Technology is Nature
Technology is an essential and natural part of human evolution. That may seem like a controversial statement so allow me to expand. Technology, broadly defined, is a tool or application of knowledge to serve a practical purpose. Some might recoil at the thought of technology being a part of nature or a tool of evolution, but I contend technology is nature.
The use of technology is a pattern well established in the natural world. For example, when a spider spins a web she is using the natural elements of her environment and body to produce a piece a technology to serve the practical purpose of catching her food. The web functions as a net, a common technology also used by humans to capture food.
When a beaver family works together to build a dam from timber, rocks, moss, and mud, they are using the elements of their environment to create rudimentary technologies and architectural structures. Beaver dams filter billions of tons of water every year and function as a highly sophisticate water filtration system. Beavers have been acting as technologists by gnawing through forests for over 20 million years.
The caddisfly is capable of constructing their own portable casing that acts as protective layer as they look for food. As resourceful architects they can use building materials from almost anything found in their environment in conjunction with the silk secreted from salivary glands in the mouth. This protective casing could be thought of a armor or a portable fort to protect itself from predators.
Even more impressive are cathedral termite mounds that are temperature controlled! Water condensation collects and cools the interior and some termites even maintain underground fungi gardens that feed the bustling metropolis that is the termite colony. The list goes on and on: bees, wasps, red ovenbirds, montezuma oropendola, weavers, and ants. These animals are natural born technologist creating tools to serve a specific and practical purpose.
Humans, too, are a part of the animal world using the elements of the environment to create tools, technologies, and dwellings to further the survival, perpetuation, and desires of our species. When the first prehuman picked up a stick to hit a piece of fruit out of a tree, that prehuman became a primitive technologist using the stick for a specific, practical purpose. Humans have been doing it even since. When prehumans started using sharp stones for hunting and building they were acting as primitive technologists. Sure, metals proved to be more versatile and useful materials which is why we don’t use stone tools anymore, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t engaging in similar behaviors. Moving from the stone age, to the bronze age, to the industrial age, to the technological age is more a reflection of our improved technologies rather than technology emerging as a new phenomenon.
Today we are expanding our abilities with even more complex and sophisticated technologies with advance forms or architecture, agriculture, and medicine. We have septic systems that prevent disease and death. We have vaccinations and surgical procedures that enhance health and mobility. We have computers and smart phones. The internet alone has transformed the landscape of human communication in unprecedented ways. But just like our prehuman ancestors, our technologies are the natural extension of human desires created from the materials of our environment, similar to spiders, beavers, caddisflies, and termites.
There’s no need to make a necessary moral distinction between what is technology and what is nature, when technology is nature. Humans are nature interacting with nature. It appears if we are anything like the many other species on the planet, transcending our boundaries and limitations with our technology is among the most natural things we do.