Communication, Technology, and the Planetary Creature
Man and technology are inseparable: man produces technology, but the latter contributes to the continuous transformation of man. Today biological evolution based on random genetic mutations is largely exceeded by cultural (more specifically, technological) evolution, which is much faster due to the presence of Lamarckian inheritance mechanisms (imitation, learning and the like). This has two important consequences: 1) the formation of Homo technologicus, a symbiotic creature where biology meets technology intimately and is subject to a continuous transformation; and 2) the formation of a sort of Planetary Creature that originates from the interconnection of the individual man-machine symbionts and is heralded by the Internet and by the communication activities occurring in the Internet, in particular those taking place in the so-called social networks.
The Planetary Creature is a single world-wide structure where important communication and cognitive processes occur, developing into a sort of connective intelligence that tends to absorb individual intelligences. This encroaching process can produce resistance and dissent as well as suffering, but can also enhance individual abilities. Actually, the growing efficiency and the decreasing costs of the communication mediated by technology offer unprecedented opportunities for augmenting knowledge and creativity and for eliciting novel forms of intellectual activity. On the other hand there might be negative consequences such as addiction to computers and virtuality, delegation of activities and abilities to machines, vulnerability of complex systems, undue control on individuals and economic exploitation. Some important consequences of these developments are examined concerning the body, the time and space categories, and in particular the identity concept.
This text is the keynote address of Guiseppe O. Longo at the 9th International Conference on Sociocybernetics, organised by the Research Committee 51 of the International Sociological Association (ISA) in Urbino, 29 June - 5 July 2009. The theme of the conference was: `Modernity 2.0 - Emerging Social Media Technologies and Their Impacts´. Longo presents here the perspective of engineering science towards sociological issues. He has published several books on that topic, so far in Italian language only. Though some of his statements in the text don't seem well-founded to sociological readers or may be deemed highly speculative, we decided to make his ideas accessible to the non- Italian world. We think they are worth discussing. Wolfgang Hofkirchner
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