Dmitry Orlov has developed a name for himself in studying ‘global catastrophic risk’.  I enjoyed his previous musings on the threats posed by economic collapse and the peak oil phenomenon, so I bought a copy of his latest work – Shrinking the Technosphere.  It is a nice read in which he makes and defends the argument that (A) the Technosphere exists and (B) that is programmed to control and ultimately eliminate the biosphere.  Transhumanists have been making this argument for a while.  But the transhumanists frame a dominant technosphere as something inevitable, beneficial and worth ushering forward.

Dmitry really adds to the body of literature on the subject – building on his predecessors in the field (Jacques Ellul amongst others).  But Dmitry goes much further out into the wild shores of the imagination.  Ultimately, the Technosphere by his reckoning, is bound to fail, taking modern comforts with it.  The problem is that we are now utterly dependent on those comforts.  The book is a practical one, but I want to share a couple of illuminating paragraphs from the fiction section – just to demonstrate his creativity and writing style…

(Page 32)… Shared under fair use Dmitry, hope you don’t mind.

“The next natural step, after the tablets and smart-phones is the wearable computer.  Apple Watch and Google Glass are but tiny steps in that direction; a few more technical advances are needed to make the technology really useful and cheap.  But when this happens we will find people wearing an integrated device that incorporates AR (augmented reality glasses) with accurate eye-tracking, headphones, a microphone, GPS, Bluetooth, wifi and running all of our favourite apps”.

I would argue we are already there…

“As a cost saving measure, it will become more efficient to eliminate real world signage in favour of just posting virtual signs online as part of our augmented reality.  Eventually this trend will spread to traffic signs, safety warnings and other required bits of public information.  After this point, the AR glasses will become mandatory for all adults and most children when they are in public place, although few will ever take them off during their waking hours, finding being without them troubling and disorientating”.

Dmitry goes on to take about direct neural implants, which are being developed now in research labs around the world.  These 2 paragraphs illustrate how we come to be dependent on technology and dependence leads to a reduction in autonomy and self-sufficiency.  Did you know our early pre-historic ancestors had tough, shredding claws where our finger-nails once where?  We developed tools to do the shredding and our claws atrophied away over millennia to their current state.  To be preened and painted for fashion J