Advances in Historical Studies
2013. Vol.2, No.3, 140-149
Published Online September 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ahs) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ahs.2013.23018
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Technology as a Mode and Manifestation of Being: An
Assessment of Its Applications
Theodore John Rivers
Independent, Forest Hills, USA
Received July 2nd, 2013; revised August 2nd, 2013; accepted August 10th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Theodore John Rivers. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
The objective of this paper is to demonstrate how technology’s being is revealed through its applications,
which is expressive by means of the mode and manifestation of its being. The designation of technology
as a mode of being refers to its nature, and the designation of technology as a manifestation of being re-
fers to its activity as proof of technology’s being. Both mode and manifestation indicate how the being of
technology is applied. Although distinguishable as two aspects of technology, both mode and manifesta-
tion are essential to revealing the essence of technology and its interplay with the world. Since human
culture has a technological underpinning, the applications of technology not only reveal its metaphysics,
but also indicate its importance to human culture. In addition to technology’s underlying method, these
applications also pertain to the artifacts (or objects) of invention, mathematics, the consciousness of time,
writing, alphabetization, science, and society.
Technology is expressive of the choices humanity makes.
Unless we encounter extraterrestrials that might be similar to us
technologically, we can say that technology is primarily associ-
ated with humans. This statement is true while knowing that
some animals possess a rudimentary technology, such as the
building of nests by birds, the constructing of dams by beavers,
and the use of simple tools by chimpanzees. Essentially, tech-
nology helps to form the basis of human culture, and it is cul-
ture, among other factors, that lies at the foundation of human
reality. Although the manner by which humans live in the
world determines the use of technology, it should be apparent
that modern technology is culturally more inclusive than pre-
modern technologies. Collectively, technology is more than
occasionally present; it is omnipresent. Technology comes into
being because humanity’s being becomes, that is, it is by means
of becoming that the being of technology is revealed. This reve-
lation indicates that technology is a dependency because it is
based on creative ingenuity, but it is also true that humans have
willingly made themselves excessively dependent on its being.
Although it is not our concern to discuss the moral implica-
tions of technology, it should be kept in mind that technology
always has moral consequences because it is the result of hu-
The essence of technology, if it possesses one, is its presence,
which is expressive of its involvement in the world. Technol-
ogy is the embodiment of human creativity that is the result of
the upsurge of our ontological freedom. It is embedded in hu-
man choices, occupied by the decisions humanity makes, and
committed to the means intended for its projected ends. Em-
beddedness, occupation, and commitment reveal technology’s
presence that is a description of a process that is all-consuming.
Technology signifies a plan or inducement toward a course of
action. It would be a simple step to go from this thought to the
realization of the nearly endless applications of technology
throughout time. Although the past is always a victim of inter-
pretation, any hermeneutical attempt of it should be guided by
the pursuit of truth unaffected by emotion or deception. Hu-
manity’s alignment with technology should be sufficient to
continue its presence and its impact.
When expressed within this context, technology’s impor-
tance is self-evident. It is revealed in many ways, beginning
with the nature of conceptualization and its relationship to truth.
Because human reality is involved with the act of the becoming
of being, the latter is the way in which technology makes its
appearance in the world, that is, the act of becoming is the
conduit for the appearance of the being of technology (Olsen,
2009: pp. 40-61). Although the fundamental characteristics of
technology have been discussed many times before, suffice it to
say that its applications demonstrate its importance at the pre-
sent time and anticipate its continuation in the future.
Technology is also supported by the formation of concepts
and their necessity for human action. Nevertheless, there is no
immediate contact with the world unless it is affected by con-
cepts that help with comprehension. As a requirement for every-
thing we do from spatial orientation to numerical calculation,
concepts allow us to understand the world because they are part
of the essential framework on which comprehension is based.
Conceptualization is associated with the mental process that
allows humans to function in the world, and the world may be
equated with the summation of social relationships (society), or
the physical environment (nature). In addition to these two
T. J. RIVERS
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 141
distinctions, there is also the single human being, that is, the
self, from which individuality and self-consciousness are de-
rived (Fodor, 1998: pp. 23-29).
