Kevin Kelly’s book Out of Control was very influential in my early research. His new essay takes things to an entirely new and somewhat uncomfortable intellectual level. Selected excerpts below…
THE TECHNIUM AND THE 7TH KINGDOM OF LIFE
A Talk with Kevin Kelly
What is the meaning of technology in our lives? What place does technology have in the universe? What place does it have in the human condition? And what place should it play in my own personal life? Technology as a whole system, or what I call the technium, seems to be a dominant force in the culture. Indeed at times it seems to be the only force — the only lasting force — in culture. If that’s so, then what can we expect from this force, what governs it? Sadly we don’t even have a good theory about technology.
The prospect of genetic forking is probably the most divisive issue I could imagine for our species and would engender conflicts at a scale that will make some of today’s inherently irresolvable issues — abortion, cloning, etc. — pale by comparison. There will be people who would not only declare that they want to remain untouched (the “Naturals”) but would insist that no one has the right to remake themselves or their unnamed descendents.
Others will clearly side with humans remodeling themselves and the species in any direction possible. It’s not so far away, either. The unanswerable questions are already beginning. Is a sprinter with two prosthetic carbon-fiber springs instead of legs, disabled or enhanced? If he wants to compete in the Olympics, are his springs a crutch, or a jet pack? What is a human anyway?
Hollywood and science fiction authors are the new theologians. They’ve been asking these essential existential questions way ahead of the rest of society. The rising popularity of maverick authors like Philip K Dick will move him (and others of his ilk) into the core mainstream, as the themes he explored become the central questions of the coming century.
What is the difference between fake and reality? Who are we? Are we many or one? Where do we begin and our minds end? These are old themes, but with new answers and alternative story lines, and it’s not just the artists that are asking these questions.
We are reaching down deep into the culture so that everybody has to ask these very big questions. It’s no longer the job of philosophers, nor avante guard artists — but ordinary citizens. With each new headline in USA Today, everyone is being asked, What is a human? A vernacular theology, in a certain sense, is one of unanticipated aspects of this technological culture.