I set out to find answers to some basic questions. Then I produced a book to describe what I found. Here it is.
From the back cover:
The illustrated 2016 edition of Fixing Broken Robots is now available. You can buy it today on MagCloud!!!
FIXING BROKEN ROBOTS is about the relationship between people and technology. There is a broad conversation about this subject happening in our society. This may not be readily apparent, because it is a conversation that mostly takes place below the surface of everyday life, spread out across many narrative ecologies.
SYSTEM looks at what is described as a shift into the postindustrial era that our society has recently entered. In response to new information that has become available, as well as to feedback generated by the initial circulation of this volume in 2011, SYSTEM has been updated and revised, and illustrations have been added.
TRANCEWAR PRIMER notes that most current thinking on moving towards a more socially equitable and environmentally responsible future is epistemologically unsound, and combines the implications of SYSTEM with ideas from diverse fields of study to look at how our relationship with technology might be adequately reconsidered.
Some things that are easy to describe are also challenging to convey. Some truths, when communicated from one person to another, begin to decompose. Some objects of consideration become invisible as moments are transformed into memories. Some subjects may only be approached indirectly.
As we begin, I ask you to consider this work an invitation to transgress customary boundaries of sense-making. The information presented here is somewhat unusual and construed in peculiar ways that may elude or offend inflexible thinking. It may challenge basic, everyday assumptions. There is no way around this, so I intend to have some fun with it.
Does it make sense to ask if we are for or against language? No? Then there is no need to ask if we approve or disapprove of technological development. Our preferences are unimportant. This assertion may offend the finely-tuned sensibilities of manufactured consumer identities. Should I should take a cue from market research, then, and get you all worked up rather than frowning at this sentence? Should I subvert your reason by tearing into the unconscious structures of your psyche, the way professionals do? Maybe I should, but I am not that clever.
Let us proceed with the obvious instead. There have always been people who believe that the events unfolding around them are of crucial importance, and claims that, perhaps, supernatural forces are at play, behind the scenes, shaping these events. Likewise, there have always been some who, convinced the world is going to hell, believe the virtues of humanity to be disappearing. This is known because sentiments along these lines have been recorded, again and again, for thousands of years.
With computing technologies, we may collect and sort mountains of such musings, selectively measuring these in relation to one another and alongside popular contemporary viewpoints. We may accomplish this task, a feat that has not been possible at any other time in history, and do so quite easily. Does this technological wherewithal signify an enlightened cosmopolitan sophistication that immunizes us against the myriad foolishnesses of our ancestors? Does the sheer volume of these foolishnesses evidence humanity's fundamentally unalterable state? I very much doubt it.
Our situation is more complicated. Emergent dimensions of this are masked to our vision, hidden in plain sight, with architecture rendered unintelligible to our minds by attentional habits installed in our psyches. To navigate this unseen world's unidentifiable topologies is beyond us. It is taboo even to notice the features of this landscape. So we flounder.
Have you ever been in the water, at the place where a river rushes down from the hills to meet an ocean? Try to imagine it. If this river were technological advancement, fat and growing more so from monsoon rains, riddled with the murky detritus common to any flood, and this ocean was our collective unconscious, with a tide that forever rises and falls with the cycle of the moon, then the currents produced would be those that presently toss us around. This is not a situation for which we are entirely prepared. Sadly or otherwise, we are not dolphins.
This is a book that:
-Concerns the place where technology and philosophy meet, with particular focus on epistemology.
-Includes lots of colorful drawings, diagrams, and various other neat things to look at.
-Uses humor extensively.
-Looks to systems theory for clues about how to make sense of the big, complex societal changes beginning to occur as a result of technological development.
-Considers changes in our economic, ecological, psychological, and social systems.
-Lays out a framework for making sense of these changes as a whole thing, in part by making out total information ecology explicit. Explores how information technologies might interact with our collective unconscious.
-Describes challenges embedded in our society's approach to technological development.
-Argues that it would be wise to meet these challenges as a unified society, and further that restoring trust and trustworthy-ness throughout our society would be a good way to move towards this.
-Suggests the importance of beginning to articulate 'right' ways of responding to systemic problems.
Already bought your copy of this book? Received a reviewer draft that you're trying to make sense of? Or just want to find out more about what this work contains?
Check out the supplemental material below:
(Updated regularly in response to reader feedback.)
Initial Reviews and Responses
Why such focus on Changing Images of Man?
Complete chapter notes