(This is second in a series of posts entitled, “Geese From Bottles”. The introductory post provides some context , though probably not enough.)
We love tools. Business loves them, government loves them, people love them. They are the progeny of our uniqueness as humans. Tools—technology—have always been a fulcrum in cultural evolution, but the enlightenment paradigm is almost completely conscribed by the concept of the tool.
Tools are the encapsulation of knowledge into a repeatable application. They are so simply useful that their seduction is the sense that they reflect the truth. Indeed, there are those who argue that everything—everything—is reducible to a simple mechanical system.
We humans may be simple mechanical systems ourselves, but one thing is clear, whatever we are, we don’t operate in a manner that is consistent with the nature of those systems/tools which we have created in the last 300 years. We’ve always been the damned thing. We aren’t the rational actor of economic theory. We require mountains of resources be spent in order to make complex machines usable for us. We engage in all kinds of irrational behavior like eating fatty foods, smoking, drinking, watching Oprah, etc. We are unpredictable as individuals and often as groups. In short, we appear to be anything other than simple mechanical systems.
The last hundred years, and especially the last fifty, have seen us taking notice of the disparity between our behavior and the behavior and requirements of our tools. Indeed the word tool itself has taken on a colloquial meaning as, “One who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used.” Tools lack volition. The enlightenment fails to animate that which it illuminates. We revile the notion that we are machines.
Our tools have begun to chafe. They’ve been doing so for some time now.
And this is the bottle in which we geese find ourselves.