Tag Archives: Technology

Freedom Club – Launched!

Freedom Club - KindleWell, my first Kindle novel Freedom Club has finally been launched as of early October. Many thanks to the entire staff of Hotspur Publishing. Everyone worked very hard to get this first release ready.

Also, notice the final cover design. Isn’t it great? I am thankful to everyone who voted on the two versions that were posted last month. Clearly, the one named simply, transistor man, was a clear favorite by a margin of 3 to 1.

In any event, I’m looking forward to feedback from all my readers. All comments are welcome. Well…at least the nice ones ūüôā

Freedom Club – Promo Video

Not on sale until October, but thought I would share this anyway. My publisher, Hotspur Publishing, made this cool promo video. Enjoy!

C.M. Kornbluth – The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary

¬†Many of you may not remember Cyril Kornbluth, an outstanding science fiction writer who sadly died in the late ’50s, but his impact on Science Fiction endures until today. With the publication of a new biography by Mark Rich, I think it is time for everyone to reacquaint themselves with the life of a great writer from SF’s golden age.

Rich has spent years gathering data, and the biography covers everything from Kornbluth’s early life and member of the Futurians, all the way through to his tragic death in 1958 from a heart attack. Rich’s attention to the books detail is impressive. Not only do we get a full index, but also more than 40 pages of chapter notes.

The biography talks about many of¬†Kornbluth’s literary accomplishments.¬†My favorite novel by Kornbluth is THE SPACE MERCHANTS, written in collaboration with Frederik Pohl. However Kornbluth’s life work covered an impressive array of ¬†techno, economic, and sociological issues, which even until today cause us to pause and question. As Rich puts it:

“…he expressed his commonality, moreover, by responding to the great events of the day: the concentration camp, the atomic bomb, the Red Scare, McCarthyism, the erasing of gender lines, the culpability of the intelligentsia, the tragedy of the Organization Man, and the brutalizing, numbing and dumbing-down effects of mass culture.”

I don’t know how you feel, but I don’t believe all the above issues have yet been resolved. More reason in my opinion to understand Kornbluth’s work, and the man himself.

So, if you love SF from the golden age, this biography is a must read. I highly recommend it.

The Libertarian SF Subgenre?

Is this a hot topic or what? I came across this topic recently. After which, I searched on Wikipedia and found a page that claims that Libertarian Science Fiction is a legitimate subgenre of Science Fiction.

How interesting.

I recall starting discussion on LinkedIn sometime back asking how many sub-genres exist in SF. A small war broke out with lots of opinions in every direction. Of course there is no official gatekeeper, but throughout the discussion I never saw any mention of Libertarian Science Fiction.

The Wiki article mentioned ¬†Robert A. Heinlein‘s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress¬† as¬†a good¬†example in support. Clearly, there are elements of truth¬†to this assessment. However, I would want to see¬†a very long¬†list of books¬† (with their author’s approval¬†)¬†that demonstrate this sub-genre is really out there. Otherwise, I would just chalk up SF as a genre that leans towards this philosophy because… well, it’s interesting.

Comments are welcome. But please! Let’s not have any war over this, it’s not worth it.

Why Good Old Fashion AI is Dead

Martin heidegger

The following paper is probably the best document which describes the death of “Good Old Fashion AI”.

Why Heideggerian AI Failed and how Fixing it would Require making it more Heideggerian

Okay, it might be a bit long for the casual blog readers. But Professor Dryfus makes a compelling case for the death of traditional AI, and why its future depends on Heideggerian philosophy. In reality, the AI community now seems to recognise that to crack the secret of consciousness, we must first understand how it manifests itself in living creatures. Only then can we begin to create artificial intelligence that represents that which we can only now imagine in Science Fiction.

It’s a fascinating topic.

