What does technology want? - The infinite game

Kevin Kelly delivered a talk at TED in Feb 2003 (Link) on the remarkable similarities between the evolution of biology and technology, ultimately declaring technology as the "7th kingdom of life." This post is a sort of transcript of the same talk.

Kelly starts with the definition of technology itself
1. "Syllabus for dealing with applied arts and science"
- Earliest citation in 1829.
2. "Technology is anything that is invented after you were born"
- Alan Kay.
3. "Technology is anything that doesn't quite work yet"
- Danny Hillis (Link).

He goes on to ask a more fundamental question about technology -"What does technology want? (Link). What are its inherent trends, biases, tendencies over times? What is the technologies' view of the world?"

To answer this question, he goes back to life. Taking Organisms as = Hackers of life. The Six kingdoms of Life being - Plants, Animals, Protists, Eubacteria, Fungi and Archae. Technology as he puts forth as is really the Seventh Kingdom.

To demonstrate the rationale behind this he goes on to list the properties of Life's evolution, which are
1. Ubiquity
2. Diversity
3. Specialization
4. Complexity
5. Socialization (co-evolution)

Drawing from the long term trends in technological evolution, (Machines making machines) they are exactly the same as in biological evolution. Thus he proclaims - Technology as the Seventh Kingdom of Life. Among instances of this similarity he cites that technologies rarely die, they are difficult to get rid of. Prohibitions against technology doesn't work. You can delay technology but cannot kill it. Culture is accumulation of ideas, similar to technology.

From this premise of what technology wants, Kelly goes on to define "The infinite game". He refers to it as the Evolution of evolvability. To explore the way of exploring. The Singularity which is the idea that technology is accelerating evolution, the way in which we search for ideas. If life is taken as hacking, evolution is to the process to extend the game by changing the rules of the game, and technology is really about is better ways to evolve. That is the definition of 'The infinite Game'.

He goes on to list its other properties and lists technology as a cosmic force. At Big Bang, only a quantum dot had existed where everything was same. The Big Bang, made the potential for difference. And as things expanded, it has created the potential for Differences, Diversity, Options, Choices, Opportunities, Possibilities and Freedoms.

He again parallels this with technology and what it brings to us - The expansion of room, to make differences. He argues the audience to imagine of a Mozart before piano was invented, Van Gogh being born before cheap oil paints, Hitchcock before film. He cites this as the reason for the moral obligation to invent more technologies so that every person has the potential to realise their true difference - To realise Trillion-Zillion species of one individuals.

In his summary he succintly rounds up his speech as follows -

"Technology is a way to evolve the evolution, to explore possibilities and opportunities and create more. Its actually a way of playing a game of playing all the games. That is what technology wants. Every persons has an assignment, and his assignment is to spend your life discovering what your assignment is. That is the infinite game. Technology is the medium in which we play this infinite game. Embrace technology as an essential part in finding out who we are."

An intriguing talk. Something that does not go down well in one shot. Do watch the talk yourself, its much better than reading this pseudo-transcript of the same (Link again).