Delve into almost any technological system, and you'll see the complex networks of ideas, people, money, laws, and technical realities that come together to produce what we call Twitter or the cellphone or in vitro fertilization or the gun. This book is an attempt to document our forays into these networks, looking for the important nodes. This is a first-person enterprise, but we couldn't do it alone.
So, I'd like to thank the wide variety of people who have shaped the way we think. These are some of the ideas that we've been trying to synthesize, although obviously not the only ones.
To Jezebel's Lindy West, we owe thanks for this remarkable distillation of the technological condition: "Humanity isn't static--you can't just be okay with all development up until the invention of the sarong, and then declare all post-sarong technology to be 'unnatural,'" she wrote this year. "Sure, cavemen didn't have shoes. Until they invented fucking shoes!"
To Evgeny Morozov, we owe gratitude for the enumeration of the dangers of technocentrism. "Should [we] banish the Internet--and technology--from our account of how the world works?" he asked in October 2011. "Of course not. Material artifacts--and especially the products of their interplay with humans, ideas, and other artifacts--are rarely given the thoughtful attention that they deserve. But the mere presence of such technological artifacts in a given setting does not make that setting reducible to purely technological explanations." As Morozov prodded us consider, if Twitter was used in a revolution, is that a Twitter revolution? If Twitter was used in your most recent relationship, is that a Twitter relationship? Technology may be the problem or the solution, but that shouldn't and can't be our assumption. In fact, one of the most valuable kinds of technology reporting we can do is to show the precise ways that technology did or did not play the roles casually assigned to it.
We are indebted to the historian David Edgerton for providing proof, in The Shock of the Old, that technologies are intricately layered and mashed together. High and low technology mix. Old and new technology mix. The German army had 1.2 million horses in February of 1945. Fax machines are still popular in Japan. The QWERTY keyboard appears on the newest tablet computer. We need simple HVAC technology to make the most-advanced silicon devices. William Gibson's famous quote about the future, "The future is already here--it's just not very evenly distributed," should be seen as the Gibson Corollary to the Faulkner Principle, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
To Stewart Brand and his buddies like J. Baldwin, we are thankful for cracking open outdated and industrial ways of thinking about technology, allowing themselves to imagine a "soft tech." They asked what it might mean to create technologies that were "alive, resilient, adaptive, maybe even loveable." They did not just say technology was bad, but tried to imagine how tech could be good. And in so doing, they opened up a narrow channel between technological and anti-technological excesses.