisite illustrations on the poster. Tijn Borghuis, Joep Huiskamp, Allison Guy and Mieke Gerritzen for their useful comments on the earlier versions of this essay and finally the Platform Academische Vorming, in particular Anthonie Meijers and Berry Eggen, for providing me with the opportunity to publish this essay.REFERENCESAiello, Leslie C.; Wheeler, Peter (1995) The Expensive-Tissue Hypothesis: The Brain and the Digestive System in Human and Primate Evolution, Current Anthropology Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr., 1995), pp. 199-221,The University of Chicago Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2744104Clarke, Arthur C. (1945): Extra Terrestrial Relays – Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage? Wireless World October 1945, pp. 305-308Gehlen, Arnold. (1988): Man: His Nature and Place in the World. Columbia UP (original print: Der Mensch. Seine Stellung in der Welt. Frankfurt, 1966.)Kelly, Kevin. (2011): What Technology Wants. Penguin Books. ISBN-13: 978-0143120179.Kirsch, David A. (2000). The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History. Rutgers University Press. pp. 153–162. ISBN 978-0-8135-2809-0.Maslow, A.H. (1943): A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review 50(4), pp. 370-96,Paine, Chris (2006) Who Killed the Electric Car?, Documentary, Plinyminor, Electric Entertainment, Papercut Films. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0489037/Plessner, Helmut. 1975. Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch: Einleitung in die philosophische Anthropologie. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. (Orig. Pub. 1928.)Post, Mark (2011). Meet the New Meat. Lecture at Next Nature Power Show, 5 November 2011, Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2oB38a6RTgSchaft, Daisy W.J. van der; Spreeuwel, Ariane C.C. van; Assen, Hans C. van and Baaijens, Frank P.T. Tissue Engineering Part A. November 2011, 17(21-22): 2857-2865. doi:10.1089/ten.tea.2011.0214.Weiser, Mark. (1991) The computer of the 21st century. Scientific American, pages 94–100, September 1991.Wrangham, Richard. (2010) Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Basic Books, ISBN-13: 978-0465020416Zerzan, John. (1994) Future Primitive. Colombia: Anarchy Magazine, 1994This essay was published in the Eindhoven University Lecture series: Mensvoort, K. van (2014) Pyramid of Technology: How Technology Becomes Nature in Seven Steps, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, ISBN: 978-90-386-3467-8. [post_title] => Pyramid of Technology: How technology becomes nature in seven steps [post_excerpt] => How technology becomes nature in seven steps [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => pyramid-of-technology-how-technology-becomes-nature-in-seven-steps [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-18 14:20:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-18 13:20:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=40776 [menu_order] => 920 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 7 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 37790 [post_author] => 809 [post_date] => 2014-01-12 14:34:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-01-12 13:34:11 [post_content] => In 1964 sci-fi author Isaac Asimov predicted what the world wood look like 50 years later: in 2014. He imagined the future in a fairly prescient way. Here some of his - pretty impressive - previsions.“Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.” And more: “The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long- lived batteries running on radioisotopes.”Among the highlights: “Men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better” and “The most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!” Do you recognize these characteristics in today world?Asimov, who passed away in 1992, also visualized one of the most popular NANO Supermarket products:  “By 2014, ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.” It’s the Wallsmart indeed!Find more Asimov’s foresights on Open Culture [post_title] => 50 Years Ago Asimov Predicted WiFi, Smartphones and Today's World Features [post_excerpt] => Isaac Asimov predicts in 1964 what the world will look like today, in 2014. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 50-years-ago-asimov-predicted-wifi-smartphones-and-todays-world-features [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-01-12 14:34:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-01-12 13:34:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=37790 [menu_order] => 1139 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13919 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2011-04-03 13:00:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2011-04-03 11:00:14 [post_content] => Ying Yang style refinement of the classical nature-culture divide. [post_title] => Napkin Sketch [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => napkin-sketch-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2011-04-03 13:00:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2011-04-03 11:00:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=13919 [menu_order] => 2279 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11023 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2010-10-10 17:02:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2010-10-10 15:02:39 [post_content] => Douglas Coupland is a writer and artist based in Vancouver. For the canadian newspaper Globe and Mail, he wrote The ‘radical pessimist's guide to the next 10 years’ a dystopian view on the near future. One of the the underlying ideas behind the guide could be translated as the observation that evolution continues, whether we like it or not. Our next nature might be as wild, unpredictable and out of control as ‘old nature’ once was. Read the original article here, or simply scroll down. 1) It's going to get worse No silver linings and no lemonade. The elevator only goes down. The bright note is that the elevator will, at some point, stop.2) The future isn't going to feel futuristic It's simply going to feel weird and out-of-control-ish, the way it does now, because too many things are changing too quickly. The reason the future feels odd is because of its unpredictability. If the future didn't feel weirdly unexpected, then something would be wrong.3) The future is going to happen no matter what we do. The future will feel even faster than it does now The next sets of triumphing technologies are going to happen, no matter who invents them or where or how. Not that technology alone dictates the future, but in the end it always leaves its mark. The only unknown factor is the pace at which new technologies will appear. This technological determinism, with its sense of constantly awaiting a new era-changing technology every day, is one of the hallmarks of the next decade.4) Move to Vancouver, San Diego, Shannon or Liverpool There'll be just as much freaky extreme weather in these west-coast cities, but at least the west coasts won't be broiling hot and cryogenically cold. 5) You'll spend a lot of your time feeling like a dog leashed to a pole outside the grocery store – separation anxiety will become your permanent state6) The middle class is over. It's not coming back Remember travel agents? Remember how they just kind of vanished one day? That's where all the other jobs that once made us middle-class are going – to that same, magical, class-killing, job-sucking wormhole into which travel-agency jobs vanished, never to return. However, this won't stop people from self-identifying as middle-class, and as the years pass we'll be entering a replay of the antebellum South, when people defined themselves by the social status of their ancestors three generations back. Enjoy the new monoclass!7) Retail will start to resemble Mexican drugstores In Mexico, if one wishes to buy a toothbrush, one goes to a drugstore where one of every item for sale is on display inside a glass display case that circles the store. One selects the toothbrush and one of an obvious surplus of staff runs to the back to fetch the toothbrush. It's not very efficient, but it does offer otherwise unemployed people something to do during the day.8) Try to live near a subway entrance In a world of crazy-expensive oil, it's the only real estate that will hold its value, if not increase.9) The suburbs are doomed, especially those E.T. , California-style suburbs This is a no-brainer, but the former homes will make amazing hangouts for gangs, weirdoes and people performing illegal activities. The pretend gates at the entranceways to gated communities will become real, and the charred stubs of previous white-collar homes will serve only to make the still-standing structures creepier and more exotic.10) In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness 11) Old people won't be quite so clueless No more “the Google,” because they'll be just that little bit younger.12) Expect less Not zero, just less. 13) Enjoy lettuce while you still can And anything else that arrives in your life from a truck, for that matter. For vegetables, get used to whatever it is they served in railway hotels in the 1890s. Jams. Preserves. Pickled everything.14) Something smarter than us is going to emerge Thank you, algorithms and cloud computing.15) Make sure you've got someone to change your diaper Sponsor a Class of 2112 med student. Adopt up a storm around the age of 50.16) “You” will be turning into a cloud of data that circles the planet like a thin gauze While it's already hard enough to tell how others perceive us physically, your global, phantom, information-self will prove equally vexing to you: your shopping trends, blog residues, CCTV appearances – it all works in tandem to create a virtual being that you may neither like nor recognize.17) You may well burn out on the effort of being an individual You've become a notch in the Internet's belt. Don't try to delude yourself that you're a romantic lone individual. To the new order, you're just a node. There is no escape18) Untombed landfills will glut the market with 20th-century artifacts 19) The Arctic will become like Antarctica – an everyone/no one space Who owns Antarctica? Everyone and no one. It's pie-sliced into unenforceable wedges. And before getting huffy, ask yourself, if you're a Canadian: Could you draw an even remotely convincing map of all those islands in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories? Quick, draw Ellesmere Island.20) North America can easily fragment quickly as did the Eastern Bloc in 1989 Quebec will decide to quietly and quite pleasantly leave Canada. California contemplates splitting into two states, fiscal and non-fiscal. Cuba becomes a Club Med with weapons. The Hate States will form a coalition.21) We will still be annoyed by people who pun, but we will be able to show them mercy because punning will be revealed to be some sort of connectopathic glitch: The punner, like someone with Tourette's, has no medical ability not to pun 22) Your sense of time will continue to shred. Years will feel like hours23) Everyone will be feeling the same way as you There's some comfort to be found there.24) It is going to become much easier to explain why you are the way you are Much of what we now consider “personality” will be explained away as structural and chemical functions of the brain.25) Dreams will get better26) Being alone will become easier 27) Hooking up will become ever more mechanical and binary28) It will become harder to view your life as “a story” The way we define our sense of self will continue to morph via new ways of socializing. The notion of your life needing to be a story will seem slightly corny and dated. Your life becomes however many friends you have online.29) You will have more say in how long or short you wish your life to feel Time perception is very much about how you sequence your activities, how many activities you layer overtop of others, and the types of gaps, if any, you leave in between activities.30) Some existing medical conditions will be seen as sequencing malfunctions The ability to create and remember sequences is an almost entirely human ability (some crows have been shown to sequence). Dogs, while highly intelligent, still cannot form sequences; it's the reason why well-trained dogs at shows are still led from station to station by handlers instead of completing the course themselves. Dysfunctional mental states stem from malfunctions in the brain's sequencing capacity. One commonly known short-term sequencing dysfunction is dyslexia. People unable to sequence over a slightly longer term might be “not good with directions.” The ultimate sequencing dysfunction is the inability to look at one's life as a meaningful sequence or story.31) The built world will continue looking more and more like Microsoft packaging “We were flying over Phoenix, and it looked like the crumpled-up packaging from a 2006 MS Digital Image Suite.”32) Musical appreciation will shed all age barriers33) People who shun new technologies will be viewed as passive-aggressive control freaks trying to rope people into their world, much like vegetarian teenage girls in the early 1980s 1980: “We can't go to that restaurant. Karen's vegetarian and it doesn't have anything for her.” 2010: “What restaurant are we going to? I don't know. Karen was supposed to tell me, but she doesn't have a cell, so I can't ask her. I'm sick of her crazy control-freak behaviour. Let's go someplace else and not tell her where.” 34) You're going to miss the 1990s more than you ever thought35) Stupid people will be in charge, only to be replaced by ever-stupider people. You will live in a world without kings, only princes in whom our faith is shattered36) Metaphor drift will become pandemic Words adopted by technology will increasingly drift into new realms to the point where they observe different grammatical laws, e.g., “one mouse”/“three mouses;” “memory hog”/“delete the spam.” 37) People will stop caring how they appear to others The number of tribal categories one can belong to will become infinite. To use a high-school analogy, 40 years ago you had jocks and nerds. Nowadays, there are Goths, emos, punks, metal-heads, geeks and so forth. 38) Knowing everything will become dull It all started out so graciously: At a dinner for six, a question arises about, say, that Japanese movie you saw in 1997 (Tampopo), or whether or not Joey Bishop is still alive (no). And before long, you know the answer to everything. 39) IKEA will become an ever-more-spiritual sanctuary 40) We will become more matter-of-fact, in general, about our bodies41) The future of politics is the careful and effective implanting into the minds of voters images that can never be removed42) You'll spend a lot of time shopping online from your jail cell Over-criminalization of the populace, paired with the triumph of shopping as a dominant cultural activity, will create a world where the two poles of society are shopping and jail. 43) Getting to work will provide vibrant and fun new challenges Gravel roads, potholes, outhouses, overcrowded buses, short-term hired bodyguards, highwaymen, kidnapping, overnight camping in fields, snaggle-toothed crazy ladies casting spells on you, frightened villagers, organ thieves, exhibitionists and lots of healthy fresh air. 44) Your dream life will increasingly look like Google Street View 45) We will accept the obvious truth that we brought this upon ourselvesDouglas Coupland is a writer and artist based in Vancouver, where he will deliver the first of five CBC Massey Lectures – a ‘novel in five hours' about the future – on Tuesday, october 11th 2010. This text was originally published by the Globe and Mail on Friday, October 8th, 2010 [post_title] => Douglas Coupland: A radical pessimist's guide to the next 10 years [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => douglas-coupland-a-radical-pessimists-guide-to-the-next-10-years [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2011-03-28 18:04:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2011-03-28 16:04:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=11023 [menu_order] => 2412 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 6 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2632 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2010-06-08 20:28:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2010-06-08 19:28:59 [post_content] => Brian Eno - artist, composer, inventor, thinker - spoke to Kevin Kelly about the meaning of Africa for music and technology."Africa is everything that something like classical music isn’t. Classical—perhaps I should say “orchestral”—music is so digital, so cut up, rhythmically, pitchwise and in terms of the roles of the musicians. It’s all in little boxes. The reason you get child prodigies in chess, arithmetic, and classical composition is that they are all worlds of discontinuous, parceled-up possibilities. And the fact that orchestras play the same thing over and over bothers me. Classical music is music without Africa. It represents old-fashioned hierarchical structures, ranking, all the levels of control. Orchestral music represents everything I don’t want from the Renaissance: extremely slow feedback loops.If you’re a composer writing that kind of music, you don’t get to hear what your work sounds like for several years. Thus, the orchestral composer is open to all the problems and conceits of the architect, liable to be trapped in a form that is inherently nonimprovisational, nonempirical. I shouldn’t be so absurdly doctrinaire, but I have to say that I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if I never heard another piece of such music. It provides almost nothing useful for me.But what is tremendously exciting to me is the collision of vernacular Western music with African music. So much that I love about music comes from that collision. African music underlies practically everything I do—even ambient, since it arose directly out of wanting to see what happened if you “unlocked” the sounds in a piece of music, gave them their