“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works”*…
Alan Jacobs has written seventy-nine theses on technology for disputation. A disputation is an old technology, a formal technique of debate and argument that took shape in medieval universities in Paris, Bologna, and Oxford in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In its most general form, a disputation consisted of a thesis, a counter-thesis, and a string of arguments, usually buttressed by citations of Aristotle, Augustine, or the Bible.
But disputations were not just formal arguments. They were public performances that trained university students in how to seek and argue for the truth. They made demands on students and masters alike. Truth was hard won; it was to be found in multiple, sometimes conflicting traditions; it required one to give and recognize arguments; and, perhaps above all, it demanded an epistemic humility, an acknowledgment that truth was something sought, not something produced.
It is, then, in this spirit that Jacobs offers, tongue firmly in cheek, his seventy-nine theses on technology and what it means to inhabit a world formed by it. They are pithy, witty, ponderous, and full of life…
[TotH to @]
C.f. also: “We Put A Chip In It!” (“It was just a dumb thing. Then we put a chip in it. Now it’s a smart thing.”)
* Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
As we celebrate Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday, we might add a candle for Conrad Hubert; he was also born on this date, in 1856. An inventor who first created electric novelties (like battery-powered lighted flower pots and scarf pins), he is best remembered for developing the tubular “Flash Light” (an extension of his work on battery-powered bicycle lights) in the late 1890s. In 1902, Hubert joined with W.H. Lawrence, who had manufactured the first consumer battery to power home telephones, to create the Ever Ready battery company.