• Goto NETFUTURE main page
  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #97      A Publication of The Nature Institute      November 3, 1999
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    NETFUTURE is a reader-supported publication.
    Editor's Note
       Technology and the Three-toed Sloth
    What Does It Mean to Be a Sloth? (Craig Holdrege)
       A study in wholeness
    About this newsletter
                                  EDITOR'S NOTE
    Technology and the Three-toed Sloth
    This issue of NETFUTURE is given completely over to an attempt to build up
    a picture of the sloth -- primarily the three-toed sloth.  (I told you to
    expect the unexpected!)  A strange development, you may well think.  What
    does the sloth have to do with technology?
    Everything.  One way to describe technology -- and at the same time to
    summarize almost all the content of NETFUTURE -- is to say that technology
    expresses our tendencies to fragment and lose sight of wholes.  The
    article below shows the necessary counterbalance to this tendency, since a
    proper understanding of the sloth -- as of any other organism -- requires
    us to grasp a whole.
    I suggest that you read the entire article while keeping in mind this
    statement that occurs toward the end:  "Every detail can begin to speak
    sloth".  Don't underestimate what a revolutionary claim this is.  It has
    no place in conventional science, which is distinguished by the search for
    non-qualitative parts that do not speak the whole.
    Physics, of course, is the final perfection of this fragmenting drive,
    and, classically, it gives us the ultimate fragments -- featureless
    particles that can be aggregated and articulated side by side, but can
    never rise to higher unities (never, at least, without our surreptitiously
    introducing unifying principles that violate our original methodological
    commitments).  The oxygen atom in me does not speak "man" any more than
    the oxygen atom in the sloth speaks "sloth".  This is no accident.  After
    all, the resolve at the outset was to arrive at concepts without qualities
    -- "hard", quantitative concepts -- and yet only qualities can speak
    What science does give us with great success is apparatuses that work --
    technologies.  The entire method is defined so as to achieve this -- and
    little more.  So it is that we confront in technology marvelous
    capabilities that somehow leave little room for "man" -- or for "sloth" or
    "tree" or anything else in the natural world that might demand respect for
    its own meaningful integrity.
    Much depends on our learning to understand ourselves, our society, and the
    world around us with the kind of organic vision that the author of the
    following article is striving toward, howeve