|Whole Earth Catalog||R. Buckminster Fuller||Nanotechnology|
|The Future of the Future||cell content||cell content|
|Applied Whole Earth Catalog - Hopefully this class will result in the formulation of a new community. An interpretation and application of the Whole Earth Catalog, Bucky Fuller, Domebook 2, and other tools as they relate to comprehensive education, technology, cities, poverty, ecology, economics, and individual growth. Premises of the course include: 1) there is enough for everybody, 2) education is by doing, 3) we the people do have power if we realize the power.|
The cover was a photo of the whole earth taken from space, against a black background. An image with an implication directly related to the concept of the catalog itself. The purpose and function, as stated in the front of the catalog, kicked everything into overdrive.
An item is listed in the CATALOG if it is deemed:
1) Useful as a tool,
2) Relevant to independent education,
3) High quality or low cost,
4) Not already common knowledge,
5) Easily available by mail.
This information is continually revised according to the experience and suggestions of CATALOG users and staff."
The catalog was divided into seven sections defined as follows:
Understanding Whole Systems
Shelter and Land Use
Industry and Craft
Most of the items listed in the Catalog were books. The typical format for the review of a book was a one or two short paragraphs of actual review, a few representative paragraphs taken from the book, usually a picture of the book cover, a few illustrations from the book and access information, i.e. publisher, address and price. This was all achieved with an appealing graphics layout and with a remarkable talent for communicating the essence of the reviewed product and where it fit in the scheme of things.
The Whole Earth Catalog was the concept of Stewart Brand, inspired by the insights of Buckminster Fuller, and was edited and published by Stewart and some of his friends. There were numerous issues of the Catalog and at one point The Last Whole Earth Catalog, which as it turned out was not the last of the Catalog. There was a Whole Earth Epilog, The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog and then in 1998 a 30TH Anniversary Celebration Whole Earth Catalog which included a reprint of the original Catalog. Along the way there have been two quarterly publications that carried on the same mission as the Catalog. First there was The CoEvolution Quarterly and more recently The Whole Earth Magazine (A free issue is available at their Web site.). Also along the way there have been numerous special Catalog projects and publications related in one way or another to the main focus of the Catalog.
R. Buckminster Fuller
R. Buckminster Fuller may be the world's best known futurist. The Buckminster Fuller Institute is probably the best source of information about 'Bucky' and his legacy. Their Web site is fantastic and it just keeps getting better. They describe their vision as follows:
|The Big Picture
Civilization is engaged in a rapidly accelerating design revolution. A sufficient level of technological know-how has been achieved within the last 25 years to bring humanity to a critical threshold. Humanity now has the historically un-precedented option to produce a high standard of living for all people on an ecologically sustainable basis.
Our arrival at this threshold is truly momentous, yet remains largely obscured and on the outer-most fringe of public dialogue. Given humanity’s already enormous impact on the Earth’s natural systems and resources, compounded by an expected 50% increase in population within the next 50 years, well-informed debate concerning this unparalleled opportunity for comprehensive planetary success must take its place on center stage.
BFI believes that the success of the human experiment on-board Spaceship Earth depends greatly upon individuals having access to tools which empower them to see the big picture and take strategic action. The decisive challenge is to generate a critical mass of awareness, matched by cohesive effort, focused on implementing our option for success before it expires.
In his 1969 Book Utopia or Oblivion, Bucky made the case that there is enough for everybody, that the alternatives today are abundance for all or survival for none. Repeatedly he made the case that humanity has the option for success. Anticipatory design science is the means by which we can obtain success for all humanity.
Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth may be the best introduction to Bucky's thought, Synergetics may be his most complex book. Everything I Know is a 42 hour Bucky video online with accompaning text.
Bucky often said that his designs were modeled on the way that nature builds things. At about the time of Bucky's death a new form of carbon was discovered that so resembled his geodesic structures that it was named buckminsterfullerene. These molecules (sometimes called buckyballs) have many unique characteristics and represent one of the most active areas of materials research.
