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Thursday, 31 July 2008 08:59

A WORKBOOK AND ONLINE COMMUNITY
for Co-CREATING OUR SUSTAINABILITY ETHIC

Section VI - The Curve of Hope
Chapter 6 - Technology

 

A newly developed mystique of our plundering industrial society is committed to moving out of the Cenozoic, not by entry into the Ecozoic, but by shaping an even more controlled order of things that might be designated as the Technozoic era.... Only a comprehensive commitment to the Ecozoic can effectively counter the mystical commitment of our present commercial-industrial establishments to the Technozoic.

The Universe Story
Berry and Swimme, pp. 249-50

Technology can't be an end in itself but must aim at solving long-term social and ecological problems.

Richard Rogers
Pompidou Center Architect
Paris, France

 


How might technology be effectively used to address sustainability improvements?

On my first day with IBM in April of 1965, I was in a programming class and the instructor told us that half of everything we learned would be obsolete in 18 to 24 months. I was now riding the technology curve that I validated for myself over the next few years with IBM. We were halving the cost and doubling the speed of computing every 18 - 24 months, thus obsolescing technology at the same rate. With each new generation of computers came the obsolescence of system software, many applications and the knowledge base of developers and technical support people. These smaller, faster, cheaper computers were dramatically changing our ways of communication, entertainment, education, working, career choices, scientific discoveries, and on and on. We remain on the exponential technology curve. TheOO_VI-6_2009-02-27 speed and processing capability of the laptop that I'm typing on right now was unfathomable in 1965. Projections were made based on the technology curve, but I know of no one with the imagination to match the cumulative creativity of the millions whose individual creativity has been supported by their computers.

From a sustainability point of view, technology has been primarily our bane as we've found more efficient and effective ways to tear up the Earth, extract its resources, pollute our air, water and soil, and destroy the supporting, healing capacity of the Earth. We also are much more effective at killing each other. Technological innovation has largely been used for power and economic gain. The first quote above warns of moving the wrong way out of the Cenozoic Era, as there are very strong economic, political, social forces that are wed, perhaps addicted, to technology. The second quote offers a paradox. We must rely on technology to achieve the Ecozoic Era while being very careful how technology is utilized. In contrast to the examples above where technology is being 'misused', there are examples everywhere of caring people using technology - in medicine, engineering, distribution, the arts, to name a few - for the betterment of society, both socially and ecologically.

What seemed impossible to me in 1965 now seems absolutely reasonable: we can double or efforts and halve the costs of what initially appear to be very expensive ideas every 18 - 24 months. If we structure properly to turn the creative juices of our innovators and technologists loose, we can do things like fly planes that cleanse the air, restore natural habitats, educate much more effectively, and create what Swimme and Berry call the ‘Ecozoic Period' in their book, The Universe Story.

 

 

Reflection

We all have ideas for innovative new technologies. Some have been well thought out and grounded in capability that we know exists, others may seem like pipe dreams now but are worth pursuing.

What technical innovation would you like to see?
What suggestions do you have for achieving it?
What positive, and possibly negative, impacts do you think it would have?

 

Rev. 2009-02-27 MOM




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