freedom, and didn’t tie them all to the same clock. That kind of free float—these peculiar mixtures of independence and interdependence, and the oscillation between them - is a characteristic of West African drumming patterns. I want to go into the future to see this sensibility I find in African culture, to see it freed from the catastrophic situation that Africa’s in at the moment. I don’t know how they’re going to get freed from that, but I desperately want to see this next stage when African culture begins once again to strongly impact ours.Do you know what I hate about computers? The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them. This is why I can’t use them for very long. Do you know what a nerd is? A nerd is a human being without enough Africa in him or her. I know this sounds sort of inversely racist to say, but I think the African connection is so important. You know why music was the center of our lives for such a long time? Because it was a way of allowing Africa in. In 50 years, it might not be Africa; it might be Brazil. But I want so desperately for that sensibility to flood into these other areas, like computers.What’s pissing me off is that it uses so little of my body. You’re just sitting there, and it’s quite boring. You’ve got this stupid little mouse that requires one hand, and your eyes. That’s it. What about the rest of you? No African would stand for a computer like that. It’s imprisoning."whiteExcerpt taken from Wired Magazine (May 1995). Kevin Kelly was Wired’s co-founder and executive editor. You can find the complete interview at wired archive. [post_title] => There is not enough Africa in Computers [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => there-is-not-enough-africa-in-computers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2010-07-08 09:23:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2010-07-08 08:23:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=2632 [menu_order] => 2532 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 5 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1025 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2009-12-24 01:02:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2009-12-24 00:02:42 [post_content] => In 1961, the name of Marshall McLuhan was unknown to everyone but his English students at the University of Toronto – and a coterie of academic admirers who followed his abstruse articles in small-circulation quarterlies. But then came two remarkable books – The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) and Understanding Media (1964) – and the graying professor from Canada's western hinterlands soon found himself characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle as "the hottest academic property around."He has since won a world-wide following for his brilliant – and frequently baffling – theories about the impact of the media on man; and his name has entered the French language as mucluhanism, a synonym for the world of pop culture.Though his books are written in a difficult style – at once enigmatic, epigrammatic and overgrown with arcane literary and historic allusions – the revolutionary ideas lurking in them have made McLuhan a best-selling author. Despite protests from a legion of outraged scholastics and old-guard humanists who claim that McLuhan's ideas range from demented to dangerous, his free-for-all theorizing has attracted the attention of top executives at General Motors (who paid him a handsome fee to inform them that automobiles were a thing of the past), Bell Telephone (to whom he explained that they didn't really understand the function of the telephone) and a leading package-design house (which was told that packages will soon be obsolete).[pullquote]He has won a world-wide following for his brilliant theories about the impact of the media on man. [/pullquote]Anteing up $5000, another huge corporation asked him to predict – via closed-circuit television – what their own products will be used for in the future; and Canada's turned-on Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau engages him in monthly bull sessions designed to improve his television image.McLuhan's observations – "probes," he prefers to call them – are riddled with such flamboyantly undecipherable aphorisms as "The electric light is pure information" and "People don't actually read newspapers – they get into them every morning like a hot bath."Of his own work, McLuhan has remarked: "I don't pretend to understand it. After all, my stuff is very difficult." Despite his convoluted syntax, flashy metaphors and word-playful one-liners, however, McLuhan's basic thesis is relatively simple.McLuhan contends that all media – in and of themselves and regardless of the messages they communicate – exert a compelling influence on man and society. Prehistoric, or tribal, man existed in a harmonious balance of the senses, perceiving the world equally through hearing, smell, touch, sight and taste. But technological innovations are extensions of human abilities and senses that alter this sensory balance – an alteration that, in turn, inexorably reshapes the society that created the technology.According to McLuhan, there have been three basic technological innovations: the invention of the phonetic alphabet, which jolted tribal man out of his sensory balance and gave dominance to the eye; the introduction of movable type in the 16th Century, which accelerated this process; and the invention of the telegraph in 1844, which heralded an electronics revolution that will ultimately retribalize man by restoring his sensory balance. McLuhan has made it his business to explain and extrapolate the repercussions of this electronic revolution.For his efforts, critics have dubbed him "the Dr. Spock of pop culture," "the guru of the boob tube," a "Canadian Nkrumah who has joined the assault on reason," a "metaphysical wizard possessed by a spatial sense of madness," and "the high priest of popthink who conducts a Black Mass for dilettantes before the altar of historical determinism." Amherst professor Benjamin De-Mott observed: "He's swinging, switched on, with it and NOW. And wrong."[pullquote]The most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein and Pavlov? [/pullquote]But as Tom Wolfe has aptly inquired, "What if he is right? Suppose he is what he sounds like – the most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein and Pavlov?"Social historian Richard Kostelanetz contends that "the most extraordinary quality of McLuhan's mind is that it discerns significance where others see only data, or nothing; he tells us how to measure phenomena previously unmeasurable."The unperturbed subject of this controversy was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on July 21, 1911. The son of a former actress and a real-estate salesman, McLuhan entered the University of Manitoba intending to become an engineer, but matriculated in 1934 with an M.A. in English literature. Next came a stint as an oarsman and graduate student at Cambridge, followed by McLuhan's first teaching job – at the University of Wisconsin. It was a pivotal experience. "I was confronted with young Americans 'I was incapable of understanding," he has since remarked. "I felt an urgent need to study their popular culture in order to get through."With the seeds sown, McLuhan let them germinate while earning a Ph.D., then taught at Catholic universities. (He is a devout Roman Catholic convert.)His publishing career began with a number of articles on standard academic fare; but by the mid-Forties, his interest in popular culture surfaced, and true McLuhan efforts such as "The Psychopathology of Time and Life" began to appear. They hit book length for the first time in 1951 with the publication of The Mechanical Bride – an analysis of the social and psychological pressures generated by the press, radio, movies and advertising – and McLuhan was on his way.Though the book attracted little public notice, it won him the chairmanship of a Ford Foundation seminar on culture and communications and a $40,000 grant, with part of which he started Explorations, a small periodical outlet for the seminar's findings. By the late Fifties, his reputation had trickled down to Washington: In 1959, he became director of the Media Project of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters and the United States Office of Education, and the report resulting from this post became the first draft of Understanding Media. Since 1963, McLuhan has headed the University of Toronto's Center for Culture and Technology, which until recently consisted entirely of McLuhan's office, but now includes a six-room campus building.[pullquote] McLuhan discerns significance where others see only data, or nothing. [/pullquote]Apart from his teaching, lecturing and administrative duties, McLuhan has become a sort of minor communication industry unto himself. Each month he issues to subscribers a mixed-media report called The McLuhan Dew-Line; and, punning on that title, he has also originated a series of recordings called "The Marshall McLuhan Dew-Line Plattertudes". McLuhan contributed a characteristically mind-expanding essay about the media – "The Reversal of the Overheated-Image" – to our December 1968 issue. Also a compulsive collaborator, his literary efforts in tandem with colleagues have included a high school textbook and an analysis of the function of space in poetry and painting. Counterblast, his next book, is a manically graphic trip through the land of his theories.In order to provide our readers with a map of this labyrinthine terra incognita, Playboy assigned interviewer Eric Norden to visit McLuhan at his spacious new home in the wealthy Toronto suburb of Wychwood Park, where he lives with his wife, Corinne, and five of his six children. (His eldest son lives in New York, where he is completing a book on James Joyce, one of his father's heroes.)Norden reports: "Tall, gray and gangly, with a thin but mobile mouth and an otherwise eminently forgettable face, McLuhan was dressed in an ill-fitting brown tweed suit, black shoes and a clip-on necktie. As we talked on into the night before a crackling fire, McLuhan expressed his reservations about the interview – indeed, about the printed word itself – as a means of communication, suggesting that the question-and-answer format might impede the in-depth flow of his ideas. I assured him that he would have as much time – and space – as he wished to develop his thoughts."The result has considerably more lucidity and clarity than McLuhan's readers are accustomed to – perhaps because the Q. and A. format serves to pin him down by counteracting his habit of mercurially changing the subject in mid-stream of consciousness.It is also, we think, a protean and provocative distillation not only of McLuhan's original theories about human progress and social institutions but of his almost immobilizingly intricate style – described by novelist George P. Elliott as "deliberately antilogical, circular, repetitious, unqualified, gnomic, outrageous" and, even less charitably, by critic Christopher Ricks as "a viscous fog through which loom stumbling metaphors." But other authorities contend that McLuhan's stylistic medium is part and parcel of his message – that the tightly structured "linear" modes of traditional thought and discourse are obsolescent in the new "postliterate" age of the electric media.Norden began the interview with an allusion to McLuhan's favorite electric medium: television. PLAYBOY: To borrow Henry Gibson's oft-repeated one-line poem on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In – "Marshall McLuhan, what are you doin'?"McLUHAN: Sometimes I wonder. I'm making explorations. I don't know where they're going to take me. My work is designed for the pragmatic purpose of trying to understand our technological environment and its psychic and social consequences. But my books constitute the process rather than the completed product of discovery; my purpose is to employ facts as tentative probes, as means of insight, of pattern recognition, rather than to use them in the traditional and sterile sense of classified data, categories, containers. I want to map new terrain rather than chart old landmarks.But I've never presented such explorations as revealed truth. As an investigator, I have no fixed point of view, no commitment to any theory – my own or anyone else's. As a matter of fact, I'm completely ready to junk any statement I've ever made about any subject if events don't bear me out, or if I discover it isn't contributing to an understanding of the problem. The better part of my work on media is actually somewhat like a safe-cracker's. I don't know what's inside; maybe it's nothing. I just sit down and start to work. I grope, I listen, I test, I accept and discard; I try out different sequences – until the tumblers fall and the doors spring open.PLAYBOY: Isn't such a methodology somewhat erratic and inconsistent – if not, as your critics would maintain, eccentric?McLUHAN: Any approach to environmental problems must be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to encompass the entire environmental matrix, which is in constant flux. I consider myself a generalist, not a specialist who has staked out a tiny plot of study as his intellectual turf and is oblivious to everything else. Actually, my work is a depth operation, the accepted practice in most modern disciplines from psychiatry to metallurgy and structural analysis. Effective study of the media deals not only with the content of the media but with the media themselves and the total cultural environment within which the media function. Only by standing aside from any phenomenon and taking an overview can you discover its operative principles and lines of force. There's really nothing inherently startling or radical about this study – except that for some reason few have had the vision to undertake it. For the past 3500 years of the Western world, the effects of media – whether it's speech, writing, printing, photography, radio or television – have been systematically overlooked by social observers. Even in today's revolutionary electronic age, scholars evidence few signs of modifying this traditional stance of ostrichlike disregard.PLAYBOY: Why?McLUHAN: Because all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment. Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ, sense or function, and whenever it takes place, the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what's happening to it. It's a process rather like that which occurs to the body under shock or stress conditions, or to the mind in line with the Freudian concept of repression. I call this peculiar form of self-hypnosis Narcissus narcosis, a syndrome whereby man remains as unaware of the psychic and social effects of his new technology as a fish of the water it swims in. As a result, precisely at the point where a new media-induced environment becomes all pervasive and transmogrifies our sensory balance, it also becomes invisible.[pullquote] All media are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment. [/pullquote]This problem is doubly acute today because man must, as a simple survival strategy, become aware of what is happening to him, despite the attendant pain of such comprehension. The fact that he has not done so in this age of electronics is what has made this also the age of anxiety, which in turn has been transformed into its Doppelgänger – the therapeutically reactive age of anomie and apathy. But despite our self-protective escape mechanisms, the total-field awareness engendered by electronic media is enabling us – indeed, compelling us – to grope toward a consciousness of the unconscious, toward a realization that technology is an extension of our own bodies. We live in the first age when change occurs sufficiently rapidly to make such pattern recognition possible for society at large. Until the present era, this awareness has always been reflected first by the artist, who has had the power – and courage – of the seer to read the language of the outer world and relate it to the inner world.PLAYBOY: Why should it be the artist rather than the scientist who perceives these relationships and foresees these trends?McLUHAN: Because inherent in the artist's creative inspiration is the process of subliminally sniffing out environmental change. It's always been the artist who perceives the alterations in man caused by a new medium, who recognizes that the future is the present, and uses his work to prepare the ground for it. But most people, from truck drivers to the literary Brahmins, are still blissfully ignorant of what the media do to them; unaware that because of their pervasive effects on man, it is the medium itself that is the message, not the content, and unaware that the medium is also the massage – that, all puns aside, it literally works over and saturates and molds and transforms every sense ratio. The content or message of any particular medium has about as much importance as the stenciling on the casing of an atomic bomb. But the ability to perceive media-induced extensions of man, once the province of the artist, is now being expanded as the new environment of electric information makes possible a new degree of perception and critical awareness by nonartists.PLAYBOY: Is the public, then, at last beginning to perceive the "invisible" contours of these new technological environmentsMcLUHAN: People are beginning to understand the nature of their new technology, but not yet nearly enough of them – and not nearly well enough. Most people, as I indicated, still cling to what I call the rearview-mirror view of their world. By this I mean to say that because of the invisibility of any environment during the period of its innovation, man is only consciously aware of the environment that has preceded it; in other words, an environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus we are always one step behind in our view of the world. Because we are benumbed by any new technology – which in turn creates a totally new environment – we tend to make the old environment more visible; we do so by turning it into an art form and by attaching ourselves to the objects and atmosphere that characterized it, just as we've done with jazz, and as we're now doing with the garbage of the mechanical environment via pop art.