Nanotechnology is molecular manufacturing or, more simply, building things one atom or molecule at a time. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter (3 - 4 atoms wide). Though nanotechnolgy is a technology of the future, nanotech products have already entered the market. In late 1994 or early 1995 I did a Web search for "nanotechnolgy" and found a total of three links, today I did a similar search, with Google, and there were "about 431,000" links. This is of course as much a reflection of the growth of the Internet as of the growth of nanotechnology.
The first book I read on the subject of nanotechnology was Unbounding the Future by K. Eric Drexler and Chris Peterson. This book convinced me that nanotechnology would play a huge part in our future. Drexler's earlier work, Engines of Creation is a classic in the field. His Nanosystems: molecular machinery, manufacturing, and computation is a more technical work on the technology.
Sometimes science fiction gives us an imaginitive view of what the future might be like. There is good representation of nanotechnolgy in science fiction. Sometimes reading about the future of nanotechnology reads like science fiction. For me there is a fine line between cutting edge science and science fiction.
In the foreword to Unbounding the Future Stewart Brand writes:
"Nanotechnology. The science is good, the engineering is feasible, the paths of approach are many, the consequences are revolutionary-times-revolutionary, and the schedule is: in our lifetimes.
No one knows but what. That's why a book like this is crucial before molecular engineering and the routine transformation of matter arrives. The technology will arrive piecemeal and prominently but the consequences will arrive at a larger scale and often invisibly.
Perspective from within a bursting revolution is always a problem because the long view is obscured by compelling immediacies and the sudden traffic of people new to the subject, some seizing opportunity, some viewing with alarm. Both optimists and pessimists about new technologies are notorious for their tunnel vision.
The temptation always is to focus on a single point of departure or a single feared or desired goal. Sample point of departure: What if we can make anything out of diamond? Sample feared/desired goal: What if molecular-scale medicine lets people live for centuries?
We're not accustomed to asking, What would a world be like where many such things are occurring? Nor do we ask, What should such a world be like?
The first word that comes to mind is careful. The second is carnival. Nanotechnology breakthroughs are likely to be self-accelerating and self-proliferating, much as information technology advances have been for the past several decades (and will continue to be, especially as nanotech kicks in). We could get a seething texture of constant innovation and surprise, with desired results and unexpected side-effects colliding in all directions. "
An authors" note:
"Many of the following chapters combine factual descriptions with future scenarios based on those facts. Facts and possibilities by themselves can be dry and disconnected from human affairs; scenarios are widely used by business strategists to link facts and possibilities into coherent, vital pictures. We adopt them for this purpose. Where they speak of technologies, they represent our understanding of what is possible."
"Antibiotics, aircraft, satellites, nuclear weapons, television, mass production, computers, a global petroleum economy–all the familiar revolutions of twentieth-century technology, with their growing consequences for human life and the Earth itself, have emerged within living memory. These revolutions have been enormous, yet the next few decades promise far more. The new prospects aren't as familiar, and can't be: they haven't happened yet. Our aim in this book, though, is to see what we can see, to try to understand not the events of the unknown and unknowable future but distinct, knowable possibilities that will shape what the future can become.
Twentieth-century technology is headed for the junk heap, or perhaps the recycling bins. It has changed life; its replacement will change life again, but differently. This book attempts to trace at least a few of the important consequences of the coming revolution in molecular nanotechnology, including consequences for the environment, medicine, warfare, industry, society, and life on Earth. We'll paint a picture of the technology itself–its parts, processes, and abilities–but the technology will be a detail in a larger whole.
A short summary of what molecular nanotechnology will mean is thorough and inexpensive control of the structure of matter. Pollution, physical disease, and material poverty all stem from poor control of the structure of matter. Strip mines, clear-cutting, refineries, paper mills, and oil wells are some of the crude, twentieth-century technologies that will be replaced. Dental drills and toxic chemotherapies are others.
As always, there is both promise of benefit and danger of abuse. As has become routine, the United States is slipping behind by not looking ahead. As never before, foresight is both vital and possible."
