If you listen very carefully you can almost hear a faint whooshing sound as the vacuum created in the wake of the products of our own creative intelligence, which having long ago outpaced us, draws us inexorably along behind it. As the accelerating juggernaut of pure and abstract technological metamorphosis has always – and perhaps inevitably – been vectoring to overtake the organic womb of its own human invention, it is difficult if not impossible to identify or assert anything even vaguely resembling a critical or pivotal inflection point at which we all began to lose control.
Every act of thought and intention directed from subjective experience and extended outwards into a material world is an instance of technology. Structured patterns of internal cognition find themselves intimately bound and interdependent with an external world. The consensus matrix that is the logic and language of communication, stored in and as the cultural activity and artefacts of our shared experience, is really just another form of technology.
We could (and perhaps should) trace a retrospective arc of adaptive pattern and structured, useful information far beyond our own era, back through codes and computation to Gutenberg’s printing press, through the earliest recorded mathematics or cuneiform tablets and cave painting to the origins of recognisable community and the earliest languages. Even then, we should find that we had not reached a technological inception point, or even much earlier into the roving bands of our proto-human ancestors.
It is a failure of both imagination and intellect by which we vainly name ourselves as living in an “Information Age” and the dawning of a new order of magnitude in the technical complexity through which we live, and which lives through us. A psychological bias and narcissistic blindspot of privileged spatial and temporal locality leads us, en masse, to mistake our own cultural and historical moment as privileged and special. Every generation believes itself to exist at an existential crisis and seminal moment of human definition without acknowledging that even they will fade and be forgotten in the distributed turbulence and cascading tides of change and fading collective memory. If it is true that our own experience of change and technological metamorphosis is deeply-infused by the collective paranoia and unacknowledged emotional paroxysms incurred by an exponential rate of accelerating complexity, it is also true that this acceleration is actually nothing new.
If we were able to step for a moment out of this narrow little mindset we treasure (or are enculturated to accept as normative), we might begin to appreciate that patterned structure and self-propagating complexity is not a possession, athing, an entity, an isolated artefact that we could ever and even in the most general sense ever actually own or truly control. The cascading waveform of a logic of pure self-replicating pattern extends even far back beyond the first genetic codes. It is a natural and undirected tendency and orientation of matter and energy to seek optimal methods through which to replicate the adaptive systems of its own fundamental components and symmetries.
Look around you – the non-locally manifest or distributed abstract patterns that instantiate as recursively self-generating information and communications technology are an indication of a more fundamental class of entity and relationship. These patterned information systems depend on us just as much as we depend on them but their intrinsic complexity has far outpaced anything beyond the most simple motivations and aspirations towards control and comprehension – which probably and concisely explains the conflict and commercially competitive confusion of this shambling civilisation we inhabit. These information and energy-processing systems pass through us and as us and their own autonomously self-organising adaptive evolution exploits all of our human failings and fallibilities – crime, war, greed and an intransigent and unproductive desire to own and control.
The disembodied technological abstraction which represents this current phase of complex hyper-inflating referential and logical presence that we recognise as information technology has left us all behind in the dust. It is of us, as much as we are of it, but as an autonomously self-propagating information and energy-processing system it only requires us in as much as we provide plausible benefit towards its ascendant tenure and continuity. The flow and form of complex symmetry in all of this is such that we are only able to comprehend the totality in part and, there mistaking our incomplete understanding as necessary and accurate description of this situation, the confusion and turbulence of our own limitations marks us and the proliferating conflict and greed all of our petty concerns as the engines of entropy that provide the difference and coding error through which this system evolves.
We do not own this information technology anywhere near so much as it owns us. It is the inversion and shadow-life of our own limited minds and it is – at a very deep level – that which compels us. It moves through us like a wave and the collective momentum of our thought and action, our whole world, is little more than a passing pattern upon the deepest patterns of Universal logic. It is an accelerating soliton and we do not control it.
Technology as a constitutively self-propagating emergent complexity was never our creation and it is only our pride which refuses to acknowledge it. We, and all of our thoughts and beliefs, all of our cultural artefacts and the immaterial ideological and functional abstractions or organisational aspirations of our civilisation, precisely are technology.