[pullquote] People are beginning to understand the nature of their new technology. [/pullquote]The present is always invisible because it's environmental and saturates the whole field of attention so overwhelmingly; thus everyone but the artist, the man of integral awareness, is alive in an earlier day. In the midst of the electronic age of software, of instant information movement, we still believe we're living in the mechanical age of hardware. At the height of the mechanical age, man turned back to earlier centuries in search of "pastoral" values. The Renaissance and the Middle Ages were completely oriented toward Rome; Rome was oriented toward Greece, and the Greeks were oriented toward the pre-Homeric primitives. We reverse the old educational dictum of learning by proceeding from the familiar to the unfamiliar by going from the unfamiliar to the familiar, which is nothing more or less than the numbing mechanism that takes place whenever new media drastically extend our senses.PLAYBOY: If this "numbing" effect performs a beneficial role by protecting man from the psychic pain caused by the extensions of his nervous system that you attribute to the media, why are you attempting to dispel it and alert man to the changes in his environment?McLUHAN: In the past, the effects of media were experienced more gradually, allowing the individual and society to absorb and cushion their impact to some degree. Today, in the electronic age of instantaneous communication, I believe that our survival, and at the very least our comfort and happiness, is predicated on understanding the nature of our new environment, because unlike previous environmental changes, the electric media constitute a total and near-instantaneous transformation of culture, values and attitudes. This upheaval generates great pain and identity loss, which can be ameliorated only through a conscious awareness of its dynamics. If we understand the revolutionary transformations caused by new media, we can anticipate and control them; but if we continue in our self-induced subliminal trance, we will be their slaves.[pullquote] Technology is a revolutionizing agent. [/pullquote]Because of today's terrific speed-up of information moving, we have a chance to apprehend, predict and influence the environmental forces shaping us – and thus win back control of our own destinies. The new extensions of man and the environment they generate are the central manifestations of the evolutionary process, and yet we still cannot free ourselves of the delusion that it is how a medium is used that counts, rather than what it does to us and with us. This is the zombie stance of the technological idiot. It's to escape this Narcissus trance that I've tried to trace and reveal the impact of media on man, from the beginning of recorded time to the present.PLAYBOY: Will you trace that impact for us – in condensed form?McLUHAN: It's difficult to condense into the format of an interview such as this, but I'll try to give you a brief rundown of the basic media breakthroughs. You've got to remember that my definition of media is broad; it includes any technology whatever that creates extensions of the human body and senses, from clothing to the computer. And a vital point I must stress again is that societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media with which men communicate than by the content of the communication. All technology has the property of the Midas touch; whenever a society develops an extension of itself, all other functions of that society tend to be transmuted to accommodate that new form; once any new technology penetrates a society, it saturates every institution of that society. New technology is thus a revolutionizing agent. We see this today with the electric media and we saw it several thousand years ago with the invention of the phonetic alphabet, which was just as far-reaching an innovation – and had just as profound consequences for man.PLAYBOY: What were they?McLUHAN: Before the invention of the phonetic alphabet, man lived in a world where all the senses were balanced and simultaneous, a closed world of tribal depth and resonance, an oral culture structured by a dominant auditory sense of life. The ear, as opposed to the cool and neutral eye, is sensitive, hyperaesthetic and all-inclusive, and contributes to the seamless web of tribal kinship and interdependence in which all members of the group existed in harmony. The primary medium of communication was speech, and thus no man knew appreciably more or less than any other – which meant that there was little individualism and specialization, the hallmarks of "civilized" Western man. Tribal cultures even today simply cannot comprehend the concept of the individual or of the separate and independent citizen. Oral cultures act and react simultaneously, whereas the capacity to act without reacting, without involvement, is the special gift of "detached" literate man. Another basic characteristic distinguishing tribal man from his literate successors is that he lived in a world of acoustic space, which gave him a radically different concept of time-space relationships.PLAYBOY: What do you mean by "acoustic space"?McLUHAN: I mean space that has no center and no margin, unlike strictly visual space, which is an extension and intensification of the eye. Acoustic space is organic and integral, perceived through the simultaneous interplay of all the senses; whereas "rational" or pictorial space is uniform, sequential and continuous and creates a closed world with none of the rich resonance of the tribal echoland. Our own Western time-space concepts derive from the environment created by the discovery of phonetic writing, as does our entire concept of Western civilization. The man of the tribal world led a complex, kaleidoscopic life precisely because the ear, unlike the eye, cannot be focused and is synaesthetic rather than analytical and linear. Speech is an utterance, or more precisely, an outering, of all our senses at once; the auditory field is simultaneous, the visual successive. The models of life of nonliterate people were implicit, simultaneous and discontinuous, and also far richer than those of literate man. By their dependence on the spoken word for information, people were drawn together into a tribal mesh; and since the spoken word is more emotionally laden than the written – conveying by intonation such rich emotions as anger, joy, sorrow, fear – tribal man was more spontaneous and passionately volatile. Audile-tactile tribal man partook of the collective unconscious, lived in a magical integral world patterned by myth and ritual, its values divine and unchallenged, whereas literate or visual man creates an environment that is strongly fragmented, individualistic, explicit, logical, specialized and detached.PLAYBOY: Was it phonetic literacy alone that precipitated this profound shift of values from tribal involvement to "civilized" detachment?McLUHAN: Yes, it was. Any culture is an order of sensory preferences, and in the tribal world, the senses of touch, taste, hearing and smell were developed, for very practical reasons, to a much higher level than the strictly visual. Into this world, the phonetic alphabet fell like a bombshell, installing sight at the head of the hierarchy of senses. Literacy propelled man from the tribe, gave him an eye for an ear and replaced his integral in-depth communal interplay with visual linear values and fragmented consciousness. As an intensification and amplification of the visual function, the phonetic alphabet diminished the role of the senses of hearing and touch and taste and smell, permeating the discontinuous culture of tribal man and translating its organic harmony and complex synaesthesia into the uniform, connected and visual mode that we still consider the norm of "rational" existence. The whole man became fragmented man; the alphabet shattered the charmed circle and resonating magic of the tribal world, exploding man into an agglomeration of specialized and psychically impoverished "individuals," or units, functioning in a world of linear time and Euclidean space.PLAYBOY: But literate societies existed in the ancient world long before the phonetic alphabet. Why weren't they detribalized?McLUHAN: The phonetic alphabet did not change or extend man so drastically just because it enabled him to read; as you point out, tribal culture had already coexisted with other written languages for thousands of years. But the phonetic alphabet was radically different from the older and richer hieroglyphic or ideogrammic cultures. The writings of Egyptian, Babylonian, Mayan and Chinese cultures were an extension of the senses in that they gave pictorial expression to reality, and they demanded many signs to cover the wide range of data in their societies – unlike phonetic writing, which uses semantically meaningless letters to correspond to semantically meaningless sounds and is able, with only a handful of letters, to encompass all meanings and all languages. This achievement demanded the separation of both sights and sounds from their semantic and dramatic meanings in order to render visible the actual sound of speech, thus placing a barrier between men and objects and creating a dualism between sight and sound. It divorced the visual function from the interplay with the other senses and thus led to the rejection from consciousness of vital areas of our sensory experience and to the resultant atrophy of the unconscious. The balance of the sensorium – or Gestalt interplay of all the senses – and the psychic and social harmony it engendered was disrupted, and the visual function was overdeveloped. This was true of no other writing system.PLAYBOY: How can you be so sure that this all occurred solely because of phonetic literacy – or, in fact, if it occurred at all?McLUHAN: You don't have to go back 3000 or 4000 years to see this process at work; in Africa today, a single generation of alphabetic literacy is enough to wrench the individual from the tribal web. When tribal man becomes phonetically literate, he may have an improved abstract intellectual grasp of the world, but most of the deeply emotional corporate family feeling is excised from his relationship with his social milieu. This division of sight and sound and meaning causes deep psychological effects, and he suffers a corresponding separation and impoverishment of his imaginative, emotional and sensory life. He begins reasoning in a sequential linear fashion; he begins categorizing and classifying data. As knowledge is extended in alphabetic form, it is localized and fragmented into specialties, creating division of function, of social classes, of nations and of knowledge – and in the process, the rich interplay of all the senses that characterized the tribal society is sacrificed.[pullquote] Tribal man, unlike homogenized Western man, was not differentiated by his specialist talents, but by his unique emotional blends. [/pullquote]PLAYBOY: But aren't there corresponding gains in insight, understanding and cultural diversity to compensate detribalized man for the loss of his communal values?McLUHAN: Your question reflects all the institutionalized biases of literate man. Literacy, contrary to the popular view of the "civilizing" process you've just echoed, creates people who are much less complex and diverse than those who develop in the intricate web of oral-tribal societies. Tribal man, unlike homogenized Western man, was not differentiated by his specialist talents or his visible characteristics, but by his unique emotional blends. The internal world of the tribal man was a creative mix of complex emotions and feelings that literate men of the Western world have allowed to wither or have suppressed in the name of efficiency and practicality. The alphabet served to neutralize all these rich divergencies of tribal cultures by translating their complexities into simple visual forms; and the visual sense, remember, is the only one that allows us to detach; all other senses involve us, but the detachment bred by literacy disinvolves and detribalizes man. He separates from the tribe as a predominantly visual man who shares standardized attitudes, habits and rights with other civilized men. But he is also given a tremendous advantage over the nonliterate tribal man who, today as in ancient times, is hamstrung by cultural pluralism, uniqueness and discontinuity – values that make the African as easy prey for the European colonialist as the barbarian was for the Greeks and Romans. Only alphabetic cultures have ever succeeded in mastering connected linear sequences as a means of social and psychic organization; the separation of all kinds of experiences into uniform and continuous units in order to generate accelerated action and alteration of form – in other words, applied knowledge – has been the secret of Western man's ascendancy over other men as well as over his environment.PLAYBOY: Isn't the thrust of your argument, then, that the introduction of the phonetic alphabet was not progress, as has generally been assumed, but a psychic and social disaster?McLUHAN: It was both. It try to avoid value judgments in these areas, but there is much evidence to suggest that man may have paid too dear a price for his new environment of specialist technology and values. Schizophrenia and alienation may be the inevitable consequences of phonetic literacy. It's metaphorically significant, I suspect, that the old Greek myth has Cadmus, who brought the alphabet to man, sowing dragon's teeth that sprang up from the earth as armed men. Whenever the dragon's teeth of technological change are sown, we reap a whirlwind of violence. We saw this clearly in classical times, although it was somewhat moderated because phonetic literacy did not win an overnight victory over primitive values and institutions; rather, it permeated ancient society in a gradual, if inexorable, evolutionary process.[pullquote] Schizophrenia and alienation may be the inevitable consequences of phonetic literacy. [/pullquote]PLAYBOY: How long did the old tribal culture endure?McLUHAN: In isolated pockets, it held on until the invention of printing in the 16th Century, which was a vastly important qualitative extension of phonetic literacy. If the phonetic alphabet fell like a bombshell on tribal man, the printing press hit him like a 100-megaton H-bomb. The printing press was the ultimate extension of phonetic literacy: Books could be reproduced in infinite numbers; universal literacy was at last fully possible, if gradually realized; and books became portable individual possessions. Type, the prototype of all machines, ensured the primacy of the visual bias and finally sealed the doom of tribal man. The new medium of linear, uniform, repeatable type reproduced information in unlimited quantities and at hitherto-impossible speeds, thus assuring the eye a position of total predominance in man's sensorium. As a drastic extension of man, it shaped and transformed his entire environment, psychic and social, and was directly responsible for the rise of such disparate phenomena as nationalism, the Reformation, the assembly line and its offspring, the Industrial Revolution, the whole concept of causality, Cartesian and Newtonian concepts of the universe, perspective in art, narrative chronology in literature and a psychological mode of introspection or inner direction that greatly intensified the tendencies toward individualism and specialization engendered 2000 years before by phonetic literacy. The schism between thought and action was institutionalized, and fragmented man, first sundered by the alphabet, was at last diced into bite-sized tidbits. From that point on, Western man was Gutenberg man.PLAYBOY: Even accepting the principle that technological innovations generate far-reaching environmental changes, many of your readers find it difficult to understand how you can hold the development of printing responsible for such apparently unrelated phenomena as nationalism and industrialism.McLUHAN: The key word is "apparently." Look a bit closer at both nationalism and industrialism and you'll see that both derived directly from the explosion of print technology in the 16th Century. Nationalism didn't exist in Europe until the Renaissance, when typography enabled every literate man to see his mother tongue analytically as a uniform entity. The printing press, by spreading mass-produced books and printed matter across Europe, turned the vernacular regional languages of the day into uniform closed systems of national languages – just another variant of what we call mass media – and gave birth to the entire concept of nationalism.The individual newly homogenized by print saw the nation concept as an intense and beguiling image of group destiny and status. With print, the homogeneity of money, markets and transport also became possible for the first time, thus creating economic as well as political unity and triggering all the dynamic centralizing energies of contemporary nationalism. By creating a speed of information movement unthinkable before printing, the Gutenberg revolution thus produced a new type of visual centralized national entity that was gradually merged with commercial expansion until Europe was a network of states.By fostering continuity and competition within homogeneous and contiguous territory, nationalism not only forged new nations but sealed the doom of the old corporate, noncompetitive and discontinuous medieval order of guilds and family-structured social organization; print demanded both personal fragmentation and social uniformity, the natural expression of which was the nation-state. Literate nationalism's tremendous speed-up of information movement accelerated the specialist function that was nurtured by phonetic literacy and nourished by Gutenberg, and rendered obsolete such generalist