A Sketch of Technologies
"Molecular nanotechnology: Thorough, inexpensive control of the structure of matter based on molecule-by-molecule control of products and byproducts; the products and processes of molecular manufacturing.
Technology-as-we-know-it is a product of industry, of manufacturing and chemical engineering. Industry-as-we-know-it takes things from nature ore from mountains, trees from forests and coerces them into forms that someone considers useful. Trees become lumber, then houses. Mountains become rubble, then molten iron, then steel, then cars. Sand becomes a purified gas, then silicon, then chips. And so it goes. Each process is crude, based on cutting, stirring, baking, spraying, etching, grinding, and the like.
Trees, though, are not crude: To make wood and leaves, they neither cut, grind, stir, bake, spray, etch, nor grind. Instead, they gather solar energy using molecular electronic devices, the photosynthetic reaction centers of chloroplasts. They use that energy to drive molecular machines—active devices with moving parts of precise, molecular structure which process carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and molecular building blocks. They use other molecular machines to join these molecular building blocks to form roots, trunks, branches, twigs, solar collectors, and more molecular machinery. Every tree makes leaves, and each leaf is more sophisticated than a spacecraft, more finely patterned than the latest chip from Silicon Valley. They do all this without noise, heat, toxic fumes, or human labor, and they consume pollutants as they go. Viewed this way, trees are high technology. Chips and rockets aren't.
Trees give a hint of what molecular nanotechnology will be like, but nanotechnology won't be biotechnology because it won't rely on altering life. Biotechnology is a further stage in the domestication of living things. Like selective breeding, it reshapes the genetic heritage of a species to produce varieties more useful to people. Unlike selective breeding, it inserts new genes. Like biotechnology or ordinary trees molecular nanotechnology will use molecular machinery, but unlike biotechnology, it will not rely on genetic meddling. It will be not an extension of biotechnology, but an alternative or a replacement.
Molecular nanotechnology could have been conceived and analyzed though not built based on scientific knowledge available forty years ago. Even today, as development accelerates, understanding grows slowly because molecular nanotechnology merges fields that have been strangers: the molecular sciences, working at the threshold of the quantum realm, and mechanical engineering, still mired in the grease and crudity of conventional technology. Nanotechnology will be a technology of new molecular machines, of gears and shafts and bearings that move and work with parts shaped in accord with the wave equations at the foundations of natural law. Mechanical engineers don't design molecules. Molecular scientists seldom design machines. Yet a new field will grow—is growing today in the gap between. That field will replace both chemistry as we know it and mechanical engineering as we know it. And what is manufacturing today, or modern technology itself, but a patchwork of crude chemistry and crude machines?"
A few scenarios from various chapters:
"Scenario: Solar Energy
In Fairbanks, Alaska, Linda Hoover yawns and flips a switch on a dark winter morning. The light comes on, powered by stored solar electricity. The Alaska oil pipeline shut down years ago, and tanker traffic is gone for good.
Nanotechnology can make solar cells efficient, as cheap as newspaper, and as tough as asphalt–tough enough to use for resurfacing roads, collecting energy without displacing any more grass and trees. Together with efficient, inexpensive storage cells, this will yield low-cost power (but no, not "too cheap to meter"). "
"Scenario: Cleansing the Air
In Earth's atmosphere, the twentieth-century rise in carbon-dioxide levels has halted and reversed. Fossil fuels are obsolete, so pollution rates have lessened. Efficient agriculture has freed fertile land for reforestation, so growing trees are cleansing the atmosphere. Surplus solar power from the world's repaved roads is being used to break down excess carbon dioxide at a rate of 5 billion tons per year. Climates are returning to normal, the seas are receding to their historical shores, and ecosystems are beginning the slow process of recovery. In another twenty years, the atmosphere will be back to the pre-industrial composition it had in the year 1800. "
"Scenario: Smart Paint
Surfaces surround us, and human-made surfaces—walls, roofs, and pavement—cover huge areas that matter to people. How can smart materials make a difference here?
