Like It Or Not, We Are Moving Into A Hybrid Age In Which All Living Things — Plants, Animals And Humans — Will Be Synthetically Recalibrated

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
By Paul Martin

Technology Will Take on a Life of Its Own


IN THE THIRD WAVE, the Tofflers foresaw that advanced societies would no longer be content to see humankind as the pinnacle of evolution. Instead, they wrote, we are moving into a brave new world where knowledge will become an inexhaustible commodity and transform not just our economies but more deeply our sense of who we are — and “not just for a generation, but forever,” as they put it.

A generation later, it is time to revive the Tofflers’ methodology as we try to understand an incipient future in which technology has insinuated itself into every sphere and nook of human activity — from the manipulation and replication of DNA to space exploration — and in which humans continuously seek ways to speed up their biological evolution to match the breakneck pace of technological evolution. The only way to do that is to incrementally integrate with technology, launching an era of change and innovation that we call the Hybrid Age. If the first wave was agrarian and tribal, the second industrial and national, and the third informational and transnational, then the Hybrid Age is what the Tofflers might call the “Fourth Wave.” In this new era, human evolution has become human-technology co-evolution: We’re becoming part of the machine, and it is becoming part of us.

There is no adequate word in English to capture this complex entanglement of humans and technology. The German word Technik comes closest: It means not just technology, but the mastery of the methods and processes that shape and steer it. In today’s emerging world, Technik can be something of a broad index of preparedness for the future Hybrid Age. It rejoins the scientific and mechanical dimensions of technology with a necessary concern for its effect on humans and society. So while today we talk about promoting democracy, tomorrow we will realize we should be promoting good Technik.

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