As essential as concepts are to humans, they are not extant in
the world because they exist only in our heads. A concept is a
mental representation from which identity is derived when in-
dividual human beings interact with the world or with other
individuals. Concepts are played out in the world because the
latter is the platform from which action takes place. Therefore,
without the world, there would be neither individuals nor con-
cepts. The truth of this relationship should be self-evident, and
it supports the idea that concepts and the cognitive development
that is associated with them are culturally, not biologically,
derived (Donald, 1991: pp. 119-122).
If concepts are related to culture, it should be asked how they
are created. And by culture, reference is made not to distinct
ethnicities or nationalities, but to human culture in general from
which humanity’s experiences are based, the experiences that
are grounded in the challenges of living in a changeable world,
conditioned by the longing to satisfy basic needs, and hounded
by life’s uncertainties. Human culture by means of evolution
has led to the development of concepts, that is, to the develop-
ment of mental representations that humanity needs for survival.
If human understanding reveals a greater complexity, this com-
plexity is imposed on the world. Therefore, mental representa-
tion signifies the means by which human culture laid a basis for
cognitive development that distinguished humans from other
Because a concept is a mental representation that is derived
from perceptions, the latter is not only recognition of mental
and physical stimuli, but also an interpretation of them. The
integrations of perceptions concern everything. When defined
in this way, perceptions become part of a systematic approach
to reality because a system concerns the integration of compo-
nents into a unified whole. Technology plays a key role in
helping to satisfy fundamental needs, beginning with methods
and organizations and expanding to all manner of applications.
Although wants are often confused with needs, both are de-
pendent on technology, which is true even for physiological
needs that originate biologically, but are affected technologi-
We should ask how technology becomes the result of con-
ceptualization. Although emanating from the use of ontological
freedom that results from a perception of the world, technology
is characterized eventually by its applications. Once conceived,
technology may be devised, and when devised, it may then be
used. Since applications make technology useful, it is creativity
that characterizes technology. The manner by which this is
done indicates the means by which technology is rendered real
in the world.
Technology as a Mode an d Manif estation of Being
The metaphysics of technology is derived from the becoming
of being because technology is demonstrative of a process.
Although becoming denotes a procedure from which being
springs forth, it also denotes the modification of being that
already exists. Since becoming, as an expression of being, sup-
plements the being that is, it lies at the threshold of the en-
largement of being from which creativity originates. But this
process must not be confused with the notion of development
or evolution because the latter represents a specific type of be-
ing. To develop or evolve usually means to bring something
forth from latency, as a way of improving or elaborating some-
thing. To come into being means to appear where previously
there was no appearance or presence, as a way of springing
forth or coming into existence. For example, the materials used
in a book already exist in trees for paper or resin for ink, but
they do not constitute the being of a book until a book comes
into being. Likewise, when a book is destroyed, it will cease to
be. The being of a book concerns its presence, and it is through
its presence or the projection of its presence that it comes into
This process is demonstrated in two ways, that when com-
bined, reveal the nature of technology. First, and more essen-
tially, technology is a mode of being that refers to the nature or
the underlying basis to its being. It concerns the means of doing
something as a way of positing its existence. Since mode is the
medium through which existence appears, it is the way in
which technology shows the underlying mechanism of its pres-
ence. A mode of being is indicative of the presence of being in
general, just as technology’s mode of being reveals its presence,
that is, its bearing on the world. The second part of this process
concerns technology as a manifestation of being. Since mani-
festation is indicative of the presence of something as proof of
it’s being, it indicates that the doing of anything, even the doing
of technology, is the result of its presence. The mode and mani-
festation of technology reveal it’s being, which is the being that
we give it.
Of these two attempts to understand the being of technology,
we may conclude that although mode and manifestation are
related, one of them may be more fundamental than the other.
Since a presence presupposes an essence, we might conclude
that a mode of being is antecedent to its manifestation, but it is
difficult to separate them. Logically, we might say that if mani-
festation is an effect of being, then mode is its cause; but meta-
physically, they are inseparable. Therefore, for all practical
purposes, we should regard the mode and manifestation of the
being of technology to be conterminous.
These thoughts are merely preparatory to a discussion of
technology’s applications. Although other applications could
have been selected, the ones that are discussed below are fun-
damental to human culture.