The revolution in technology has come and gone, and you want to repaint your walls. Breathing toxic solvents and polluting water by washing brushes have passed into history, because paint has been replaced with smarter stuff. The mid-twentieth century had seen considerable progress in paints, especially the development of liquids that weren't quite liquid—they would spread with a brush, but didn't (stupidly) run and drip under their own weight. This was an improvement, but the new material, "paperpaint," is even more cooperative.
Paperpaint comes in a box with a special trowel and pen. The paperpaint itself is a dry block that feels a lot like a block of wood. Following the instructions, you use the pen to draw a line around the edge of the area you want to paint, putting an X in the middle to show where you want the paint to go on; the line is made of nontoxic disappearing ink, so you can slop it around without staining anything. Using the trowel, you slice off a hunk of paperpaint—which is easy, because it parts like soft butter to the trowel, even though it behaves like a solid to everything else. Very high IQ stuff, that.
Next, you press the hunk against the X and start smoothing it out with the trowel. Each stroke spreads a wide swath of paperpaint, much wider than the trowel, but always staying within the inked line. A few swipes spreads it precisely to the edges, whereupon it smooths out into a uniform layer. Why doesn't it just spread itself? Experience showed that customers didn't mind the effort of making a few swipes and preferred the added control.
The paperpaint consists of a huge number of nanomachines with little wheels for rolling over one another and little sticky pads for clinging to surfaces. Each has a simple, stupid computer on board. Each can signal its neighbors. The whole mass of them clings together like an ordinary solid, but they can slip and slide in a controlled way when signaled. When you smooth the trowel over them, this contact tells them to get moving and spread out. When they hit the line, this tells them to stop. If they don't hit a line, they go a few handbreadths, then stop anyway until you trowel them again. When they encounter a line on all sides, word gets around, and they jostle around to form a smooth, uniform layer. Any that get scraped off are just so much loose dust, but they stick together quite well.
This paint-stuff doesn't get anything wet, doesn't stain, and clings to surfaces just tightly enough to keep it from peeling off accidentally. If some experimentally minded child starts digging with a stick, makes a tear, and peels some off, it can be smoothed back again and will rejoin as good as new. The child may eat a piece, but careful regulation and testing has ensured that this is no worse than eating plain paper, and safer than eating a colorful Sunday newspaper page.
Many refinements are possible. Swipes and pats of the trowel could make areas thicken or thin, or bridge small holes (no more Spackling!). With sufficiently smart paperpaint, and some way to indicate what it should do, you can have your choice of textures. Any good design will be washable, and a better design would shed dirt automatically using microscopic brushes.
Removal, of course, is easy: either you rip and peel (no scraping needed), or find that trowel, set the dial on the handle to "strip," and poke the surface a few times. Either way, you end up with a lump ready to pitch into the recycling bin and the same old wall you started with, bared to sight again."
The Foresight Institute may be the best nanotechnology site on the Web. It features information for the general reader and the technical reader. Their Nanodot News and Discussion of Coming Technologies is a good place to get the latest nanotech news.
NASA - The Right Stuff for Super Spaceships
"Imagine, for example, a substance with 100 times the strength of steel, yet only 1/6 the weight; materials that instantly heal themselves when punctured; surfaces that can "feel" the forces pressing on them; wires and electronics as tiny as molecules; structural materials that also generate and store electricity; and liquids that can instantly switch to solid and back again at will. All of these materials exist today ... and more are on the way."
The Ultimate Tool?
Perhaps the most speculated-about, and the most important "enablers" of a world of nanotechnology manufacturing, is the "nano-assembler" -- a tiny nanobot whose purpose is to use the atomic detritus around it to build the actual nano-machines that will eventually do our bidding. Some envision a nano-project as beginning with a single nano-assembler that is "programmed" with what it's supposed to build. It sizes up the problem and scavenges atomic raw material in its vicinity to build another nano-assembler. The second nano-assembler joins in this task, as does every subsequently-built nano-assembler, dramatically increasing the pace until an optimally-sized fleet of nano-assemblers is ready. At that time they quit replicating themselves and begin the actual construction project.
