Humans have been expressing ourselves through technology since the dawn of humanity. It is no wonder then that technology so closely reflects the entire range of human character, emotions and behaviours: the good and the evil, kindness and malice, generosity and greed.
Birds building nests, elephants creating fans, fishes sharpening stones to open seashells – there are examples of innovations across every life form. This shows that technology is not something that was recently invented, or limited to the latest gadgets. Instead, it is a fundamental property of life.
Humanity Meets Technology
The earliest archaeological records show humans sharpening stones and woods, manipulating fire, and constructing proto-houses. That is why some scientists predict that the creation of complex instruments contributed to the evolution of the human brain and intelligence. Some go further to say that the self-organising laws of physics make the emergence of tech all but inevitable.
Humanity Drives Technology
The progress of technology has always been tightly interwoven with the advancement of civilisation. Our art forms, for instance, are to a large extent determined by the available tools, materials and techniques. In addition, it is no coincidence that some of the most famous artists in history were also cutting edge innovators who invented new approaches in architecture, medicine, agriculture, weaponry and other domains.
In fact, early hackers and tinkerers from Ancient Greece distinguished between the “hard” tech to deal with the physical infrastructure, and the “soft” tech to encompass areas such as law, culture and language. The direct progression between inventions such as language, writing, books, libraries and finally the internet is similarly observed in money and our monetary system, as well as law-making and legislation. Many researchers view these as codes expressed through tools available at specific time periods.
Humanity Decides Technology
Consider one of our most important inventions: wielding fire. Fire enables us to cook meals, warm up shelters, melt metal, launch a spaceship to the stars, etc. At the same time, it kills people by shooting bullets from guns, creating explosions or burning down buildings. But perhaps, no piece of technology reflects its very nature quite as well as the mirror – and it is us who decide what expression we will see when we look into it.
What kind of technology will we create in the years ahead? This is for us to decide. As in the past, future innovations will be a reflection of our aspirations, ambitions, our beliefs – and ourselves. How do we see ourselves? Who do we want to become? The trajectory of technology follows our lead, whichever the direction we choose.
First published in the IT Society Magazine from the Singapore Computer Society