Ursula K Le Guin on what is a technology.

6 Nov 2022

I saw this article by Ursula K Le Guin being linked to on my socials, and specifically this quote, which I felt resonated with later-life Michael:

Technology is the active human interface with the material world. But the word is consistently misused to mean only the enormously complex and specialised technologies of the past few decades, supported by massive exploitation both of natural and human resources. This is not an acceptable use of the word. “Technology” and “hi tech” are not synonymous, and a technology that isn’t “hi,” isn’t necessarily “low” in any meaningful sense.

Certainly younger me was quite blind to this, but now I revel in the fact that learning about a new way to make a neat hole in some wood using a hand tool is just as exciting as a new way to 3D print something is just as exciting as discovering silicon spatulas for the kitchen late in life is just as exciting as an M1 Mac.

I’ve been fortunate enough to find communities that share this joy, which then ends up perpetuating itself as everyone else brings along their bit about why that thing you’ve been taking for granted is super cool. It reminds me a lot of why I enjoyed my time being somewhat resident in a maker space and why I appreciate the people on The Prepared member slack: you end up with these chambers of niche detail amplification.

I like the note she adds later in the article:

One way to illustrate that most technologies are, in fact, pretty “hi,” is to ask yourself of any manmade object, Do I know how to make one?

It’s not that the communities I’m in know how to make everything, but I think it’s because we’re all curious about wanting to know the answer to that one, and sharing what we learn as we go along.