encyclopedic figures as Benvenuto Cellini, the goldsmith-cum-condottiere-cum-painter-cum-sculptor-cum-writer; it was the Renaissance that destroyed Renaissance Man.PLAYBOY: Why do you feel that Gutenberg also laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution?McLUHAN: The two go hand in hand. Printing, remember, was the first mechanization of a complex handicraft; by creating an analytic sequence of step-by-step processes, it became the blue-print of all mechanization to follow. The most important quality of print is its repeatability; it is a visual statement that can be reproduced indefinitely, and repeatability is the root of the mechanical principle that has transformed the world since Gutenberg. Typography, by producing the first uniformly repeatable commodity, also created Henry Ford, the first assembly line and the first mass production. Movable type was archetype and prototype for all subsequent industrial development. Without phonetic literacy and the printing press, modern industrialism would be impossible. It is necessary to recognize literacy as typographic technology, shaping not only production and marketing procedures but all other areas of life, from education to city planning.PLAYBOY: You seem to be contending that practically every aspect of modern life is a direct consequence of Gutenberg's invention of the printing press.McLUHAN: Every aspect of Western mechanical culture was shaped by print technology, but the modern age is the age of the electric media, which forge environments and cultures antithetical to the mechanical consumer society derived from print. Print tore man out of his traditional cultural matrix while showing him how to pile individual upon individual into a massive agglomeration of national and industrial power, and the typographic trance of the West has endured until today, when the electronic media are at last demesmerizing us. The Gutenberg Galaxy is being eclipsed by the constellation of Marconi.PLAYBOY: You've discussed that constellation in general terms, but what precisely are the electric media that you contend have supplanted the old mechanical technology?McLUHAN: The electric media are the telegraph, radio, films, telephone, computer and television, all of which have not only extended a single sense or function as the old mechanical media did – i.e., the wheel as an extension of the foot, clothing as an extension of the skin, the phonetic alphabet as an extension of the eye – but have enhanced and externalized our entire central nervous systems, thus transforming all aspects of our social and psychic existence. The use of the electronic media constitutes a break boundary between fragmented Gutenberg man and integral man, just as phonetic literacy was a break boundary between oral-tribal man and visual man.In fact, today we can look back at 3000 years of differing degrees of visualization, atomization and mechanization and at last recognize the mechanical age as an interlude between two great organic eras of culture. The age of print, which held sway from approximately 1500 to 1900, had its obituary tapped out by the telegraph, the first of the new electric media, and further obsequies were registered by the perception of "curved space" and non-Euclidean mathematics in the early years of the century, which revived tribal man's discontinuous time-space concepts – and which even Spengler dimly perceived as the death knell of Western literate values. The development of telephone, radio, film, television and the computer have driven further nails into the coffin. Today, television is the most significant of the electric media because it permeates nearly every home in the country, extending the central nervous system of every viewer as it works over and molds the entire sensorium with the ultimate message. It is television that is primarily responsible for ending the visual supremacy that characterized all mechanical technology, although each of the other electric media have played contributing roles.PLAYBOY: But isn't television itself a primarily visual medium?McLUHAN: No, it's quite the opposite, although the idea that TV is a visual extension is an understandable mistake. Unlike film or photograph, television is primarily an extension of the sense of touch rather than of sight, and it is the tactile sense that demands the greatest interplay of all the senses. The secret of TV's tactile power is that the video image is one of low intensity or definition and thus, unlike either photograph or film, offers no detailed information about specific objects but instead involves the active participation of the viewer. The TV image is a mosaic mesh not only of horizontal lines but of millions of tiny dots, of which the viewer is physiologically able to pick up only 50 or 60 from which he shapes the image; thus he is constantly filling in vague and blurry images, bringing himself into in-depth involvement with the screen and acting out a constant creative dialog with the iconoscope. The contours of the resultant cartoonlike image are fleshed out within the imagination of the viewer, which necessitates great personal involvement and participation; the viewer, in fact, becomes the screen, whereas in film he becomes the camera. By requiring us to constantly fill in the spaces of the mosaic mesh, the iconoscope is tattooing its message directly on our skins. Each viewer is thus an unconscious pointillist painter like Seurat, limning new shapes and images as the iconoscope washes over his entire body. Since the point of focus for a TV set is the viewer, television is Orientalizing us by causing us all to begin to look within ourselves. The essence of TV viewing is, in short, intense participation and low definition – what I call a "cool" experience, as opposed to an essentially "hot," or high definition-low participation, medium like radio.PLAYBOY: A good deal of the perplexity surrounding your theories is related to this postulation of hot and cool media. Could you give us a brief definition of each?McLUHAN: Basically, a hot medium excludes and a cool medium includes; hot media are low in participation, or completion, by the audience and cool media are high in participation. A hot medium is one that extends a single sense with high definition. High definition means a complete filling in of data by the medium without intense audience participation. A photograph, for example, is high definition or hot; whereas a cartoon is low definition or cool, because the rough outline drawing provides very little visual data and requires the viewer to fill in or complete the image himself. The telephone, which gives the ear relatively little data, is thus cool, as is speech; both demand considerable filling in by the listener. On the other hand, radio is a hot medium because it sharply and intensely provides great amounts of high-definition auditory information that leaves little or nothing to be filled in by the audience. A lecture, by the same token, is hot, but a seminar is cool; a book is hot, but a conversation or bull session is cool.[pullquote] A hot medium excludes and a cool medium includes; hot media are low in participation, or completion, by the audience and cool media are high in participation. [/pullquote]In a cool medium, the audience is an active constituent of the viewing or listening experience. A girl wearing open-mesh silk stockings or glasses is inherently cool and sensual because the eye acts as a surrogate hand in filling in the low-definition image thus engendered. Which is why boys make passes at girls who wear glasses. In any case, the overwhelming majority of our technologies and entertainments since the introduction of print technology have been hot, fragmented and exclusive, but in the age of television we see a return to cool values and the inclusive in-depth involvement and participation they engender. This is, of course, just one more reason why the medium is the message, rather than the content; it is the participatory nature of the TV experience itself that is important, rather than the content of the particular TV image that is being invisibly and indelibly inscribed on our skins.PLAYBOY: Even if, as you contend, the medium is the ultimate message, how can you entirely discount the importance of content? Didn't the content of Hitler's radio speeches, for example, have some effect on the Germans?McLUHAN: By stressing that the medium is the message rather than the content, I'm not suggesting that content plays no role – merely that it plays a distinctly subordinate role. Even if Hitler had delivered botany lectures, some other demagog would have used the radio to retribalize the Germans and rekindle the dark atavistic side of the tribal nature that created European fascism in the Twenties and Thirties. By placing all the stress on content and practically none on the medium, we lose all chance of perceiving and influencing the impact of new technologies on man, and thus we are always dumfounded by – and unprepared for – the revolutionary environmental transformations induced by new media. Buffeted by environmental changes he cannot comprehend, man echoes the last plaintive cry of his tribal ancestor, Tarzan, as he plummeted to earth: "Who greased my vine?" The German Jew victimized by the Nazis because his old tribalism clashed with their new tribalism could no more understand why his world was turned upside down than the American today can understand the reconfiguration of social and political institutions caused by the electric media in general and television in particular.[pullquote] Kennedy was the first TV President. TV is an inherently cool medium, and Kennedy had a compatible coolness and indifference to power. [/pullquote]PLAYBOY: How is television reshaping our political institutions?McLUHAN: TV is revolutionizing every political system in the Western world. For one thing, it's creating a totally new type of national leader, a man who is much more of a tribal chieftain than a politician. Castro is a good example of the new tribal chieftain who rules his country by a mass-participational TV dialog and feedback; he governs his country on camera, by giving the Cuban people the experience of being directly and intimately involved in the process of collective decision making. Castro's adroit blend of political education, propaganda and avuncular guidance is the pattern for tribal chieftains in other countries. The new political showman has to literally as well as figuratively put on his audience as he would a suit of clothes and become a corporate tribal image – like Mussolini, Hitler and F.D.R. in the days of radio, and Jack Kennedy in the television era. All these men were tribal emperors on a scale theretofore unknown in the world, because they all mastered their media.PLAYBOY: How did Kennedy use TV in a manner different from his predecessors – or successors?McLUHAN: Kennedy was the first TV President because he was the first prominent American politician to ever understand the dynamics and lines of force of the television iconoscope. As I've explained, TV is an inherently cool medium, and Kennedy had a compatible coolness and indifference to power, bred of personal wealth, which allowed him to adapt fully to TV. Any political candidate who doesn't have such cool, low definition qualities, which allow the viewer to fill in the gaps with his own personal identification, simply electrocutes himself on television – as Richard Nixon did in his disastrous debates with Kennedy in the 1960 campaign. Nixon was essentially hot; he presented a high-definition, sharply-defined image and action on the TV screen that contributed to his reputation as a phony – the "Tricky Dicky" syndrome that has dogged his footsteps for years. "Would you buy a used car from this man?" the political cartoon asked – and the answer was no, because he didn't project the cool aura of disinterest and objectivity that Kennedy emanated so effortlessly and engagingly.PLAYBOY: Did Nixon take any lessons from you the last time around?McLUHAN: He certainly took lessons from somebody, because in the recent election it was Nixon who was cool and Humphrey who was hot. I had noticed the change in Nixon as far back as 1963 when I saw him on The Jack Paar Show. No longer the slick, glib, aggressive Nixon of 1960, he had been toned down, polished, programmed and packaged into the new Nixon we saw in 1968: earnest, modest, quietly sincere – in a word, cool. I realized then that if Nixon maintained this mask, he could be elected President, and apparently the American electorate agreed last November.PLAYBOY: How did Lyndon Johnson make use of television?McLUHAN: He botched it the same way Nixon did in 1960. He was too intense, too obsessed with making his audience love and revere him as father and teacher, and too classifiable. Would people feel any safer buying a used car from L.B.J. than from the old Nixon? The answer is, obviously, no. Johnson became a stereotype – even a parody – of himself, and earned the same reputation as a phony that plagued Nixon for so long. The people wouldn't have cared if John Kennedy lied to them on TV, but they couldn't stomach L.B.J. even when he told the truth. The credibility gap was really a communications gap. The political candidate who understands TV – whatever his party, goals or beliefs – can gain power unknown in history. How he uses that power is, of course, quite another question. But the basic thing to remember about the electric media is that they inexorably transform every sense ratio and thus recondition and restructure all our values and institutions. The overhauling of our traditional political system is only one manifestation of the retribalizing process wrought by the electric media, which is turning the planet into a global village.PLAYBOY: Would you describe this retribalizing process in more detail?McLUHAN: The electronically induced technological extensions of our central nervous systems, which I spoke of earlier, are immersing us in a world-pool of information movement and are thus enabling man to incorporate within himself the whole of mankind. The aloof and dissociated role of the literate man of the Western world is succumbing to the new, intense depth participation engendered by the electronic media and bringing us back in touch with ourselves as well as with one another. But the instant nature of electric-information movement is decentralizing – rather than enlarging – the family of man into a new state of multitudinous tribal existences. Particularly in countries where literate values are deeply institutionalized, this is a highly traumatic process, since the clash of the old segmented visual culture and the new integral electronic culture creates a crisis of identity, a vacuum of the self, which generates tremendous violence – violence that is simply an identity quest, private or corporate, social or commercial.PLAYBOY: Do you relate this identity crisis to the current social unrest and violence in the United States?McLUHAN: Yes, and to the booming business psychiatrists are doing. All our alienation and atomization are reflected in the crumbling of such time-honored social values as the right of privacy and the sanctity of the individual; as they yield to the intensities of the new technology's electric circus, it seems to the average citizen that the sky is falling in. As man is tribally metamorphosed by the electric media, we all become Chicken Littles, scurrying around frantically in search of our former identities, and in the process unleash tremendous violence. As the preliterate confronts the literate in the postliterate arena, as new information patterns inundate and uproot the old, mental breakdowns of varying degrees – including the collective nervous breakdowns of whole societies unable to resolve their crises of identity – will become very common.