This idea of, nano-assemblers, may seem like good science fiction. But reader Kenneth LaCross brings our attention to an interesting timeline in a July 15 "Nanotechnology Now" article titled "Ten-Year Assembler Timeline and Weather Forecast" . Chris Phoenix makes the case that nano-assemblers (or as he calls them, an "industrial revolution in a box") aren't an "if" question, but only a "when" question determined by research dollars and (hence) by political will, which might well come to fruition in ten to fifteen years!
"The future of the past is in the future
The future of the present is in the past
The future of the future is in the present"
In 1969 John McHale wrote The Future of the Future: Where the New Technology Is Taking Us and What We Can Do About It. Though this book is now over thirty years old it is remarkable how relevant McHale's observations are for today. Clearly there is much of today's world that he did not anticipate, however, he did anticipate many of the major trends, many of which were in their early stages at that time.
What I like about this book is that it gives us an approach to thinking about the future. What follows is a number samples from the text:
"Section I The Sense of the Future
The future is an integral aspect of the human condition. Man survives, uniquely, by his capacity to act in the present on the basis of past experience considered in terms of future consequences. By assuming a future, man makes his present endurable and his past meaningful. Pasts, presents, and their alternative futures interweave in the anticipation and prediction of his future actions.
Culturally, however, the idea of the future, in the sense that we now employ it, is relatively new in human experience. Most previous societies operated with quite different models-of the past present, and future of man, of society, and of the universe.
Thinking about the future remains, therefore, an idealistic and value-bound enterprise. It assumes a unique character, however, in a period in which the material means become available for the first time, on a scale that measures up to the idealism. The conscious degree of material control which man may now exercise in determining his individual future, and collectively that of human society, is quite unprecedented in all historical experience.
The material control of future possibilities comes largely through the development of science and technology which have been traditionally value-free agencies. But the present range and scale of our actions and their consequences require increasing value commitments to specifically preferred and possible futures in human terms.
The more knowledge and power, and the larger the scale of material actions, the greater the number of alternative paths and the longer the range of possible consequences.
It is the modern hubris. . . . What stands in our favor is that knowledge is cumulative. And, within the open community of science, it is self-corrective.
The future of the future is therefore what we determine it to be, both individually and collectively. It is directly related to how we conceive of its possibilities, potentials, and implications. Our mental blueprints are its basic action programs-whether immediate or not depends on the individual and his society.
We have the means to provide almost any, and as many, kinds of futures as man may desire, but our collective futures tend to be oriented toward those models and scenarios that receive public attention and support. Much professional futures research is already overbalanced toward the technological, the economic, and the politico-military. Moreover, its alternatives are tied to the traditional premises and priorities that reside in our respective national ideologies and local value systems.
While science and technology must be allocated a prime role in the changing of past and present, the more crucial aspects of the future are now more clearly non-technological, in the traditional sense. The "hardware" to solve many of our physical problems is available for use. The "software" or social thinking, through which we may apply our developed capacities in humanely desirable terms, is less than adequate.
At the daily level of experience we may note this in increased awareness in more popular acceptance of a "one world" view. Even where this lacks positive action and is most often qualified in "their world" and "our world" terms, it marks a shift toward recognition of the planetary interdependence of the human community and the sustaining system of natural forces within which it exists. Such awareness is due, in no small measure, to the swift and myriad diffusion of images and message in the global communications network. The significance of local events of any consequence for the larger community is rapidly felt and reacted to around the world.
Our major problems evidenced in present disparities between the developed and lesser developed regions of the world (food, shelter, health, and education) may be more clearly and operationally defined in terms of ecological imbalance. The urgency of their solution therby broadens, from its present evaluative level of appeals to the humanitarian concern of the more fortunate minority, to the common self-preservation of all.
We need to face up to a world that has been made into one interdependent community, less by political or ideological ideas than by scientific and technological facts.
Ours is possibly one of the most critical periods in human experience. Poised in the transition between one kind of world and another, we are literally on the hinge of a great transformation in the whole human condition.
