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Archive for July 12th, 2009

Tools, Behavior, Culture

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Colleague Annie Shum sent me her thoughts on the e-discussion that evolved around The Tool is the Method and Four Priciples, Four Cultures, One Mirror. As always, her thoughts connect a lot of dots. Here is Annie:

“Change versus shifts.  For me, I like to focus today’s discussion on the latter and let me just define a shift as large scale changes; notably transformative cultural changes.  Historically, cultural shifts are not top-down engineered by master planners; instead self-organizing emergence is the process by which all shifts happen on this planet. Similar to an ant colony where each ant works individually without pre-planned central orchestrations, our individual actions on a local level can collectively impact the emergence process. Positive as well as negative Feedback Loops are the fuel of the emergence process. Emergence can result in shifts that can both benefit (e.g. WWW, Information Age) as well as harm our society (e.g. wars, riots).

In thinking about tools in the context of impacting large scale cultural changes, one can’t help but immediately think about the computer/digital computing.  By all definitions, a computer is a tool – in fact, I would venture to characterize a computer as a “universal tool” that can, in theory, perform almost any task.  Moreover, I can’t think of any other tool that can surpass the computer and digital computing as the most disruptive transformation agents of our society and cultural shifts in the 21st Century.  According to James Moor, the computer revolution is occurring in two stages.  We are now at the cusp of the 2nd stage – “one that the industrialized world has only recently entered — is that of “technological permeation” in which technology gets integrated into everyday human activities and into social institutions, fundamentally  changing and transforming society at its very core.”  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-computer

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Written by israelgat

July 12, 2009 at 9:47 am