Stories and technology

2020-04-30

We use words to communicate and inevitable words results in stories. Stories make technology useful and only with stories, technology has meaning. It’s the stories we tell that make technology possible.

To know how something works, in the end, means to know its purpose. And this purpose is a story. In the end, exaggerated while still true, all things, also abstractions must be understood as stories.

This is at least how, though simplified and freely interpreted, the german philosopher Martin Heidegger would have it. I like this idea, not everyone does. But it is an idea of Heidegger (although we can always predate things in the history of ideas) who had a major impact on a variety of thinkers in subjects such as sociology and anthropology but also linguistics.

A related idea is that technology act as an enhancement of our cognitive and physical abilities. It makes us more able. In this view of Heidegger, it is when we fail, we get the tools to advance, when we realize we would be better off with a hat on the nail when hammering on it, so to speak.

Innovation comes from failure, or rather… from failing and in some sense — however unrelated — make something good come from it.

One example of how story-telling relates to technology is the aeolipile of by Heron of Alexandria, constructed about a century AD.