There is a constant debate that takes place, when looking at the subject of technology, between people that argue that technology is part of who we are and those that believe that technology is fundamentally unnatural and that it’s a tool that’s being used ultimately to destroy the world. I don’t fall into that camp. I echo Kevin Kelly’s ideas that stipulate that actually technology is the real skin of our species. Technology is the exterioration of our nervous system. Technology is our extended mind.
I phone, therefore I am.
But think about it. Technology is literally the way we turn our mind inside out, the cognitive philosophers, Andy Clark and David Chalmers describe it as a kind of scaffolding that extends our thoughts, our reach and our vision. We are a tool-making animal that has been in a symbiotic feedback loop with technology since the beginning of stone tools. I mean, think about it, once we created stone tools, our jaws shrank. Once we discovered that fire could cook our foods, making every meal more efficient, it freed up the cognitive real state necessary for the emergence of culture, religion and arts.
So, you might say that who we are is due to the feedback loops between us and our tools. To the degree that our tools become extended appendages that even though they are not within our biological skin tissue, they are nonetheless a part of our cognitive arsenal. They are a part of us the same way a nest is a part of a bird and a spider’s web is a part of the spider. It is our extended phenotype. It is who we are. It is our termite colony, it is temperature-controlled, it is the extension of our mindedness. This is technology; this is the technium, the seventh kingdom of life.