[pullquote] Education, which should be helping youth to understand and adapt to their revolutionary new environments, is instead being used merely as an instrument of cultural aggression. [/pullquote]It is not an easy period in which to live, especially for the television-conditioned young who, unlike their literate elders, cannot take refuge in the zombie trance of Narcissus narcosis that numbs the state of psychic shock induced by the impact of the new media. From Tokyo to Paris to Columbia, youth mindlessly acts out its identity quest in the theater of the streets, searching not for goals but for roles, striving for an identity that eludes them.PLAYBOY: Why do you think they aren't finding it within the educational system?McLUHAN: Because education, which should be helping youth to understand and adapt to their revolutionary new environments, is instead being used merely as an instrument of cultural aggression, imposing upon retribalized youth the obsolescent visual values of the dying literate age. Our entire educational system is reactionary, oriented to past values and past technologies, and will likely continue so until the old generation relinquishes power. The generation gap is actually a chasm, separating not two age groups but two vastly divergent cultures. I can understand the ferment in our schools, because our educational system is totally rearview mirror. It's a dying and outdated system founded on literate values and fragmented and classified data totally unsuited to the needs of the first television generation.PLAYBOY: How do you think the educational system can be adapted to accommodate the needs of this television generation?McLUHAN: Well, before we can start doing things the right way, we've got to recognize that we've been doing them the wrong way – which most pedagogs and administrators and even most parents still refuse to accept. Today's child is growing up absurd because he is suspended between two worlds and two value systems, neither of which inclines him to maturity because he belongs wholly to neither but exists in a hybrid limbo of constantly conflicting values. The challenge of the new era is simply the total creative process of growing up – and mere teaching and repetition of facts are as irrelevant to this process as a dowser to a nuclear power plant. To expect a "turned on" child of the electric age to respond to the old education modes is rather like expecting an eagle to swim. It's simply not within his environment, and therefore incomprehensible.The TV child finds if difficult if not impossible to adjust to the fragmented, visual goals of our education after having had all his senses involved by the electric media; he craves in-depth involvement, not linear detachment and uniform sequential patterns. But suddenly and without preparation, he is snatched from the cool, inclusive womb of television and exposed – within a vast bureaucratic structure of courses and credits – to the hot medium of print. His natural instinct, conditioned by the electric media, is to bring all his senses to bear on the book he's instructed to read, and print resolutely rejects that approach, demanding an isolated visual attitude to learning rather than the Gestalt approach of the unified sensorium. The reading postures of children in elementary school are a pathetic testimonial to the effects of television; children of the TV generation separate book from eye by an average distance of four and a half inches, attempting psychomimetically to bring to the printed page the all-inclusive sensory experience of TV. They are becoming Cyclops, desperately seeking to wallow in the book as they do in the TV screen.PLAYBOY: Might it be possible for the "TV child" to make the adjustment to his educational environment by synthesizing traditional literate-visual forms with the insights of his own electric culture – or must the medium of print be totally unassimilable for him?McLUHAN: Such a synthesis is entirely possible, and could create a creative blend of the two cultures – if the educational establishment was aware that there is an electric culture. In the absence of such elementary awareness, I'm afraid that the television child has no future in our schools. You must remember that the TV child has been relentlessly exposed to all the "adult" news of the modern world – war, racial discrimination, rioting, crime, inflation, sexual revolution. The war in Vietnam has written its bloody message on his skin; he has witnessed the assassinations and funerals of the nation's leaders; he's been orbited through the TV screen into the astronaut's dance in space, been inundated by information transmitted via radio, telephone, films, recordings and other people. His parents plopped him down in front of a TV set at the age of two to tranquilize him, and by the time he enters kindergarten, he's clocked as much as 4000 hours of television. As an IBM executive told me, "My children had lived several lifetimes compared to their grandparents when they began grade one."[pullquote] In today's world the least education is the best education. [/pullquote]PLAYBOY: If you had children young enough to belong to the TV generation, how would you educate them?McLUHAN: Certainly not in our current schools, which are intellectual penal institutions. In today's world, to paraphrase Jefferson, the least education is the best education, since very few young minds can survive the intellectual tortures of our educational system. The mosaic image of the TV screen generates a depth-involving nowness and simultaneity in the lives of children that makes them scorn the distant visualized goals of traditional education as unreal, irrelevant and puerile. Another basic problem is that in our schools there is simply too much to learn by the traditional analytic methods; this is an age of information overload. The only way to make the schools other than prisons without bars is to start fresh with new techniques and values.PLAYBOY: A number of experimental projects are bringing both TV and computers directly into the classrooms. Do you consider this sort of electronic educational aid a step in the right direction?McLUHAN: It's not really too important if there is ever a TV set in each classroom across the country, since the sensory and attitudinal revolution has already taken place at home before the child ever reaches school, altering his sensory existence and his mental processes in profound ways. Book learning is no longer sufficient in any subject; the children all say now, "Let's talk Spanish," or "Let the Bard be heard," reflecting their rejection of the old sterile system where education begins and ends in a book. What we need now is educational crash programing in depth to first understand and then meet the new challenges. Just putting the present classroom on TV, with its archaic values and methods, won't change anything; it would be just like running movies on television; the result would be a hybrid that is neither. We have to ask what TV can do, in the instruction of English or physics or any other subject, that the classroom cannot do as presently constituted. The answer is that TV can deeply involve youth in the process of learning, illustrating graphically the complex interplay of people and events, the development of forms, the multileveled interrelationships between and among such arbitrarily segregated subjects as biology, geography, mathematics, anthropology, history, literature and languages.If education is to become relevant to the young of this electric age, we must also supplant the stifling, impersonal and dehumanizing multiversity with a multiplicity of autonomous colleges devoted to an in-depth approach to learning. This must be done immediately, for few adults really comprehend the intensity of youth's alienation from the fragmented mechanical world and its fossilized educational system, which is designed in their minds solely to fit them into classified slots in bureaucratic society. To them, both draft card and degree are passports to psychic, if not physical, oblivion, and they accept neither. A new generation is alienated from its own 3000-year heritage of literacy and visual culture, and the celebration of literate values in home and school only intensifies that alienation. If we don't adapt our educational system to their needs and values, we will see only more dropouts and more chaos.[pullquote] These kids are fed up with jobs and goals, and are determined to forget their own roles and involvement in society. They want nothing to do with our fragmented and specialist consumer society. [/pullquote]PLAYBOY: Do you think the surviving hippie subculture is a reflection of youth's rejection of the values of our mechanical society?McLUHAN: Of course. These kids are fed up with jobs and goals, and are determined to forget their own roles and involvement in society. They want nothing to do with our fragmented and specialist consumer society. Living in the transitional identity vacuum between two great antithetical cultures, they are desperately trying to discover themselves and fashion a mode of existence attuned to their new values; thus the stress on developing an "alternate life style." We can see the results of this retribalization process whenever we look at any of our youth – not just at hippies. Take the field of fashion, for example, which now finds boys and girls dressing alike and wearing their hair alike, reflecting the unisexuality deriving from the shift from visual to tactile. The younger generation's whole orientation is toward a return to the native, as reflected by their costumes, their music, their long hair and their sociosexual behavior. Our teenage generation is already becoming part of a jungle clan. As youth enters this clan world and all their senses are electrically extended and intensified, there is a corresponding amplification of their sexual sensibilities. Nudity and unabashed sexuality are growing in the electric age because as TV tattoos its message directly on our skins, it renders clothing obsolescent and a barrier, and the new tactility makes it natural for kids to constantly touch one another – as reflected by the button sold in the psychedelic shops: IF IT MOVES, FONDLE IT. The electric media, by stimulating all the senses simultaneously, also give a new and richer sensual dimension to everyday sexuality that makes Henry Miller's style of randy rutting old-fashioned and obsolete. Once a society enters the all-involving tribal mode, it is inevitable that our attitudes toward sexuality change. We see, for example, the ease with which young people live guiltlessly with one another, or, as among the hippies, in communal mènages. This is completely tribal.PLAYBOY: But aren't most tribal societies sexually restrictive rather than permissive?McLUHAN: Actually, they're both. Virginity is not, with a few exceptions, the tribal style in most primitive societies; young people tend to have total sexual access to one another until marriage. But after marriage, the wife becomes a jealously guarded possession and adultery a paramount sin. It's paradoxical that in the transition to a retribalized society, there is inevitably a great explosion of sexual energy and freedom; but when that society is fully realized, moral values will be extremely tight. In an integrated tribal society, the young will have free rein to experiment, but marriage and the family will become inviolate institutions, and infidelity and divorce will constitute serious violations of the social bond, not a private deviation but a collective insult and loss of face to the entire tribe. Tribal societies, unlike detribalized, fragmented cultures with their stress on individualist values, are extremely austere morally, and do not hesitate to destroy or banish those who offend the tribal values. This is rather harsh, of course, but at the same time, sexuality can take on new and richer dimensions of depth involvement in a tribalized society.Today, meanwhile, as the old values collapse and we see an exhilarating release of pent-up sexual frustrations, we are all inundated by a tidal wave of emphasis on sex. Far from liberating the libido, however, such onslaughts seem to have induced jaded attitudes and a kind of psychosexual Weltschmerz. No sensitivity of sensual response can survive such an assault, which stimulates the mechanical view of the body as capable of experiencing specific thrills, but not total sexual-emotional involvement and transcendence. It contributes to the schism between sexual enjoyment and reproduction that is so prevalent, and also strengthens the case for homosexuality. Projecting current trends, the love machine would appear a natural development in the near future – not just the current computerized datefinder, but a machine whereby ultimate orgasm is achieved by direct mechanical stimulation of the pleasure circuits of the brain.PLAYBOY: Do we detect a note of disapproval in your analysis of the growing sexual freedom?McLUHAN: No, I neither approve nor disapprove. I merely try to understand. Sexual freedom is as natural to newly tribalized youth as drugs.PLAYBOY: What's natural about drugs?McLUHAN: They're natural means of smoothing cultural transitions, and also a short cut into the electric vortex. The upsurge in drug taking is intimately related to the impact of the electric media. Look at the metaphor for getting high: turning on. One turns on his consciousness through drugs just as he opens up all his senses to a total depth involvement by turning on the TV dial. Drug taking is stimulated by today's pervasive environment of instant information, with its feedback mechanism of the inner trip. The inner trip is not the sole prerogative of the LSD traveler; it's the universal experience of TV watchers. LSD is a way of miming the invisible electronic world; it releases a person from acquired verbal and visual habits and reactions, and gives the potential of instant and total involvement, both all-at-onceness and all-at-oneness, which are the basic needs of people translated by electric extensions of their central nervous systems out of the old rational, sequential value system. The attraction to hallucinogenic drugs is a means of achieving empathy with our penetrating electric environment, an environment that in itself is a drugless inner trip.Drug taking is also a means of expressing rejection of the obsolescent mechanical world and values. And drugs often stimulate a fresh interest in artistic expression, which is primarily of the audile-tactile world. The hallucinogenic drugs, as chemical simulations of our electric environment, thus revive senses long atrophied by the overwhelmingly visual orientation of the mechanical culture. LSD and related hallucinogenic drugs, furthermore, breed a highly tribal and communally oriented subculture, so it's understandable why the retribalized young take to drugs like a duck to water.PLAYBOY: A Columbia coed was recently quoted in Newsweek as equating you and LSD. "LSD doesn't mean anything until you consume it," she said. "Likewise McLuhan." Do you see any similarities?McLUHAN: I'm flattered to hear my work described as hallucinogenic, but I suspect that some of my academic critics find me a bad trip.PLAYBOY: Have you ever taken LSD yourself?McLUHAN: No, I never have. I'm an observer in these matters, not a participant. I had an operation last year to remove a tumor that was expanding my brain in a less pleasant manner, and during my prolonged convalescence I'm not allowed any stimulant stronger than coffee. Alas! A few months ago, however, I was almost "busted" on a drug charge. On a plane returning from Vancouver, where a university had awarded me an honorary degree, I ran into a colleague who asked me where I'd been. "To Vancouver to pick up my LL.D.," I told him. I noticed a fellow passenger looking at me with a strange expression, and when I got off the plane at Toronto Airport, two customs guards pulled me into a little room and started going over my luggage. "Do you know Timothy Leary?" one asked. I replied I did and that seemed to wrap it up for him. "All right," he said. "Where's the stuff? We know you told somebody you'd gone to Vancouver to pick up some LL.D." After a laborious dialog, I persuaded him that an LL.D. has nothing to do with consciousness expansion – just the opposite, in fact – and I was released. Of course, in light of the present educational crisis, I'm not sure there isn't something to be said for making possession of an LL.D. a felony.PLAYBOY: Are you in favor of legalizing marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs?McLUHAN: My personal point of view is irrelevant, since all such legal restrictions are futile and will inevitably wither away. You could as easily ban drugs in a retribalized society as outlaw clocks in a mechanical culture. The young will continue turning on no matter how many of them are turned off into prisons, and such legal restrictions only reflect the cultural aggression and revenge of a dying culture against its successor.Speaking of dying cultures, it's no accident that drugs first were widely used in America by the Indians and then by the Negroes, both of whom have the great cultural advantage in this transitional age of remaining close to their tribal roots. The cultural aggression of white America against Negroes and Indians is not based on skin color and belief in racial superiority, whatever ideological clothing may be used to rationalize it, but on the white man's inchoate awareness that the Negro and Indian – as men with deep roots in the resonating echo chamber of the discontinuous, interrelated tribal world – are actually psychically and socially superior to the fragmented, alienated and dissociated man of Western civilization. Such a recognition, which stabs at the heart of the white man's entire social value system, inevitably generates violence and genocide. It has been the sad fate of the Negro and the Indian to be tribal men in a fragmented culture – men born ahead of rather than behind their time.PLAYBOY: How do you mean?McLUHAN: I mean that at precisely the time when the white younger generation is retribalizing and generalizing, the Negro and the Indian are under tremendous social and economic pressure to go in the opposite direction: to detribalize and specialize, to tear out their tribal roots when the rest of society is rediscovering theirs. Long held in a totally subordinate socioeconomic position, they are now impelled to acquire literacy as a prerequisite to employment in the old mechanical service environment of hardware, rather than adapt themselves to the new tribal environment of software, or electric information, as the middle-class white young are doing. Needless to say, this generates great psychic pain, which in turn is translated into bitterness and violence. This can be seen in the microcosmic drug culture; psychological studies show that the Negro and the Indian who are turned on by marijuana, unlike the white, are frequently engulfed with rage; they have a low high. They are angry because they understand under the influence of the drug that the source of their psychic and social degradation lies in the mechanical technology that is now being repudiated by the very white overculture that developed it – a repudiation that the majority of Negroes and Indians cannot, literally, afford because of their inferior economic position.This is both ironic and tragic, and lessens the chances for an across-the-board racial dètente and reconciliation, because rather than diminishing and eventually closing the sociopsychic differences between the races, it widens them. The Negro and the Indian seem to always get a bad deal; they suffered first because they were tribal men in a mechanical world, and now as they try to detribalize and structure themselves within the values of the mechanical culture, they find the gulf between them and a suddenly retribalizing society widening rather than narrowing. The future, I fear, is not too bright for either – but particularly for the Negro.PLAYBOY: What, specifically, do you think will happen to him?McLUHAN: At best, he will have to make a painful adjustment to two conflicting cultures and technologies, the visual-mechanical and the electric world; at worst, he will be exterminated.PLAYBOY: Exterminated?McLUHAN: I seriously fear the possibility, though God knows I hope I'm proved wrong. As I've tried to point out, the one inexorable consequence of