Bug Jack Barron – Another Great New Wave SF

Bug Jack BarronHas anyone read Bug Jack Barron¬†lately? It was one of the great “New Wave” SF novels written in the late 60’s by Norman Spinrad. And in my opinion,¬†it ¬†has one of¬†the best opening chapters I’ve ever read. Perhaps it wasn’t trying to be funny,¬†but I ¬†nearly fell off my chair as I turned the pages.

Trying to peer into the near future (20 or 30 years from Spinrad’s¬†point of view), the book does an amazing job guessing how important the media would become by the end of the millenia. Digital democracy is¬†painfully envisioned, and reminds one¬†of almost any talk-show we see today.¬†¬†I would even venture to say that Jack Barron (the main character)¬†is comparable¬†to a modern-day¬†Jon Stewart. But if you don’t think so, pick some other TV personality. There are lots to choose

Now, this book might not be considered politically correct, as¬†it employs a lot of 60’s language now deemed offensive. But even so, I believe its message is¬†meaningful in today’s world. This is a great book. It deserves our attention, and one’s deep respect.

Stand On Zanzibar – They don’t make them like this anymore

Stand on ZanzibarI’m currently¬†reading Stand on Zanzibar¬†by John Brunner, and I’m quite impressed. In my opinion they don’t make Science Fiction like this anymore. Publishers would reject this kind of avant-garde writing straight out. Why? Well, if one were to follow all the pedantic¬†rules editors¬†blindly follow¬†these days, it breaks them all. And I mean all of them!

But that is exactly why I love this book. It’s true science fiction, and tries to portray¬†a world gone haywire with overpopulation. Of course no one is up in arms over such a topic these days, but one has to awed by Brunner’s attempt to challenge and edify the readers of his time.

Jacques Ellul – The Betrayal by Technology

Jacques Ellul was a 20th century French philosopher. He wrote several books,¬†and some were¬†about technological and its impact on society.¬† Perhaps the most important of these was “The Technological Society” (see¬† recommended reading list). Ted Kaczynski¬†(also known as “The Unabomber”) often quotes from Ellul, and even though this might be considered a poor choice of reference, I do believe it highlights the fact that¬†Ellul’s work has far-reaching implications and influence.

The following You Tube video is a short 6 part documentary produced by Jan van Boeckel.¬†“The Betrayal by Technology” is a fascinating view into the thoughts of Ellul made before some time before his death in 1994. It is all in French, but does have English subtitles.

Please watch the entire documentrary at this link and feel free to leave comments. I think Ellul makes so many interesting points, it is sure to stimulate discussion on many levels.

Note: The above quote comes from Kaczynski’s¬†book; Technological Slavery: The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski, A.k.a. “The Unabomber”

Technology’s Emotional Driver

Chimp using stick  Chimp Using Rock  Bonobo Eating 

I have often considered why man seems so hell-bent on changing his environment. Why humans invent many types of useful objects and techniques, all of which I deem to be technology.

Quite honestly, most philosophical books on this topic do not have an answer. In other words, the motivation behind man’s incredible creativeness is not explained. It remains simply, ¬†a mystery.

From my point of view, such a position is tragic. Humans are by their very nature, technological creatures.  In my opinion, the very thing that separates us from the natural world (although this too is a pont of argument) is our ability to envision an optimal state of existence, and then work towards that state by applying appropriate tools or techniques. We want to create and invent, and deep down within us there seems to be a motivational driver. But sadly, no one seems able to put their finger on it.

However, after listening to an interview¬†with¬†Jaak Panksepp¬†on the Brain Science Podcast, I was stuck with the possibility that man’s primary¬†motivation to create technology could be a specific emotion.¬†

In brief, Dr. Panksepp has for some time experimented on the emotion centers of animals, and has concluded there are seven primary emotions that can be found within the brains of most mammals. They are; Seeking, Fear, Rage, Lust, Care, Panic, and Play. I won’t discuss them all, but I am very interested in Dr. Panksepp’s ideas on the Seeking system.

