Friday, March 23, 2007


So I've been reading Douglas Hofstadter's new book, I am a Strange Loop (which I, of course, highly recommend), and its been exciting my brain a lot, so I figured I would try to get a little snippet out of my system here (it came to me last night as I was reading in a distracting enough manner that I actually had to stop reading for a little while until it calmed down a bit) if, as nothing else, an example of an idea that came out of the aether of my brain not in direct relation to anything that was written in the book, but just 'cause what was written their made my brain so excited:

I wonder whether or not its necessary, or important, or whatever, to make a distinction between processes of science and processes of technology. I feel like its something I've encountered before in readings/listenings/watchings, but I can't actually think of anyhting specific where someone argues on behalf of such a semantic split, nor can I convincingly argue that there is any pop-cultural notion of a difference between science and technology.

But, so far as I can tell, science is the process where by technology uses its own methods to analyze itself. Such that, while technology has been advancing since, like, forever, science is a relatively new pursuit (and one that has been not always active in the West (or any other culture, for that matter)).

So, to keep this post relatively short, let me just posit that the origin of science is in the recursive application of technology to its self, which eventually generated enough momentum that science evolved beyond being a mere metatechnology to being a genuine medium of its own (paralell (but not isomorphic with), perhaps, culturally, to the Enlightenment concept of art pour l'art), which now stands as a process by which humans can come to an understanding of much more than their own technological processes.

I suppose my main motivation in even thinking such things has to do with an intense desire that more people see non-Religious worldviews as being as complicatedly beautiful as I do, or something. I dunno. Maybe its just something I thought of last night that seemed compelling at the time, but is just another phenomenological fiction or something. Whatever.


Anonymous Dad said...

A few random comments. I see science & technology much in the same way as I see arts & crafts. Lots of overlaps, but some distinctions at the far ends of the continuum.

What I like about science is it's self-correcting feature, along with (experimental) methods for gaining knowledge that can get pretty close to identifying cause & effect.

I've been particularly delighting in the lucid writing of the people I've been reading recently-- Dawkins, Hofstadter, Dennett & Pinker. They work so hard at being clear--and by being clear, being open to objection & correction.

The lack of clarity in other endeavors has become particularly noticeable as I watch Mom read through 75-word single-sentence paragraphs. The author's entire focus seems to be to raise his own sense of self-importance. And I can't believe there will be much left after those words are sifted through a few years of the sieve of time.

On a related point, English professors seem to do a horrible job at selecting psych experiments as the conceptual underpinning of text design. Today's case was Mom's 90 minute investment in plowing through a study of comprehensibility that had a glaring rival hypothesis that, at least until replicated with more rigorous experimental technique, should stop anyone from actually applying the hypothesis.

3/24/2007 3:09 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

I guess its that self-correcting that see as what makes science, at least in some ways (or perhaps on in a germinal way) as a meta-function. Technology is just mindlessly moving forward, and science came along as technology reached a critical mass that wherein it was enriched enough to make statements (both theoretically and functionally) about itself. In the same way, "art" can be seen as only arising at a later date out of "crafts."

3/24/2007 5:39 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

That's a neat persective. Thanks for the high-concept food for thought: good to have on weekends.

I think the difference is that science is inquisitively driven ("What is the nature of matter?") and technology is purposefully driven ("I want a robot to do my vacuuming.") I think this does put them in parallel with arts & crafts.

I think this definition creates a different perspective on the recursiveness bit you talk about. Inquisitiveness has always been around; it's been enabled greatly by technology, but I don't think it sprang from technology developing into a self-referential process.

Similarly, actually, I don't think that art's self-referentiality is what separates it from crafts: self-referentiality is enabled by art's inquisitiveness, which again I'm taking to be the basic difference between arts & crafts.

3/24/2007 6:10 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

And good anagram, by the way.

3/24/2007 6:12 PM  

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