Important, but comparatively neglected, areas of futures thinking are: (1) the psychosymbolic aspects of the future-the ways in which viable images of future life styles and social forms are provisioned in the arts and communications media; (2) the study of future scientific and social implications as a fertile common ground for the various academic disciplines; (3) the communication of the sense of the future, and its participative forming and controlling, to the wider public.
Section II The Future of the Past
Individual and social events occur in time. What we have discussed as the sense of the future is intimately liked with the sense of time in its individual subjective dimensions, in the social time conventions and periodicities of specific and cultures, and with what may be loosely termed the historical time sense.
In all these dimensions, past, present, and future have no actual fixed time locus. The future is compounded of past and present. The past is constantly re-created in the future. Past, present, and future commingle in any conscious instant.
For various social purposes (scientific, historical, or religious) we assume various modes in which events are connected in time. In our present Western mode, time is unilinear in that the past comes before the present and the future follows upon the present. So pervasive is this mode that it is difficult for us to imagine a practical way of relating events other than in such a sequence. "Time's arrow," in Eddington's phrase, pints toward the future and history follows the course of the arrow.
But memory continually reshapes our biographic past in the same manner that our selective perception and means of communication screen the present and future.
Expectation, intention, anticipation, premonition, and presentiment-all these have a forward reference in time.
We tend to rearrange and reselect events and impressions of the past, and this realignment to a new point of view in the present alters our past and future. Any deep emotional experience, such as religious conversion, causes us to see our past selves in a new light and carries with it an implied change in the present and future; thus psychoanalysis, as secular redemption, significantly re-creates the "persona' by reordering and reinterpreting its past experience.
Entering into both individual and social time is the element of myth. Mircea Eliade suggests: "The myth relates a sacred history that is a primordial event that took place at the beginning of time." It is before and out of time in the ordinary sense.
Any serious study of the future implies an equally rigorous hindsight operation on the past. Rather than approach this in terms of traditional historical moes, we need to refview the past as a vast collection of incompletely recorded social and cultural experiments conducted under many different degrees of local controls and environmental determinants. The records of that past are our experimental data for charting the future.
Given a more pragmatic and secular approach to our sacred pasts, we may find that the laws of history are inexorable only when and where we deem them to be so. As laws, they belong more in the realm of self-fulfilling prophecies; their inferences return circularly upon the premises from which they were inferred.
One might even say that this reevaluation of the past is of greater priority than the elaboration of more futures. This is particularly true in relation to evidence in the sociopolitical theories, which constitute the latent assumptions and take-off points for all social futures. From such theories, we derive our images of man, his institutions, and the possible forms of his societies. Yet, patently, many of these theoretical assumptions were formulated in the preindustrial phase or under the transitional stress to the industrial period.
The obstacle and limitations to the fullest use of our resources and knowledge are now nonmaterial. They reside mainly in the obsolete economic, fiscal, and political structures that are the quasi-sacred legacies of our recent past.
The central issue within "the future of the past" is the need to reexamine the kinds of a priori assumptions and conceptual models with which we operate in the present, and upon which we are endeavoring to preview the future.
To invent the future, we need, in certain senses, to reinventory the past. … to disentangle ourselves and our societies from those linearly deterministic theories of history that have come, almost, to replace history itself.
Section III The Future of the Present
The symbolic transition into the realities of the twentieth century world occurred at the end of World War Two, with the use of the atomic bomb in 1945. The transition was to a world that has been changed not only physically by the war itself, but more profoundly and psychically by Auschwitz and a Hiroshima. In this world, the ideas and ideals of the recent past-of reason, progress, and the future perfectibility of man and his society-seem oddly tenuous, they have lost their ebullience and inevitably.
Donne's poetic metaphor, "No man is an island entire of itself, " is now writ large on the surface of the planet.
Questions regarding the human condition need no longer be phrased in terms of what we can do, but in terms of what we choose to do. The choices carry more alternatives and more positive and negative implications than ever before.
To remind ourselves that the future of the resent is in the past is an oblique way of emphasizing the need for a more comprehensive understanding of past change and past-change agencies as a guidance to present and future change.
