Friday, June 20, 2008

Technological evolution?

I’m learning a lot in this course. Being forced to figure out computer programs and reference systems on my own helps to hard-wire the processes in my brain; surely some of these research skills will be valuable to my future academic and library career.

I just thought I’d start by saying that, since the mandate for this blog is to write about my “technological evolution.” I recently got to thinking about the juxtaposition of these two concepts, technology and evolution. What could it mean, 1), that technology is said to “evolve,” or 2), even if this is clear, that a student is to undergo a “technological evolution” as part of her instruction? In ancient Greek, “techne” meant something like an “art” or “craft,” while “logos” was the word, and came to mean a systematic study. However, the word “technology” wasn’t coined until the late 19th century. Does that mean that what we call “technology” itself didn’t exist until then, or was technological evolution occurring all along? If the latter is the case, what sorts of processes could be occurring right now that we don’t yet have words for?

Meanwhile, the phrase “evolution” glosses over what may actually be happening: there’s no clear analogy between “evolution” proper and anything that happens in technology, since the former points to a natural process whose goal is simply survival and reproduction, while the latter has no such analogy. Or does it? Can machines be seen to exist for their own ends? I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post the way it feels that machines are reshaping our brains. Might we see this as simply an extension of biological evolution? Are humans and machines involved in a sort of co-evolution, or is this something else entirely?

I’ll continue to think about such questions as I “evolve” over the course of this class.


Melissa Malan said...

Technological evolution, to me, involves some wild and wacky the entire concept of coding in general...strings of text and numbers strung together haphazardly (at least, thats how it all looks to me)that somehow equate when united together in a string to subsequently trigger some kind of a command or what have you to the receiving computer...

I have to wonder, then, when I just mash away at the keys on my keyboard, is the end result gibberish or is it maybe ever code?

In my case, it's usually the "code" for signaling I'm experiencing some kind of technological frustration, like any time my web browser freezes. This triggers a response in me involving the bashing of the computer keyboard keys...I'm pretty sure its an evolutionary response...i.e. the computer misbehaves, so I bash the keyboard.

That's not indicative of me pitching a fit, but instead demonstrates a co-evolutionary result of me interacting as human to machine. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it...the response developed naturally over time ;)

But still, mashing the keys when this happens hasn't magically caused any frozen browser to "unlock" or resume function just yet, but I'm confident I'll mash the right keys one day. :)

Elizabeth Livingston said...

Interesting thought! Even if there is a "right" combination to trigger some as-yet-undreamed-of machine progression, I'm sure it's all just 00101011000101010111100101 to me...