any identity quest generated by environmental upheaval is tremendous violence. This violence has traditionally been directed at the tribal man who challenged visual-mechanical culture, as with the genocide against the Indian and the institutionalized dehumanization of the Negro. Today, the process is reversed and the violence is being meted out, during this transitional period, to those who are nonassimilable into the new tribe. Not because of his skin color but because he is in a limbo between mechanical and electric cultures, the Negro is a threat, a rival tribe that cannot be digested by the new order. The fate of such tribes is often extermination.PLAYBOY: What can we do to prevent this from happening to America's Negro population?McLUHAN: I think a valuable first step would be to alert the Negro, as well as the rest of society, to the nature of the new electric technology and the reasons it is so inexorably transforming our social and psychic values. The Negro should understand that the aspects of himself he has been conditioned to think of as inferior or "backward" are actually superior attributes in the new environment. Western man is obsessed by the forward-motion folly of step-by-step "progress," and always views the discontinuous synaesthetic interrelationships of the tribe as primitive. If the Negro realizes the great advantages of his heritage, he will cease his lemming leap into the senescent mechanical world.There are encouraging signs that the new black-power movement – with its emphasis on Negritude and a return to the tribal pride of African cultural and social roots – is recognizing this, but unfortunately a majority of Negro Americans are still determined to join the mechanical culture. But if they can be persuaded to follow the lead of those who wish to rekindle their sparks of tribal awareness, they will be strategically placed to make an easy transition to the new technology, using their own enduring tribal values as environmental survival aids. They should take pride in these tribal values, for they are rainbow-hued in comparison with the pallid literate culture of their traditional masters.But as I said, the Negro arouses hostility in whites precisely because they subliminally recognize that he is closest to that tribal depth involvement and simultaneity and harmony that is the richest and most highly developed expression of human consciousness. This is why the white political and economic institutions mobilize to exclude and oppress Negroes, from semiliterate unions to semiliterate politicians, whose slim visual culture makes them hang on with unremitting fanaticism to their antiquated hardware and the specialized skills and classifications and compartmentalized neighborhoods and life styles deriving from it. The lowest intellectual stratum of whites view literacy and its hardware environment as a novelty, still fresh and still status symbols of achievement, and thus will be the last to retribalize and the first to initiate what could easily become a full-blown racial civil war. The United States as a nation is doomed, in any case, to break up into a series of regional and racial ministates, and such a civil war would merely accelerate that process.PLAYBOY: On what do you base your prediction that the United States will disintegrate?McLUHAN: Actually, in this case as in most of my work, I'm "predicting" what has already happened and merely extrapolating a current process to its logical conclusion. The Balkanization of the United States as a continental political structure has been going on for some years now, and racial chaos is merely one of several catalysts for change. This isn't a peculiarly American phenomenon; as I pointed out earlier, the electric media always produce psychically integrating and socially decentralizing effects, and this affects not only political institutions within the existing state but the national entities themselves.[pullquote] All over the world, we can see how the electric media are stimulating the rise of ministates. [/pullquote]All over the world, we can see how the electric media are stimulating the rise of ministates: In Great Britain, Welsh and Scottish nationalism are recrudescing powerfully; in Spain, the Basques are demanding autonomy; in Belgium, the Flemings insist on separation from the Walloons; in my own country, the Quebecois are in the first stages of a war of independence; and in Africa, we've witnessed the germination of several ministates and the collapse of several ambitiously unrealistic schemes for regional confederation. These ministates are just the opposite of the traditional centralizing nationalisms of the past that forged mass states that homogenized disparate ethnic and linguistic groups within one national boundary. The new ministates are decentralized tribal agglomerates of those same ethnic and linguistic groups. Though their creation may be accompanied by violence, they will not remain hostile or competitive armed camps but will eventually discover that their tribal bonds transcend their differences and will thereafter live in harmony and cultural cross-fertilization with one another.This pattern of decentralized ministates will be repeated in the United States, although I realize that most Americans still find the thought of the Union's dissolution inconceivable. The U.S., which was the first nation in history to begin its national existence as a centralized and literate political entity, will now play the historical film backward, reeling into a multiplicity of decentralized Negro states, Indian states, regional states, linguistic and ethnic states, etc. Decentralism is today the burning issue in the 50 states, from the school crisis in New York City to the demands of the retribalized young that the oppressive multiversities be reduced to a human scale and the mass state be debureaucratized. The tribes and the bureaucracy are antithetical means of social organization and can never coexist peacefully; one must destroy and supplant the other, or neither will survive.PLAYBOY: Accepting, for the moment, your contention that the United States will be "Balkanized" into an assortment of ethnic and linguistic ministates, isn't it likely that the results would be social chaos and internecine warfare?McLUHAN: Not necessarily. Violence can be avoided if we comprehend the process of decentralism and retribalization, and accept its outcome while moving to control and modify the dynamics of change. In any case, the day of the stupor state is over; as men not only in the U.S. but throughout the world are united into a single tribe, they will forge a diversity of viable decentralized political and social institutions.PLAYBOY: Along what lines?McLUHAN: It will be a totally retribalized world of depth involvements. Through radio, TV and the computer, we are already entering a global theater in which the entire world is a Happening. Our whole cultural habitat, which we once viewed as a mere container of people, is being transformed by these media and by space satellites into a living organism, itself contained within a new macrocosm or connubium of a supraterrestrial nature. The day of the individualist, of privacy, of fragmented or "applied" knowledge, of "points of view" and specialist goals is being replaced by the over-all awareness of a mosaic world in which space and time are overcome by television, jets and computers – a simultaneous, "all-at-once" world in which everything resonates with everything else as in a total electrical field, a world in which energy is generated and perceived not by the traditional connections that create linear, causative thought processes, but by the intervals, or gaps, which Linus Pauling grasps as the languages of cells, and which create synaesthetic discontinuous integral consciousness.[pullquote] The open society is irrelevant to today's retribalized youth; and the closed society, the product of speech, drum and ear technologies, is being reborn. [/pullquote]The open society, the visual offspring of phonetic literacy, is irrelevant to today's retribalized youth; and the closed society, the product of speech, drum and ear technologies, is thus being reborn. After centuries of dissociated sensibilities, modern awareness is once more becoming integral and inclusive, as the entire human family is sealed to a single universal membrane. The compressional, implosive nature of the new electric technology is retrogressing Western man back from the open plateaus of literate values and into the heart of tribal darkness, into what Joseph Conrad termed "the Africa within."PLAYBOY: Many critics feel that your own "Africa within" promises to be a rigidly conformist hive world in which the individual is totally subordinate to the group and personal freedom is unknown.McLUHAN: Individual talents and perspectives don't have to shrivel within a retribalized society; they merely interact within a group consciousness that has the potential for releasing far more creativity than the old atomized culture. Literate man is alienated, impoverished man; retribalized man can lead a far richer and more fulfilling life – not the life of a mindless drone but of the participant in a seamless web of interdependence and harmony. The implosion of electric technology is transmogrifying literate, fragmented man into a complex and depth-structured human being with a deep emotional awareness of his complete interdependence with all of humanity. The old "individualistic" print society was one where the individual was "free" only to be alienated and dissociated, a rootless outsider bereft of tribal dreams; our new electronic environment compels commitment and participation, and fulfills man's psychic and social needs at profound levels.The tribe, you see, is not conformist just because it's inclusive; after all, there is far more diversity and less conformity within a family group than there is within an urban conglomerate housing thousands of families. It's in the village where eccentricity lingers, in the big city where uniformity and impersonality are the milieu. The global-village conditions being forged by the electric technology stimulate more discontinuity and diversity and division than the old mechanical, standardized society; in fact, the global village makes maximum disagreement and creative dialog inevitable. Uniformity and tranquillity are not hallmarks of the global village; far more likely are conflict and discord as well as love and harmony – the customary life mode of any tribal people.PLAYBOY: Despite what you've said, haven't literate cultures been the only ones to value the concepts of individual freedom, and haven't tribal societies traditionally imposed rigid social taboos – as you suggested earlier in regard to sexual behavior – and ruthlessly punished all who do not conform to tribal values?McLUHAN: We confront a basic paradox whenever we discuss personal freedom in literate and tribal cultures. Literate mechanical society separated the individual from the group in space, engendering privacy; in thought, engendering point of view; and in work, engendering specialism – thus forging all the values associated with individualism. But at the same time, print technology has homogenized man, creating mass militarism, mass mind and mass uniformity; print gave man private habits of individualism and a public role of absolute conformity. That is why the young today welcome their retribalization, however dimly they perceive it, as a release from the uniformity, alienation and dehumanization of literate society. Print centralizes socially and fragments psychically, whereas the electric media bring man together in a tribal village that is a rich and creative mix, where there is actually more room for creative diversity than within the homogenized mass urban society of Western man.PLAYBOY: Are you claiming, now, that there will be no taboos in the world tribal society you envision?McLUHAN: No, I'm not saying that, and I'm not claiming that freedom will be absolute – merely that it will be less restricted than your question implies. The world tribe will be essentially conservative, it's true, like all iconic and inclusive societies; a mythic environment lives beyond time and space and thus generates little radical social change. All technology becomes part of a shared ritual that the tribe desperately strives to keep stabilized and permanent; by its very nature, an oral-tribal society – such as Pharaonic Egypt – is far more stable and enduring than any fragmented visual society. The oral and auditory tribal society is patterned by acoustic space, a total and simultaneous field of relations alien to the visual world, in which points of view and goals make social change an inevitable and constant by product. An electrically imploded tribal society discards the linear forward-motion of "progress." We can see in our own time how, as we begin to react in depth to the challenges of the global village, we all become reactionaries.PLAYBOY: That can hardly be said of the young, whom you claim are leading the process of retribalization, and according to most estimates are also the most radical generation in our history.McLUHAN: Ah, but you're talking about politics, about goals and issues, which are really quite irrelevant. I'm saying that the result, not the current process, of retribalization makes us reactionary in our basic attitudes and values. Once we are enmeshed in the magical resonance of the tribal echo chamber, the debunking of myths and legends is replaced by their religious study. Within the consensual framework of tribal values, there will be unending diversity – but there will be few if any rebels who challenge the tribe itself.[pullquote] Individual freedom itself will not be submerged in the new tribal society, but it will assume different and more complex dimensions. [/pullquote]The instant involvement that accompanies instant technologies triggers a conservative, stabilizing, gyroscopic function in man, as reflected by the second-grader who, when requested by her teacher to compose a poem after the first Sputnik was launched into orbit, wrote: "The stars are so big / The earth is so small / Stay as you are." The little girl who wrote those lines is part of the new tribal society; she lives in a world infinitely more complex, vast and eternal than any scientist has instruments to measure or imagination to describe.PLAYBOY: If personal freedom will still exist – although restricted by certain consensual taboos – in this new tribal world, what about the political system most closely associated with individual freedom: democracy? Will it, too, survive the transition to your global village?McLUHAN: No, it will not. The day of political democracy as we know it today is finished. Let me stress again that individual freedom itself will not be submerged in the new tribal society, but it will certainly assume different and more complex dimensions. The ballot box, for example, is the product of literate Western culture – a hot box in a cool world – and thus obsolescent. The tribal will is consensually expressed through the simultaneous interplay of all members of a community that is deeply interrelated and involved, and would thus consider the casting of a "private" ballot in a shrouded polling booth a ludicrous anachronism. The TV networks' computers, by "projecting" a victor in a Presidential race while the polls are still open, have already rendered the traditional electoral process obsolescent.In our software world of instant electric communications movement, politics is shifting from the old patterns of political representation by electoral delegation to a new form of spontaneous and instantaneous communal involvement in all areas of decision making. In a tribal all-at-once culture, the idea of the "public" as a differentiated agglomerate of fragmented individuals, all dissimilar but all capable of acting in basically the same way, like interchangeable mechanical cogs in a production line, is supplanted by a mass society in which personal diversity is encouraged while at the same time everybody reacts and interacts simultaneously to every stimulus. The election as we know it today will be meaningless in such a society.PLAYBOY: How will the popular will be registered in the new tribal society if elections are passè?McLUHAN: The electric media open up totally new means of registering popular opinion. The old concept of the plebiscite, for example, may take on new relevance; TV could conduct daily plebiscites by presenting facts to 200,000,000 people and providing a computerized feedback of the popular will. But voting, in the traditional sense, is through as we leave the age of political parties, political issues and political goals, and enter an age where the collective tribal image and the iconic image of the tribal chieftain is the overriding political reality. But that's only one of countless new realities we'll be confronted with in the tribal village. We must understand that a totally new society is coming into being, one that rejects all our old values, conditioned responses, attitudes and institutions. If you have difficulty envisioning something as trivial as the imminent end of elections, you'll be totally unprepared to cope with the prospect of the forthcoming demise of spoken language and its replacement by a global consciousness.PLAYBOY: You're right.McLUHAN: Let me help you. Tribal man is tightly sealed in an integral collective awareness that transcends conventional boundaries of time and space. As such, the new society will be one mythic integration, a resonating world akin to the old tribal echo chamber where magic will live again: a world of ESP. The current interest of youth in astrology, clairvoyance and the occult is no coincidence. Electric technology, you see, does not require words any more than a digital computer requires numbers. Electricity makes possible – and not in the distant future, either – an amplification of human consciousness on a world scale, without any verbalization at all.PLAYBOY: Are you talking about global telepathy?McLUHAN: Precisely. Already, computers offer the potential of instantaneous translation of any code or language into any other code or language. If a data feedback is possible through the computer, why not a feed-forward of thought whereby a world consciousness links into a world computer? Via the computer, we could logically proceed from translating languages to bypassing them entirely in favor of an integral cosmic unconsciousness somewhat similar to the collective unconscious envisioned by Bergson. The computer thus holds out the promise of a technologically engendered state of universal understanding and unity, a state of absorption in the logos that could knit mankind into one family and create a perpetuity of collective harmony and peace. This is the real use of the computer, not to expedite marketing or solve technical problems but to speed the process of discovery and orchestrate terrestrial – and eventually galactic – environments and energies. Psychic communal integration, made possible at last by the electronic media, could create the universality of consciousness foreseen by Dante when he predicted that men would continue as no more than broken fragments until they were unified into an inclusive consciousness. In a Christian sense, this is merely a new interpretation of the mystical body of Christ; and Christ, after all, is the ultimate extension of man.PLAYBOY: Isn't this projection of an electronically induced world consciousness more mystical than technological?McLUHAN: Yes – as mystical as the most advanced theories of modern nuclear physics. Mysticism is just tomorrow's science dreamed today.