Entropy is also used, in terms of information, as a measure of uncertainty or disorder of knowledge. But to the extent that information increases order and predictability in the system and reverses the tendency toward running down it is antientropic. The bioevolutionary direction is toward increased complexity of order; information increases and accumulates.
The balance between man's entopic (disordering) propensities and his antientroic (ordering) propensities is, this sense, a central point of our present discussions. We can only surmise, in terms of our brief historical record, that this balance is already tipped, through evolutionary development, toward the antientropic processes as more favorable to the survival of the species.
The personality system of the individual may be viewed as motivated toward action by his needs and desires, in terms of various goals, commitments, and socialized patterns of behavior. Different needs, desires, situations and purposes elicit different roles or learned patters of symbolic responses. The individual person, however, is always more than the sum of his various roles and responses!
We may note here, in conclusion, that the psychosocial extension of man throughout the biosphere has been characterized as adding a "noosphere" layer. This idea of organized human thought now covering the globe as a functional part of the overall ecological system is, to an extent, physically demonstrable in our present global communications networks, and in the enormously accelerated growth of human knowledge with its parallel increase in the numbers of messages, meetings, journals, etc., ceaselessly circulating around the earth.
It is not the origins of technology that concerns us here, but rather the fact that the system of artifacts which this now connotes, has developed in an organic evolutionary manner.
We do not yet fully understand or accept the organic evolutionary quality of technological growth. The idea is, in itself, somewhat alien to our comprehension.
To speak of the organic nature of technology as we have done is not simply to pose some technological determinism as accounting for all human development and change. One could as easily suggest poetry as the determinant, and with as much validity. Rather, the purpose is to reemphasize the integral nature of human activities, whether labeled technological, religious, economic, cultural, or whatever.
Given the nature of the organism and its enclosing environ, and some notion of the history of its development within that environ, we may observe certain periodicities and orders of growth. So far, our understanding of the larger patterns of the human ecological transformations has been limited by our tendency to compartmentalize our knowledge in the process. The periodicities and orders on one discipline are usually separated from and unrelated to those of another. The great dangers in our phase of development may well lie in extremes of academic specialization, which turn men into technically expert instruments, rather than in making the technologies themselves the instruments of man.
The most recently and spectacular area of technological evolution has been that of cybernetics, a word significantly and symbolically derived from the Greek for "steersman." It is noteworthy that this development, as with many other so-called breakthroughs, originated in the fusion and generalization of a number of separate specialties rather than in one are of academic discipline.
Although defined as the mechanization of sensory thought and other psychphysical processes, cybernetics is actually an extension of the control principles of the human nervous system into electromechanical devices.
Section IV The Future of the Future
In this section McHale writes mostly about things to come in the future, space exploration, telemetry, ocean technology, undersea living, utilization of the earth's recourses, various energy sources, the development of new materials, and the future of ecology. Much of what he discusses has already come to pass. I have chosen a more recent vision of the future for this course.
Section V Prophets of the Future
In this section McHale devotes about twenty pages to the futurists, science fiction writers and visionaries who have over the years contributed to our sense of the future.
Section VI Toward a Planetary Society
To address ourselves to the question of a planetary society is no wishful utopian fantasy but a sober recognition of everyday facts. Though we are presently split up into an agglomeration of separate principalities, their larger claims to autonomy and sovereignty are now more apparent than real.
This kind of statement may seem quite unrealistic when we are still enmeshed in a series of interminable wars and international tensions. But these conflicts, however bloody and reprehensible, have an air of stalemate and confusion, which they did not have before. They may be the tail-end convulsions of an old and obsolete system, which seem to be at their fiercest as they become increasingly irrelevant and inimical to the main directions of the world community. While these directions will probably never eradicate the possibility of armed conflict, they already attempt to limit its scale and wider repercussions.
As for the larger communication and understanding implied in a shared planetary culture, it is more than obvious today that we must understand and cooperate on a truly global scale, or we perish."
|Home||Psychological Framework||Peace and Justice|
|Evolution of Consciousness||Spirituality||Implementation|