Technology Isn't Magical

[I wrote a blog over at from 2011 till about 2014. I’m shutting that site down, and moving some of the content over here.]

Technology isn’t the problem.

Our ideas about technology are the problem. The stories we tell each other and ourselves about technology are the problem.

We started this whole Enlightenment project with the thought that we’d be able to conquer and subjugate nature, eliminate poverty, and transcend the crude labor of physicality through the wonders of science and technology. And, man, we made it to the moon. We’ve got robots on Mars. It’s almost easy to think that we’re succeeding, that the vision is possible.

But we’re not.

The vision is empty. It turns out that this narrative – this mythology – is based in false assumptions. It turns out that nature is way more complex than those Enlightenment era fellows thought. Nature isn’t a passive cornucopia, and when you mess it with it messes right back with a vengeance.

The ironic thing is that the narrative of the power of science has had a corrupting effect on understanding science and technology itself. People think that clean technology X will replace dirty technology Y and we’ll keep on our merry way, but they don’t understand the numbers behind X and Y. They don’t get that X and Y are not interchangeable.  We can do better, but we can’t do the same things we’ve been doing better. We need to do different things.

The Story of Science is blind to what the science is actually saying that we can’t keep doing what we’re doing, we’re running into hard limits, and our understanding of natural systems was wrong. In short, the science is saying that the way our civilization is fundamentally structured doesn’t work.

Understanding this is the first step. Everything else follows.