[pullquote] New York, Chicago, Los Angeles – all will disappear like the dinosaur. [/pullquote]PLAYBOY: You said a few minutes ago that all of contemporary man's traditional values, attitudes and institutions are going to be destroyed and replaced in and by the new electric age. That's a pretty sweeping generalization. Apart from the complex psychosocial metamorphoses you've mentioned, would you explain in more detail some of the specific changes you foresee?McLUHAN: The transformations are taking place everywhere around us. As the old value systems crumble, so do all the institutional clothing and garb-age they fashioned. The cities, corporate extensions of our physical organs, are withering and being translated along with all other such extensions into information systems, as television and the jet – by compressing time and space – make all the world one village and destroy the old city-country dichotomy. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles – all will disappear like the dinosaur. The automobile, too, will soon be as obsolete as the cities it is currently strangling, replaced by new antigravitational technology. The marketing systems and the stock market as we know them today will soon be dead as the dodo, and automation will end the traditional concept of the job, replacing it with a role, and giving men the breath of leisure. The electric media will create a world of dropouts from the old fragmented society, with its neatly compartmentalized analytic functions, and cause people to drop in to the new integrated global-village community.All these convulsive changes, as I've already noted, carry with them attendant pain, violence and war – the normal stigmata of the identity quest – but the new society is springing so quickly from the ashes of the old that I believe it will be possible to avoid the transitional anarchy many predict. Automation and cybernation can play an essential role in smoothing the transition to the new society.PLAYBOY: How?McLUHAN: The computer can be used to direct a network of global thermostats to pattern life in ways that will optimize human awareness. Already, it's technologically feasible to employ the computer to program societies in beneficial ways.PLAYBOY: How do you program an entire society – beneficially or otherwise?McLUHAN: There's nothing at all difficult about putting computers in the position where they will be able to conduct carefully orchestrated programing of the sensory life of whole populations. I know it sounds rather science-fictional, but if you understood cybernetics you'd realize we could do it today. The computer could program the media to determine the given messages a people should hear in terms of their over-all needs, creating a total media experience absorbed and patterned by all the senses. We could program five hours less of TV in Italy to promote the reading of newspapers during an election, or lay on an additional 25 hours of TV in Venezuela to cool down the tribal temperature raised by radio the preceding month. By such orchestrated interplay of all media, whole cultures could now be programed in order to improve and stabilize their emotional climate, just as we are beginning to learn how to maintain equilibrium among the world's competing economies.PLAYBOY: How does such environmental programing, however enlightened in intent, differ from Pavlovian brainwashing?McLUHAN: Your question reflects the usual panic of people confronted with unexplored technologies. I'm not saying such panic isn't justified, or that such environmental programing couldn't be brainwashing, or far worse – merely that such reactions are useless and distracting. Though I think the programing of societies could actually be conducted quite constructively and humanistically, I don't want to be in the position of a Hiroshima physicist extolling the potential of nuclear energy in the first days of August 1945. But an understanding of media's effects constitutes a civil defense against media fallout.The alarm of so many people, however, at the prospect of corporate programming's creation of a complete service environment on this planet is rather like fearing that a municipal lighting system will deprive the individual of the right to adjust each light to his own favorite level of intensity. Computer technology can – and doubtless will – program entire environments to fulfill the social needs and sensory preferences of communities and nations. The content of that programing, however, depends on the nature of future societies – but that is in our own hands.PLAYBOY: Is it really in our hands – or, by seeming to advocate the use of computers to manipulate the future of entire cultures, aren't you actually encouraging man to abdicate control over his destiny?McLUHAN: First of all – and I'm sorry to have to repeat this disclaimer – I'm not advocating anything; I'm merely probing and predicting trends. Even if I opposed them or thought them disastrous, I couldn't stop them, so why waste my time lamenting? As Carlyle said of author Margaret Fuller after she remarked, "I accept the Universe": "She'd better." I see no possibility of a worldwide Luddite rebellion that will smash all machinery to bits, so we might as well sit back and see what is happening and what will happen to us in a cybernetic world. Resenting a new technology will not halt its progress.The point to remember here is that whenever we use or perceive any technological extension of ourselves, we necessarily embrace it. Whenever we watch a TV screen or read a book, we are absorbing these extensions of ourselves into our individual system and experiencing an automatic "closure" or displacement of perception; we can't escape this perpetual embrace of our daily technology unless we escape the technology itself and flee to a hermit's cave. By consistently embracing all these technologies, we inevitably relate ourselves to them as servomechanisms. Thus, in order to make use of them at all, we must serve them as we do gods. The Eskimo is a servomechanism of his kayak, the cowboy of his horse, the businessman of his clock, the cyberneticist – and soon the entire world – of his computer. In other words, to the spoils belongs the victor.[pullquote] Man becomes the sex organ of the machine world just as the bee is of the plant world, permitting it to reproduce and constantly evolve to higher forms. [/pullquote]This continuous modification of man by his own technology stimulates him to find continuous means of modifying it; man thus becomes the sex organs of the machine world just as the bee is of the plant world, permitting it to reproduce and constantly evolve to higher forms. The machine world reciprocates man's devotion by rewarding him with goods and services and bounty. Man's relationship with his machinery is thus inherently symbiotic. This has always been the case; it's only in the electric age that man has an opportunity to recognize this marriage to his own technology. Electric technology is a qualitative extension of this age-old man-machine relationship; 20th Century man's relationship to the computer is not by nature very different from prehistoric man's relationship to his boat or to his wheel – with the important difference that all previous technologies or extensions of man were partial and fragmentary, whereas the electric is total and inclusive. Now man is beginning to wear his brain outside his skull and his nerves outside his skin; new technology breeds new man. A recent cartoon portrayed a little boy telling his nonplused mother: "I'm going to be a computer when I grow up." Humor is often prophecy.PLAYBOY: If man can't prevent this transformation of himself by technology – or into technology – how can he control and direct the process of change?McLUHAN: The first and most vital step of all, as I said at the outset, is simply to understand media and its revolutionary effects on all psychic and social values and institutions. Understanding is half the battle. The central purpose of all my work is to convey this message, that by understanding media as they extend man, we gain a measure of control over them. And this is a vital task, because the immediate interface between audile-tactile and visual perception is taking place everywhere around us. No civilian can escape this environmental blitzkrieg, for there is, quite literally, no place to hide. But if we diagnose what is happening to us, we can reduce the ferocity of the winds of change and bring the best elements of the old visual culture, during this transitional period, into peaceful coexistence with the new retribalized society.[pullquote] Now man is beginning to wear his brain outside his skull and his nerves outside his skin; new technology breeds new man. [/pullquote]If we persist, however, in our conventional rearview-mirror approach to these cataclysmic developments, all of Western culture will be destroyed and swept into the dustbin of history. If literate Western man were really interested in preserving the most creative aspects of his civilization, he would not cower in his ivory tower bemoaning change but would plunge himself into the vortex of electric technology and, by understanding it, dictate his new environment – turn ivory tower into control tower. But I can understand his hostile attitude, because I once shared his visual bias.PLAYBOY: What changed your mind?McLUHAN: Experience. For many years, until I wrote my first book, The Mechanical Bride, I adopted an extremely moralistic approach to all environmental technology. I loathed machinery, I abominated cities, I equated the Industrial Revolution with original sin and mass media with the Fall. In short, I rejected almost every element of modern life in favor of a Rousseauvian utopianism. But gradually I perceived how sterile and useless this attitude was, and I began to realize that the greatest artists of the 20th Century – Yeats, Pound. Joyce, Eliot – had discovered a totally different approach, based on the identity of the processes of cognition and creation. I realized that artistic creation is the playback of ordinary experience – from trash to treasures. I ceased being a moralist and became a student.As someone committed to literature and the traditions of literacy, I began to study the new environment that imperiled literary values, and I soon realized that they could not be dismissed by moral outrage or pious indignation. Study showed that a totally new approach was required, both to save what deserved saving in our Western heritage and to help man adopt a new survival strategy. I adapted some of this new approach in The Mechanical Bride by attempting to immerse myself in the advertising media in order to apprehend its impact on man, but even there some of my old literate "point of view" bias crept in. The book, in any case, appeared just as television was making all its major points irrelevant.I soon realized that recognizing the symptoms of change was not enough; one must understand the cause of change, for without comprehending causes, the social any psychic effects of new technology cannot be counteracted or modified. But I recognized also that one individual cannot accomplish these self-protective modifications; they must be the collective effort of society, because they affect all of society; the individual is helpless against the pervasiveness of environmental change: the new garbage – or mess-age – induced by new technologies. Only the social organism, united and recognizing the challenge, can move to meet it.Unfortunately, no society in history has ever known enough about the forces that shape and transform it to take action to control and direct new technologies as they extend and transform man. But today, change proceeds so instantaneously through the new media that it may be possible to institute a global education program that will enable us to seize the reins of our destiny – but to do this we must first recognize the kind of therapy that's needed for the effects of the new media. In such an effort, indignation against those who perceive the nature of those effects is no substitute for awareness and insight.PLAYBOY: Are you referring to the critical attacks to which you've been subjected for some of your theories and predictions?McLUHAN: I am. But I don't want to sound uncharitable about my critics. Indeed, I appreciate their attention. After all, a man's detractors work for him tirelessly and for free. It's as good as being banned in Boston. But as I've said, I can understand their hostile attitude toward environmental change, having once shared it. Theirs is the customary human reaction when confronted with innovation: to flounder about attempting to adapt old responses to new situations or to simply condemn or ignore the harbingers of change – a practice refined by the Chinese emperors, who used to execute messengers bringing bad news. The new technological environments generate the most pain among those least prepared to alter their old value structures. The literati find the new electronic environment far more threatening than do those less committed to literacy as a way of life. When an individual or social group feels that its whole identity is jeopardized by social or psychic change, its natural reaction is to lash out in defensive fury. But for all their lamentations, the revolution has already taken place.PLAYBOY: You've explained why you avoid approving or disapproving of this revolution in your work, but you must have a private opinion. What is it?McLUHAN: I don't like to tell people what I think is good or bad about the social and psychic changes caused by new media, but if you insist on pinning me down about my own subjective reactions as I observe the reprimitivization of our culture, I would have to say that I view such upheavals with total personal dislike and dissatisfaction. I do see the prospect of a rich and creative retribalized society – free of the fragmentation and alienation of the mechanical age – emerging from this traumatic period of culture clash; but I have nothing but distaste for the process of change. As a man molded within the literate Western tradition, I do not personally cheer the dissolution of that tradition through the electric involvement of all the senses: I don't enjoy the destruction of neighborhoods by high-rises or revel in the pain of identity quest. No one could be less enthusiastic about these radical changes than myself. I am not, by temperament or conviction, a revolutionary; I would prefer a stable, changeless environment of modest services and human scale. TV and all the electric media are unraveling the entire fabric of our society, and as a man who is forced by circumstances to live within that society, I do not take delight in its disintegration.You see, I am not a crusader; I imagine I would be most happy living in a secure preliterate environment; I would never attempt to change my world, for better or worse. Thus I derive no joy from observing the traumatic effects of media on man, although I do obtain satisfaction from grasping their modes of operation. Such comprehension is inherently cool, since it is simultaneously involvement and detachment. This posture is essential in studying media. One must begin by becoming extraenvironmental, putting oneself beyond the battle in order to study and understand the configuration of forces. It's vital to adopt a posture of arrogant superiority; instead of scurrying into a corner and wailing about what media are doing to us, one should charge straight ahead and kick them in the electrodes. They respond beautifully to such resolute treatment and soon become servants rather than masters. But without this detached involvement, I could never objectively observe media; it would be like an octopus grappling with the Empire State Building. So I employ the greatest boon of literate culture: the power of man to act without reaction – the sort of specialization by dissociation that has been the driving motive force behind Western civilization.