as we know it: on the evolution of culture, technology and knowledge
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the categories

evolution is a knowledge process

the technologies in our environment and what they do to us

the necessity of hype in technological revolutions

when disbelief is voluntarily suspended

the nature of perception and deception

evolutionary patterns in history

accepting "dangerous ideas"

books to look into

...but had to blog it anyway

A Culture is What It Knows

This site is about the relationship between the technologies we use and what we know about ourselves and the world. A technology like the telephone, which expands our knowledge of what's going on around us, is itself a product of our know-how. As such, it embodies a strategy in our relationship to our environment.

Another example is the alphabet, which requires an enourmous expenditure of energy and resources, via the education system, for its widespread use. This is something the culture of literacy enforces because it assumes social benefits occur when everyone can read and write. But the effects of literacy are profound, though sometimes hardly perceivable, and constitute a "blind spot" in alphabetic cultures.

How we perceive and know the world is a matter of some importance. An animal must act on its perceptions in order to survive. Whether those perceptions accurately represent its environment is a matter for natural selection ("creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic but praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind"--Quine). An animal's perceptions are mediated through sight, hearing, touch, etc.

Information about human environments is similarly mediated by technologies like writing, television and computers. When we use these media, we accept their representations as unquestioningly as the animal accepts its perceptions. We also unquestioningly accept and promote the culture in which these media thrive. When a new medium is adopted, a culture's basic beliefs can come under scrutiny and a new culture may emerge with its own myths inaccessible to critical evaluation.

All of this is the ongoing process by which species and cultures evolve. Evolution is a knowledge process. Technologies, like species, embody assumptions about what the world is like. Konrad Lorenz said a horse's hoof knows something about the steppe. A species is what it knows. A culture is what it knows. What we know tells us a lot about who we are.

A Commonplace Book on the Web

The obvious genre of this site is weblog. But most weblogs are personal in nature and are not concerned with the problem of accumulating and storing knowledge and information. Perhaps a better analogy is the commonplace book. Not quite a diary but not a bibliography or index, either.

Aside from its genre, this site is also an exercise in knowledge management. All items are stored in rdf format to aid retrieval. The idea is to integrate the site with my everyday activities as a writer and researcher. Items stored here will likely be consulted for future work.

Contact me if you are interested in my work or would like to have a similar site for yourself.

Technologies I Use

A brief list so far. I'll flesh it out later.