What technology does

Nick Bilton writes beautifully on technology, capping off his New York Times career.

We think of technology in this time as, basically, information technology. This is something Peter Theil writes about in Zero to One, about our narrower sense of what constitutes technological advance.

But technology isn’t just information technology. It’s practically anything we make. Stone tools were technology in their day, and only really primitive in relation to the present—which didn’t exist.

The things that we make to communicate, to remember, to love—the technologies of the present—are shaping us in deeply personal ways. Certainly more personal ways than the stone tools of our ancestors.

In this sense, I celebrate with Nick Bilton the technologies that allow us to perpetuate more of what we experience. In doing so, we create little breadcrumbs for our future selves to remember and encounter again, like little breadcrumbs.

Every technology, at the same time, is a threat to our personhood in the ways it either enhances or diminishes our ability to be who we are.

In this sense, when we debate “technology” as such I think we’re really trying to cleverly debate what sort of people we find ourselves being when we use it.

As with everything in life, the challenge is in learning to listen to the better angels of our nature.