[pullquote] Personally, I have a great faith in the resiliency and adaptability of man, and I tend to look to our tomorrows with a surge of excitement and hope. [/pullquote]The Western world is being revolutionized by the electric media as rapidly as the East is being Westernized, and although the society that eventually emerges may be superior to our own, the process of change is agonizing. I must move through this pain-wracked transitional era as a scientist would move through a world of disease; once a surgeon becomes personally involved and disturbed about the condition of his patient, he loses the power to help that patient. Clinical detachment is not some kind of haughty pose I affect – nor does it reflect any lack of compassion on my part; it's simply a survival strategy. The world we are living in is not one I would have created on my own drawing board, but it's the one in which I must live, and in which the students I teach must live. If nothing else, I owe it to them to avoid the luxury of moral indignation or the troglodytic security of the ivory tower and to get down into the junk yard of environmental change and steam-shovel my way through to a comprehension of its contents and its lines of force – in order to understand how and why it is metamorphosing man.PLAYBOY: Despite your personal distaste for the upheavals induced by the new electric technology, you seem to feel that if we understand and influence its effects on us, a less alienated and fragmented society may emerge from it. Is it thus accurate to say that you are essentially optimistic about the future?McLUHAN: There are grounds for both optimism and pessimism. The extensions of man's consciousness induced by the electric media could conceivably usher in the millennium, but it also holds the potential for realizing the Anti-Christ – Yeats' rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouching toward Bethlehem to be born. Cataclysmic environmental changes such as these are, in and of themselves, morally neutral; it is how we perceive them and react to them that will determine their ultimate psychic and social consequences. If we refuse to see them at all, we will become their servants. It's inevitable that the world-pool of electronic information movement will toss us all about like corks on a stormy sea, but if we keep our cool during the descent into the maelstrom, studying the process as it happens to us and what we can do about it, we can come through.Personally, I have a great faith in the resiliency and adaptability of man, and I tend to look to our tomorrows with a surge of excitement and hope. I feel that we're standing on the threshold of a liberating and exhilarating world in which the human tribe can become truly one family and man's consciousness can be freed from the shackles of mechanical culture and enabled to roam the cosmos. I have a deep and abiding belief in man's potential to grow and learn, to plumb the depths of his own being and to learn the secret songs that orchestrate the universe. We live in a transitional era of profound pain and tragic identity quest, but the agony of our age is the labor pain of rebirth.I expect to see the coming decades transform the planet into an art form; the new man, linked in a cosmic harmony that transcends time and space, will sensuously caress and mold and pattern every facet of the terrestrial artifact as if it were a work of art, and man himself will become an organic art form. There is a long road ahead, and the stars are only way stations, but we have begun the journey. To be born in this age is a precious gift, and I regret the prospect of my own death only because I will leave so many pages of man's destiny – if you will excuse the Gutenbergian image – tantalizingly unread. But perhaps, as I've tried to demonstrate in my examination of the postliterate culture, the story begins only when the book closes.From "The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan", Playboy Magazine, March 1969. © Playboy [post_title] => The Playboy Interview [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-playboy-interview-marshall-mcluhan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-06 22:58:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-06 21:58:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=1025 [menu_order] => 2685 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 18 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 57364 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2015-10-10 13:27:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-10 11:27:42 [post_content] => As a result of a discussions that took place during the event The Biosphere Code in Stockholm on 4th October 2015, Stockholm University researcher Victor Galaz and colleagues outlined a manifesto for algorithms in the environment.The precepts for an in-progress Biosphere Code Manifesto are a recommendation for using algorithms borne out of growing awareness that they so deeply permeate our technology "they consistently and subtly shape human behavior and our influence on the world's landscapes, oceans, air, and ecosystems" as The Guardian wrote in an extensive article.We are just starting to understand the effects that algorithms have on our lives. But their environmental impact may be even greater, demanding public scrutiny. Here the Biosphere Code Manifesto v1.0, with its seven principles.Algorithms are transforming the world around us. They come in many shapes and forms, and soon they will permeate all spheres of technology, ranging from the technical infrastructure of financial markets to wearable and embedded technologies. One often overlooked point, however, is that algorithms are also shaping the biosphere – the thin complex layer of life on our planet on which human survival and development depend. Algorithms underpin the global technological infrastructure that extracts and develops natural resources such as minerals, food, fossil fuels and living marine resources. They facilitate global trade flows with commodities and they form the basis of environmental monitoring technologies. Last but not least, algorithms embedded in devices and services affect our behavior - what we buy and consume and how we travel, with indirect but potentially strong effects on the biosphere. As a result, algorithms deserve more scrutiny.It is therefore high time that we explore and critically discuss the ways by which the algorithmic revolution – driven by applications such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, logistics, remote sensing, and risk modelling – is transforming the biosphere, and in the long term, the Earth’s capacity to support human survival and development.Below we list seven Principles that we believe are central to guiding the current and future development of algorithms in existing and rapidly evolving technologies, such as block chains, robotics and 3D printing. These Principles are intended as food for thought and debate. They are aimed at software developers, data scientists, system architects, computer scientists, sustainability experts, artists, designers, managers, regulators, policy makers, and the general public participating in the algorithmic revolution.

Principle 1. With great algorithmic powers come great responsibilities

Those involved with algorithms, such as software developers, data scientists, system architects, managers, regulators, and policymakers, should reflect over the impacts of their algorithms on the biosphere and take explicit responsibility for them now and in the future. Algorithms increasingly underpin a broad set of activities that are changing the planet Earth and its ecosystems, such as consumption behaviors, agriculture and aquaculture, forestry, mining and transportation on land and in the sea, industry manufacturing and chemical pollution. Some impacts may be indirect and become visible only after considerable time. This leads to limited predictability in the early and even later stages of algorithmic development. However, in cases where algorithmic development is predicted to have detrimental impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity or other important biosphere processes on a larger scale, or as detrimental impacts do become clear over time, those responsible for the algorithms should take remedial action. Only in this way will algorithms fulfill their potential to shape our future on the planet in a sustainable way.

Principle 2. Algorithms should serve humanity and the biosphere at large.

The power of algorithms can be used for both good and bad. At the moment there is a risk of wasting resources on solving unimportant problems serving the few, thereby undermining the Earth system’s ability to support human development, innovation and well-being.Algorithms should be considerate of the biosphere and facilitate transformations towards sustainability. They can help us better monitor and respond to environmental changes. They can support communities across the globe in their attempts to re-green urban spaces. In short, algorithms should encourage what we call ecologically responsible innovation. Such innovation improves human life without degrading the life-supporting ecosystems - and preferably even strengthening ecosystems - on which we all ultimately depend.

Principle 3. The benefits and risks of algorithms should be distributed fairly

It is imperative for algorithm developers to consider more seriously issues related to the distribution of risks and opportunities. Technological change is known to affect social groups in different ways. In the worst case, the algorithmic revolution may perpetuate and intensify pressures on poor communities, increase gender inequalities or strengthen racial and ethnic biases. This also include the distribution of environmental risks, such as chemical hazards, or loss of ecosystem services, such as food security and clean water.We recognize that these negative distributional effects can be unintentional and emerge unexpectedly. Shared algorithms can cause conformist herding behavior, producing systemic risk. These are risks that often affect people who are not beneficiaries of the algorithm. The central point is that developing algorithms that provide benefits to the few and present risks to the many are both unjust and unfair. The balance between expected utility and ruin probability should be recognized and understood.For example, some of the tools within finance, such as derivative models and high speed trading, have been called "weapons of mass destruction" by Warren Buffet. These same tools, however, could be remade and engineered with different values and instead used as “weapons of mass construction". Projects and ideas such as Artificial Intelligence for Development, Question Box, weADAPT, Robin Hood Coop and others show the role of algorithms in reducing social vulnerability and accounting for issues of justice and equity.

Principle 4. Algorithms should be flexible, adaptive and context-aware

Algorithms that shape the biosphere should be created in such a way that they can be reprogrammed if serious repercussions or unexpected results emerge. This applies both to accessibility for humans to alter the algorithm in case of emergency and to the algorithm’s ability to alter its own behavior if needed.Neural network machine learning algorithms can and do misbehave - misclassifying images with offensive results, assigning people with the “wrong” names low credit ratings - without any transparency as to why. Other systems are designed for a context that may change while the algorithm stays fixed. We cannot predict the future, but we often design and implement algorithms as if we could. Still, algorithms can be designed to observe and adapt to changes in resources they affect and to the context in which they operate to minimize the risk of harm.Algorithms should be open, malleable and easy to maintain. They should allow for the implementation of new creative solutions to urgent emerging challenges. Algorithms should be designed to be transparent with regards to operation and results in order to make errors and anomalies evident as early as possible and to make them possible to fix. Also, when possible, the algorithm should be made context-aware and able to adapt to unforeseen results while alerting society about these results.

Principle 5. Algorithms should help us expect the unexpected

Global environmental and technological change are likely to create a turbulent future. Algorithms should therefore be used in such a way that they enhance our shared capacity to deal with climatic, ecological, market and conflict-related shocks and surprises. This also includes problems caused by errors or misbehaviors in other algorithms - they are also part of the total environment and often unpredictable.This is of particular concern when developing self-learning algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data. Such algorithms should not only be designed to enhance efficiency (e.g., maximising biomass production in forestry, agriculture and fisheries). they should also encourage resilience to unexpected events and ensure a sustainable supply of the essential ecosystem services on which humanity depends. Known approaches to achieve this are diversity, redundancy and modularity as well as maintaining a critical perspective and avoiding over-reliance on algorithms.Also, algorithms should not be allowed to fail quietly. For example, the hole in the ozone layer was overlooked for almost a decade before it was discovered in the mid-1980s. The extremely low ozone concentrations recorded by the monitoring satellites were being treated as outliers by the algorithms and therefore discarded, which delayed our response by a decade to one of the most serious environmental crises in human history. Diversity and redundancy helped discover the error.

Principle 6. Algorithmic data collection should be open and meaningful

Algorithms, especially those impacting the biosphere or personal privacy, should be open source. The general public should be made aware of which data are collected, when they are collected, how they will be used and by whom. As often as possible, the datasets should be made available to the public - keeping in mind the risks of invading personal privacy, and made available in such a fashion that others can easily search, download and use them. In order to be meaningful and to avoid hidden biases, the datasets upon which algorithms are trained should be validated.With a wide range of sensors, big data analytics, blockchain technologies, and peer-to-peer and machine-to-machine micropayments, we have the potential to not only make much more efficient use of the Earth’s resources, but we also have the means to develop innovative value creation systems. Algorithms enable us to achieve this potential; however, at the same time, they also entail great risks to personal privacy, even to those individuals who opt out of the datasets. Without a system built on trust in data collection, fundamental components of human relationships may be jeopardized.

Principle 7. Algorithms should be inspiring, playful and beautiful

Algorithms have been a part of artistic creativity since ancient times. In interaction with artists, self-imposed formal methods have shaped the aesthetic result in all genres of art. For example, when composing a fugue or writing a sonnet, you follow a set of procedures, integrated with aesthetic choices. More recently, artists and researchers have developed algorithmic techniques to generate artistic materials such as paintings and music, and algorithms that emulate human artistic creative processes. Algorithmically generated art allows us to perceive and appreciate the inherent beauty of computation and allow us to create art of otherwise unattainable complexity. Algorithms can also be used to mediate creative collaborations between humans.But algorithms also have aesthetic qualities in and of themselves, closely related to the elegance of a mathematical proof or a solution to a problem. Furthermore, algorithms and algorithmic art based on nature have the potential to inspire, educate and create an understanding of natural processes.We should not be afraid to involve algorithmic processes in artistic creativity and to enhance human creative capacity and playfulness, nor to open up for new modes of creativity and new kinds of art. Algorithms should be used creatively and aesthetically to visualize and allow interaction with natural processes in order to renew the ways we experience and understand with nature and to inspire people to consider the wellbeing of future generations.Aesthetic qualities of algorithms applied in society, for example, in finance, governance and resource allocation, should be unveiled to make people engaged and aware of the underlying processes. We should create algorithms that encourage and facilitate human collaboration, interaction and engagement - with each other, with society, and with nature.The principles presented here are the result of discussions that took place at the event The Biosphere Code in Stockholm October 4th, 2015. Contributors include (in alphabetical order) Maja Brisvall (Quantified Planet), Palle Dahlstedt (University of Gothenburg, Aalborg University), Victor Galaz (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University), Daniel Hassan (Robin Hood Minor Asset Management Cooperative), Koert van Mensvoort (Next Nature Network, Eindhoven University of Technology), Andrew Merrie (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University), Fredrik Moberg (Albaeco/ Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University), Anders Sandberg (University of Oxford), Peter Svensson (Evothings.com), Ann-Sofie Sydow (The Game Assembly), Robin Teigland (Stockholm School of Economics), and Fernanda Torre (Stockholm Resilience Centre). [post_title] => The Biosphere Code Manifesto [post_excerpt] => During the event The Biosphere Code, Stockholm University researcher Victor Galaz and colleagues outlined a manifesto for algorithms in the environment. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-biosphere-code-manifesto [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-10 13:31:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-10 11:31:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=57364 [menu_order] => 513 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 31 [max_num_pages] => 4 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => 1 [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => fe209934de10f72c9d4a902ab759c436 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed )[compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ))
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