Comment on Kevin Kelly’s “4 Arguments Against Technology”

April 26, 2009 at 2:33 am | In comments, ideas, innovation | 4 Comments

I just responded to Kevin Kelly‘s 4 Arguments Against Technology. He’s compiling a list, which he wants to flesh out – so that he can write better arguments in defense of technology. So far he has 1. Contrary to nature; 2. Contrary to humans; 3. Contrary to technology itself; 4. Contrary to God.

I added the following, which (in keeping with the “contrary” theme) could perhaps be dubbed “Contrary to staying the same”:

Another anti-technology argument I’ve sensed is that technology brings change, and therefore is destabilizing. Technology is opposed because, by facilitating change, it appears to destabilize important things like community, shared history, relationships.

“Facilitating change” is another aspect of innovation. We can’t live without it, but people love it and hate it simultaneously.

Why would people be uncomfortable about change? (My field is, loosely, urban ecologies, where the change-hating species NIMBY is well-represented, so I run into the anti-change way of thinking all the time…) I think change swings both ways: toward growth or toward decay. The problem is that we reach a certain age and think we can have stasis (no change). But stasis just masks decay (which is bad change). Of course stasis (masked decay) can look so much more comfy than growth (which takes work, but is good change). Growth or decay, life or death: stasis is not an option.

Biology, perhaps, is nature’s technology?

Technology is a constant reminder (because it facilitates change) of the two options (growth or decay), both of which are painful (although growth is better).

What do you think?


  1. I think that
    “Why would people be uncomfortable about change?” is a very profound question.

    How do you think this applies, for instance, to the issue of repressive regimes? I have always advocated for information technology because I believe it allows an openness (more information available than ever before, easier communication, etc.) and that with that comes a societal responsibility e.g. teaching kids to use the tools appropriately. But it seems to be a fact that increased information access probably does lead to destabilization of systems that have (perhaps) kept people “happy” (or at least gives them them security of knowing what to expect) for thousands of years.

    Of course it must also be argued that free speech should have its limits (e.g. things like inciting hatred, or shouting “fire” for fun in a crowd, and so on, should be disallowed) But where do we draw the line in all those shades of grey?

    I guess those who value freedom of ideas do have to accept a level of messiness and a knowledge that things will be constantly changing. But they expect NOT to live in fear because the system (in theory) is basically self-correcting (nobody has to watch a particular producer of media if the views aren’t acceptable, products can be boycotted, peaceful protest is accepted, etc.)

    In contrast, pure stability may have to involve the repression of ideas, and violence to ensure that destabilizing ideas are not put forward (again it’s shades of grey because the “free” western world would certainly take violent action, such as incarceration, against anyone involved in, for example, child pornography).

    But — your question leads to the question of whether/how two concepts (progress versus stability) so deeply different *can* coexist on this planet? and… How do we (those who want progress) ease the fear of the people who long for stasis?

    Comment by Elizabeth — April 26, 2009 #

  2. […]… […]

    Pingback by Contrary to staying the same « Elizabeth Tweets — April 26, 2009 #


    My own blog post related to Yule Heibel’s posting.

    Comment by Elizabeth — April 26, 2009 #

  4. Thanks for that wonderful response, Elizabeth. I left a comment on your blog,too. As I said there, it seems that questions about technology can’t be separated out from “normal” lived life. It’s the Pogo Syndrome (‘cept it’s not “the enemy”!)… 😉

    So glad to meet you, by the way, and I hope we’ll meet “for real” at a #victoriatweetup some time soon!

    Comment by Yule — April 26, 2009 #

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