Nothing is more human than technology.
How To Become Human
Dr. Ashkan Fardost

Culture is closer to the core of humanity than technology. Culture enables technology, along with other distinctly human traits, by transmitting knowledge and practices across generations and creating systems of shared meanings.

Technology and culture have both co-evolved with the brain, but the fact that technology relies on culture for sharing and preserving inventions is evidence that culture is prior in the evolutionary chain. Culture had to come first.

Technology is an advanced cultural practice, integrated into the way culture evolves. Even our brains are biased to orient us toward tools in the environment, but the human brain is even more specialized for life in a cultural world.

There is evidence that radical cultural change precedes waves of innovation and not the other way around. For example, the internet and so much modern information technology grew up among the original culture of hackers, a radical cultural break from business giants like IBM. Look further back, and you notice that the Rational Enlightenment and secularism preceded the Industrial Age and the modern project of scientific progress.

Has social media disproved this pattern? No. Facebook grew up in a Millennial dorm room, mimicking the culture of interactions among his college cohort to create a platform that matched the mental models of a generation. In return, first adopters have their patterns of usage shaped by the influence of their real life cultural milieu. Later players must then adapt to the existing platform culture or fail to achieve relevance (for the most part).

Not everyone has the same culture, but everyone has a culture. With zero culture, i.e. no meaningful interactions with other humans, you cannot even learn a language. This so-called “feral child” syndrome is well-studied.

Man is not an animal without technology. According to Aristotle, it is culture (symbolized by the polis, or city-state) that makes man a special kind of animal.

If all technology were wiped off the face of the earth today, including the simplest of machines, we would have an incredibly hard time adjusting, many would die of starvation, exposure, etc. But we would not necessarily lose culture. It might regress into something much more primal, nomadic and tribalistic, but culture would remain and humanity would persevere as humanity.

Transhumans (cyborgs) will remain a part of humanity so long as they don’t go all separatist and reject human culture entirely. To finish the earlier Aristotle reference: man without culture is either a beast OR a god. These separatist cyborgs may eventually become something more god-like than human-like, using technology to trade their humanity and transcend culture. They would not be recognizably human, despite their technology. (In classic sci-fi, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion and Vernor Vinge’s Zones of Thought series both explore these themes beautifully.)

Our ultimate chances as a species might even be a bit better without technology, in one stroke disarming nukes and military complexes and reversing climate change, and all the other terrible externalities of technological progress.

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