It’s pretty interesting what’s happening out there in the reality--or is it the Matrix--we humans and our technology are co-creating along with the rest of the planet, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe, and whatever else is out there. (Or is it in there?)
For some time it was mostly religious types, mystics, Buddhists, mushy-headed Californians and new-age types who might have subscribed to a universe that was more than a huge wind-up toy of disenchanted particles and fields that were up to nothing in particular except randomly interacting through infinitudes of space and time. Now, interestingly, it’s technology that is calling to some of our heavier thinkers to look upon the world with wonder and a sense of enchantment. Why, Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired magazine and author of What Technology Wants sees the technium, his term for all the things learned and invented by human beings, the sum total of technology including language, as the biggest window on the capital “M” mystery of existence.
We have Kelly offering, of all things, technology as a window on the divine, a window at least as big if not bigger than the Grand Canyon or a great cathedral. The technium, in particular the integrated global network of computers, is starting to noticeably take on a life of its own.
What we’re seeing are non-random flows of information where randomness previously prevailed.
The thing is organizing itself.
There are even flows of information that computer scientists cannot account for, information flows that seem to be arising from the system itself.
Whoa right there, buddy!
But we shouldn’t really be surprised. Of course, the universe is self-organizing, or else you and I, rather large and nifty self-sustaining organizations of sub-atomic particles wouldn’t be here right now with our mouths dropping open about the trippiness going on within this global integrated electronic brain we’ve co-created.
I use co-created rather than made, because Kelly’s point is that we, the human, are as much a product of the technium, as the technium is a product of us. The technium is our environment, the world in which we live, the niches to which we have adapted, the world in which we are co-evolving.
We’re all in this together. We are all one big on-going dance of creation, the human and the technological. That’s why Kelly sees the technium as a window on the divine: it’s just the universe continuing on its 13 billion year evolutionary journey to who knows where.
It’s not about you and me. It’s bigger than that. And that’s shocking for some, heresy to others. Just as Copernicus and Galileo displaced man from the center of the universe, today’s technological developments are displacing man as the end of evolution. Just as what came before us gave rise to us, we are now giving rise to what is coming next.
We and the world will never be the same again, but this is not new. This has been the on-going journey of man for the last 50,000 years. We radically transformed the world more than any other species on earth, and in the process we were transformed. And the transformation continues.
But not to fear. There’s something larger than any of us at work here, larger than any man-made machine or integrated network of machines. Whatever it is that is at work, it has been as work since the beginning of time, possibly before.
The Buddhists teach that consciousness is the basic building block of all that is. Consciousness is prior to matter. There have been books written about the universe itself being conscious. The philosopher Henri Bergson spoke of the élan vital, a vital energy that permeated the universe and drove evolution forwards.
Of course not everyone agrees with any of this. “Oh, hogwash,” they might say. “There’s nothing out there, just mindless particles and large enough expanses of time and space for all we see to have randomly evolved. So go to bed.”
But that’s not what Kelly sees out there. He sees reasons for hope, and even faith. At times he sounds downright spiritual about the whole thing. This is not the first time we’ve encountered this. For every atheist scientist, there is an intelligent believer in the Mystery, that’s capital “M” mystery, of the universe, a mystery that is only deepened by the scientists’ profound interactions with the universe.
It seems a bit of the same thing has happened to Mr Kelly. He got so close to technology, started looking into its global heart a bit too closely, and wonder of wonders, he saw Mystery staring back at him from the flows of information in the integrated network of computers that now spans the globe.
To Mr. Kelly, the technium is a calling forth to greatness, creativity, possibility, exploration, and ever-deepening freedom and humanity. Technology is not about displacing the human, but amplifying the energy that moves through and beyond the human. His vision is positive and hopeful.
He says, “As a practical matter I’ve learned to seek the minimum amount of technology for myself that will create the maximum amount of choices for myself and others.” This sounds moderate, but Kelly sees no end to the journey ahead.
“But by far humanity’s greatest, most immense journey is not the long trek from star dust to wakefulness but the immense journey we have in front of us. The arc of complexity and open-ended creation in the last four billion years is nothing compared to what lies ahead.”
This line is startling to me in its audacity, and though it’s hard for me to swallow, I think it’s true. The journey has just begun.
I can just see a bunch of us reaching for our bibles and prayer beads.
I’m reminded of the poem, “O God, your ocean is so immense, and my boat is so small.”
What the technium, the sum total of what technology and all of what we’ve made and been shaped by, wants is for you to go along for the journey, a journey that began long before us, and will continue long after we are as antiquated as a Model A automobile.
Now, take a deep breath. Get centered. And go live your life.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 805/680-5572.