based on Pyramid of Technology:

While some technologies are implemented immediately after being envisioned, others remain indefinitely stuck in this stage. Cold nuclear fusion, teleportation, time traveling, or human-powered wings have all been a feature of our collective imagination for some time, but due to their infeasibility, they have yet to rise to a higher level on the pyramid. Although many technologies never make it out of the envisioned stage, they are still valuable as reference points for our imaginative capacity and desire to augment our bodies and minds. More than any other, the envisioned level is a dream stage, the province of artists, poets, science fiction writers and other visionaries. Although more practically oriented people sometimes underestimate this stage, it is in fact the birth chamber of all technological innovation.

Although young children still need extensive time and effort to master reading and writing, it’s difficult to imagine modern life without it. Writing technology is so successful that we don’t even recognize it as a technology anymore. Money, clothing and agriculture are also technologies that have become invisible. While they were invented thousands of years ago, and had a noticeable impact on the lives of our ancestors, today we no longer recognize them as technology. Within the invisible stage technology moves from the conscious realm – where we recognize it as a tool that we deliberately use – into the realm of the unconscious, where it becomes an invisible partner in our existence.

Naturalized technologies have moved beyond being a vital tool or habit within our society: they are so integrated in our lives we consider them part of our human nature. Perhaps the best example of a technology that is entirely naturalized is cooking. Here, cooking doesn’t refer to specific baking technologies like the microwave, but to the basic principle of heating food. Today we think of cooking as a universal aspect of human nature, but some 200,000 years ago, when early humans first started cooking, it was an innovative new technique. Without cooking a modern human being would have to eat five kilos of raw food to get enough calories. By pre-digesting our food before it is eaten, cooking allowed us to absorb more calories from the food we ate, and to expend less energy in the process. According to the gut-brain swap hypothesis, which has been described by Aiello & Wheeler, the human digestive tract shrank while the brain grew, as successive generations of our hominid ancestors relied on cooking (Aiello & Wheeler, 1995). The work of cooking and tending a fire may have even given rise to pair bonding, marriage, the household, and even the division of labor (Wrangham, 2010). Cooking changed the course of human history. Second nature became first nature.

Since the origins of humanity we have employed technology. We are technological beings by nature (Gehlen, 1988; Plessner, 1975) and similar to the bees and the flowers that co-evolved in a symbiotic relationship – the bees spread the pollen from the flowers and help them propagate while gathering their nectar – humankind is intertwined in a co-evolutionary relationship with technology.

This brings an entirely new perspective on the relationship between people, nature and technology. While we traditionally see nature and technology as opposites, like black and white, we now learn that our technologies can be naturalized over time. Throughout human history we practiced technology to emancipate us from the forces of nature – this starts with building a roof above our heads to protect us from the rain, or wearing animal furs to survive in a colder climate – yet, as our technologies become successful they in turn constitute a new milieu, a new setting, that may eventually transform our human nature.

If we can put our minds to creating technologies that have the potential to one day mature and rise to the summit of the pyramid, this will give us a clear guideline on where we want technology to go. As these technologies mature and climb the pyramid, they will in turn transform us. Hence, we need to project the best of our humanity onto them. We will not immediately get it right. There will be pitfalls, but at least we will know where we are going. Luckily, we can already be sure of one thing: in the long run, any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from nature.

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