SECTOR 7:00 Technology & Design
Technology & Design
For those embedded in a scientific materialist worldview also known as the achievist paradigm, it is probably technology and design that is often looked to for solutions to challenging problems like creating a sustainable relationship between humans and planet. For that matter, modern societies look to technology and design to solve other problems such as medical issues, energy shortages, water supply problems, challenges with food distribution and so forth. This is not unexpected because scientific progress resulting in more sophisticated technology has solved many human challenges, such as wastewater management resulting in dramatic reductions in cholera epidemics, or other medical advances eliminating health concerns like smallpox, polio etc.
A broader perspective reveals stark limitations in trusting in scientific and technical solutions as if they were religions. In fact the scientific method specifically holds a given solution as a temporary hypothesis waiting to be replaced by a more complete model of understanding.
In consideration of sustainable culture, it becomes evident that an ever more holistic perspective is important as we look toward meaningful advances toward an authentically sustainable relationship with our planet. Too often a technical solution is twisted because it usually comes with a market-driven delivery mechanism, which ignores what should be the primary goal in lieu of bringing profits to shareholders. Moreover the scientific materialist worldview that may have produced th 'solution' is so limited in its scope, that it is incapable of fully comprehending, forget about addressing the complex web of interrelationships required to produce true long-term solutions. Too often a technical answer results in short-term benefits while producing dramatic negative impacts over the long-term.
Through the course of human history it has been the case that a brilliant individual has been able to have profound impact on human society through producing a quantum level advancement in technology. Gutenberg Leonardo da Vinci Thomas Edison, Tesla Albert Einstein are a few that come to mind. In more recent times it may be a group of people led by one brilliant man or woman who produced such a change, think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. nevertheless it is the case that with regard to technology and design and sustainable culture there is a held value, especially in the cheapest paradigm, that one individual may produce a revolutionary change, the new idea, the miraculous solution. It may be a little bit different than this, it might be more like a bunch of individuals often acting largely independently, who together create a wave of change, like the movement toward alternative energy, which how has engaged nations and corporations in Solar technologies, but in the beginning it was a movement of individuals and small companies who bought and delivered individual household scale solutions.
Conversely as we enter an era dominated by powerful multinational corporations which can manipulate government, lobby for changes in laws, and generally force their will down the throats of common people, it would seem that the lone individual is less and less likely to counter these intense forces which may be the most likely and most powerful when it comes to ruining our world, hurting people an entire population at a time, and generally running amok.
However in this time we have the Internet, when it seems possible that a clever person can somehow create a tool with sufficient leverage, but somehow the ties can be effected if not turned. One person wielding these modern tools can inspire many — witness the genesis of the Egyptian revolution in 2011.
The family group is poised to be a vital consumer of Sustainable Culture technologies, because so many important purchasing decisions are made by this unit of human society. The family chooses how to generate the income which they will then choose how to spend. In a sense, on the consumer side the family or group is the single unit scale for consumption of technology that supports creation of a Culture of Sustainability.
Families choose whether or not to buy organic food, and of what quantity. In the US a family can choose to have wind power supplement coal or gas fired turbines, simply by making a choice with their utility company. A family chooses which cars to drive and how far to drive them. The family selects a house for various criteria, sometimes passive solar design or resource efficiency are part of the equation, a factor that can be driven through to greater importance government policy, be it taxation, land use, or another mechanism.
Village scale sustainable culture technologies can address general concerns like wastewater treatment, larger scale energy production systems, shared resources like the cell phone operated by one lady in an African village who provides local farmers access to information about market prices, and can help them decide if it is worthwhile to operate a vehicle and drive to a neighboring village market. The implications for sharing resources at village scale are tremendous, and seem particularly likely to maximize their efficiency with the affiliative worldview and beyond.
There are traditional villages, intentionally planned villages and villages of community-scale identification. Traditional villages and villages that are well-established have the opportunity to alter their basic design plan, albeit with some difficulty, but nevertheless can select to modify or improve traffic flow / roads or other infrastructure as needed. Interestingly, the American suburban experiment is generally failing to provide village scale community; people have to drive in their cars to get basic amenities like milk or eggs, and children find their play-space cut by highways. The modern designed village largely isolates families from each other and fails to allow the basic supports the traditional villages enable. A bright point are those groups who are choosing to redesign the suburban plan and create, through intentional design, Sustainable Culture village life. The 'New Urbanism' movement is working in this direction, but even more directly on target are peramaculture oriented groups, co-housing associations and other intentional community projects. There are also villages of affiliation which may be separated from the land, but which may be enabled by technology, such as the Internet.
When social structures are organized on a regional scale a tremendous opportunity is unleashed for technology and design to help reduce human impact on the environment and for human quality of life to be improved. For instance it is possible for regional governments to establish municipal energy distribution co-ops which favor renewable sources of power. These large-scale human affiliations can establish mass transit systems, support small-scale organic agriculture and local products markets, efficiently process wastewater and address other disposal needs while maximizing efficiencies of resource flows through recycling and composting projects. If they are truly insightful, they can support business-to-business waste to resource cycles, thereby generally closing the gaps of inefficiency in larger scale human enterprises, and possibly find damaging and toxic wastes which can now become feedstock for proximally located businesses.
Regional scale human society enables the possibility for regional scale planning, which can have profound positive benefits for local residents by optimizing urban designs for high quality of life, transportation systems efficiency, efficient business enterprise, protection and maintenance of open spaces and parklands, and protect their communities from predatory behavior by large corporations and other larger social groups, including federal governments.
Success of governance on the regional scale, in terms of sustainable culture will hinge upon delivery of authentic democratic structures (sector nine), production of effective economy (sector six), and coherence with earth stewardship principles (sector two).
More and more we are in a time when technology and design is going global: one good design may be replicated across the world, replacing older "outdated" systems. The smartphone, especially Apple's iPhone is a great example of this kind of change, which is now threatening to eliminate the largest company in Finland, Nokia. An interesting metaphor, because the smart phone is almost completely adaptable, being a platform for running software, really more than a phone.
The lesson for technology and design on a global scale is to attempt to build flexibility and adaptability into the design. There are classic stories about Japanese companies designing for other markets, for instance it being important that air conditioners sold in China make a lot of racket, while the domestic market prefers more quiet units.
With regards to Sustainable Culture, technology and design solutions will have to be tailored to specific social groups, specific environmental conditions, specific regions, and even specific kinds of village groups. The seed logos crossed with spiral dynamics creates an important extra resource for designers wanting to enhance sustainable culture because it it reveals more variables than might typically be considered. For instance scanning a particular target market sector by sector, and identifying which the means are prevalent, sector by sector, can reveal what's kinds of technology will be most easily adopted by that giving community, and furthermore which kinds of linguistic styles, which "codes" can be used to increase likelihood of acceptance. In other words the Sustainable Culture Matrix, becomes an important tool for marketing a transition towards Sustainable Culture.