According to Panksepp, the Seeking emotion is a primary driver which is within all mammals, and presumably humans. It motivates us to find solutions to imminent problems, the most fundamental of which would be forging for food. However, the Seek emotion is a general goal seeking system. His own words sum up its complex behavior;

…¬†the neuroscience evidence indicates that all mammalian brains do contain a general-purpose SEEKING system designed to actively engage the world, especially its life-sustaining resources. The active and automatized urge to energetically interact with the world and to help integrate associated information about environmental events, increases the future efficiency of behaviors through the emergence of cognitive maps, expectancies, and habit structures (Panksepp, 1986a, 1992a, 1998a).

After listening and reading up to the links above,¬†I would ask anyone to consider whether this very same Seek emotion could be responsible for technology’s creation. Is it so strange? After all, our will to discover and invent seems driven by something. I would hypothesize that Panksepp’s “Seek” is in fact¬†that force. And this would explain why technology is so general in nature. As I have argued in previous posts, technology is not just a simple tool or invention. It is more like a useful idea that helps us shape the world. Yes, technology can be instantiated into an object. However, the concrete form pails against the idea which created it. That is because, the idea within our heads can be passed down to others, and repeated when the desire to do so exerts itself.

However, even if Seek is the primary force behind our inventiveness, there are many more questions to ask. For instance, why is man so capable of going beyond the creative ability of animals? Is the technology we create ¬†intrinsically different from what we see in nature? For example, when beavers build dams, and birds build nests; is that an application of technology? It could very well be that the emotional centers of all our brains are driving this, but I tend to feel our cognitive scope is much higher, and allow man to enter the world of the “unnatural”.

But as interesting as all these questions are, let’s not tackle them all here in this one post. For now, the issue is whether or not the Seek emotion acts as our primary source of invention, or want to invent. I believe it is. And hopefully new experiments in neuroscience will gather enough evidence to make a more objective case.

If you want to have a more technical breakdown of Dr. Jaak Panksepp‘s ideas, I would suggest you also look at the following paper. It is more technical, but still a good read.

Technology Defined

I think this is needed. Without a definition of Technology/Technique, much of the book can not be fully understood so I offer the following as a starting point;
Wikipedia: Technology deals with human as well as other animal species’ usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species’ ability to control and adapt to its natural environment.

Webster: 1 a : the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area : engineering 2 <medical technology> b : a capability given by the practical application of knowledge <a car’s fuel-saving technology>
2 : a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge <new technologies for information storage>

Dictionary.com : the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science

www.democracynature.org/vol4/fotopoulos_technology.htm
From this viewpoint, following Frances Stewart,[38] we shall make the important distinction between the available technology and the actual technology in use. Thus, starting with a broad definition of technology as extending to all the ‚Äėskills, knowledge and procedures for making, using and doing useful things‚Äô, we may describe technology as a set of techniques, each technique being associated with a set of characteristics.

Technology is interpreted as an anthropological constant to construct an environment in which man can survive. Acting in the field of technology is to act rationally with a purpose, i.e., in the framework of a means-end relation, and it is employed for coping with ‚Äúexperiences‚ÄĚ (Widerfahrnisse) by means of using tools.

The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul

  • In the forward by Robert Merton: defines technique as, “any complex of standardized means for attaining a predetermined result” (p. vi).
  • Jacques Ellul himself defines technique as:¬† “the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency in every field of human activity” (p. xxv).
  • Theorist H. D. Lasswell’s definition of technique as, “the ensemble of practices by which one uses available resources to achieve certain valued ends” (p. 18).


My personal definition:
Technology in general can take many forms both concrete and abstract. However, it is born by the intentional actions of Sentient Beings (Human for the most part in this time frame) to change the environment in a way that is both unnatural (by definition) and  more efficient. Once created, technology can persist in either abstract form as an idea or methodology (generally referred to as techniques) or be instantiated as a physical object which may (or may not) require further utilization by a sentient being to have an affect upon the environment.