Teknokritia


My way to understand technology: a poem in Finnish

Posted in Uncategorized Kirjoittanut Marketta Niemelä : 15.5.2012
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English is not my native language. I find it sometimes very hard to express myself in that. Even though English is the current language of technology, and technology is the very thing I want to write about, I find English troublesome.

I guess the reason is that I think technology is human.

When technology is engineering, the language is no problem. What the hack, you need no language at all. You can put technology in numbers, and they are the same everywhere and for every man. Say, what is green energy technology about? A windmill: 12V, 6m, 300 W, 11m/s, 108 W, 2m/s, 13 kg, 2v.

If taken a little bit further, technology is specifications. A windmill turbine consists of fan wheel, balanced center hub, compressor, tail arms, pivot, air hose, diffuser, tower. Axis: horizontal. Rotor diameter: 72 inches. Number of blades: 12.

What is the language of these windmills? (photo: Thomas Kohler/Wikimedia Commons)

Windmills are great. But as a skill of writing, making specs is no more challenging than writing the alphabet backwards.

This is not enough for me. I want to see the user involved. To me, technology is not technology without its human part, the user, or sometimes the builder, the designer, or just the one who benefits from the technology although does not use it directly.

I want to say it again: technology is not technology without the human part. Technology is technology only in the eye of a man, people, user. In a way, it is totally meaningless to write about technology without considering the human side of it.

And here start my difficulties in writing about technology in English.

All which is exact is so easy to write. I could be the one in John Searle’s Chinese room and read rule books and write just by the rules, with no exceptions, no personality, no language that can be appraised as extraordinary beautiful or ugly. No out-of-the-box, no story that touches the reader and makes him move.

This guy, John Searle, understands something about human and technology. (photo: M. Cuevas/Wikimedia Commons)

But humans are not exact whatsoever. The human part of technology is fully and inherently inexact, and thus can’t be put in numbers nor specifications. For instance, feelings and emotions, which are so deeply human – how to tell them precisely? What on earth is an accurate emotion?

Of course it have been tried. History of psychology science is full of attempts to measure and specify emotions. Current computer scientists push hard to develop software that could recognice and interpret human feelings and adjust the behaviour of the machine accordingly. Engineers build robots who smile to you, or look puzzled when not understanding your command.

But can a robot love? Can a computer understand, when you are in the mood? Can even you tell, what your friend is experiencing, when she takes the lowest option one after another in the Beck depression scale?

Psychologists know, that the truth of human is not in numbers nor in exact phrases. The truth is in the unverbal, in the words left unsaid, in between the lines. The truth is there and within reach but definitely not pointed out.

Therefore, I believe, when developing technology further and further, and trying to understand and apply it better, we start to see that numbers and specifications play less and less a role.

What comes in stead, are the tools that have been used in trying to understand human for centuries: fiction, literature, poetry. Technology becomes stories. In English, or, if you really want to understand the unsaid, in your mother language.

I’ll write a poem for technology, and then I’ll sing and dance.

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