An analysis of technology should begin with the concept of
method. Although not necessarily progressive, technology’s
method is developmental. It is no understatement to say that its
method expresses more than what is supposedly evident by the
nature of any means to its corresponding end. Although means
and ends are reciprocal to each other by the very nature of their
being, technology’s method is much more fundamental because
it lies at the core of their relationships. Just as it is inconceiv-
able to think of technology without making reference to process,
it is also inconceivable to think of technology without consid-
ering its method. Since the latter intensifies the idea of in-
volvement, it is a feature that is fundamental to technology. But
it is not redundant to describe method as methodic when the
latter signifies a procedural turn of events. If technology’s me-
thod is not procedural, it cannot be methodic.
Technology’s method is not to be confused with methodol-
ogy. A method is the description of how to do something, but it
is not a description of the underlying principles on which it is
T. J. RIVERS
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
based. Nevertheless, how method is perpetuated indicates a
great deal about it. It may be perpetuated by all types of means,
by those expressed directly from the context to which they are
derived, but technology may also be expressed indirectly by a
motley of seemingly lesser means, such as custom, environ-
mental considerations, or economics. Overall, method is most
meaningful not with any means, but with a means that is useful,
purposeful, and manipulative. We might say that method is a
form of perception, but it is not the equivalent of invention.
Nevertheless, method is the result or product of invention (Buch-
ler, 1961: pp. 12-13).
Because method is an artifice that presupposes the comple-
tion of its tasks, it may be perceived as an agent that allows its
tasks to be actualized. Since technology is the effect of its
characteristics (notably, rationality, materiality, accumulation,
and process), it is also distinguished by a process that accom-
panies these characteristics and projects them onto the world.
Technology’s method is twofold: it is a characteristic of tech-
nology, and the medium or conveyance of technology itself. If
this condition were not true, then technology would not be
linked to processes, procedures, and all manner of organization.
An understanding of method in general and its relationship to
technology in particular must not be confused with the idea that
technology is little more than a matrix or framework, which is
proposed by Heidegger as the principle feature of technology
(Heidegger, 1977: pp. 11-16, 25-33)1. We should emphasize
that technology is multilayered, made up of several interde-
pendent characteristics, none of which is more important than
another. Nevertheless, technology’s method is variable because
the circumstances that help to define it are not static, but subject
to change. Although circumstances may appear that could lead
to new methods, essentially method concerns the improvement
of those procedures that already exist. It is repeatable, but not
Because technology’s method is associated with its essential
characteristics, one type may serve as a paradigm for others, but
technology does not innately possess any method. If a paradigm
is a pattern in the sense of a composite of features or a repre-
sentative sample that is based on concepts or practices that
depicts a way or manner of doing something, even if this is a
way of perceiving reality, then a paradigm is a method. It is a
structure around which reality revolves at a particular time and
place and from which rules may be derived (Kuhn, 1996: pp.
Similarly, method is not a model because a model serves
merely as a representation of something, as a plastic miniature
can represent a model of an airplane. Although method may be
explained as a conceptual model, this relationship is true only
in so far that there is an underlying reality to method. Otherwise,
a conceptual model would exist theoretically, but not actually.
Therefore, we should conclude that method presupposes some
type of practical application, since it constitutes more than a
mental construction. When method becomes standardized, it is
standardization that allows us to speak of the completion of
tasks. It is similar to the function of society, in which its indi-
vidual parts, when applied, are integrated into a whole because
society in general manifests a particular conception of reality.
In its affiliation with technology, method reveals the effective-
ness of its being. It is for this reason that the indefinite article
“a” is not used with the noun “method” to fix its identity. Thus,
we may speak of method, but not a method because the identity
of technology’s method is not known.
And it is through effectiveness by which method is most
meaningful. Wherever we look, we are likely to discover a
heartfelt means by which technology is put into effect. Indeed,
what would be the effect of tools, devices, machines, and prod-
ucts, without some manner in which they have an influence on
the world? And the same may be said of techniques, which are
subordinate parts of method, that is, specialized approaches to
completing something. Although these technological effects
could be used in ways different from their original intent, nev-
ertheless, they were invented for specific goals, as a chisel was
invented to chip and form rock, or the sport of golf was devel-
oped based on the mastery of techniques with different clubs.
Artifacts as Tools, Devices, Machines, and Products
An analysis of technology’s applications must also empha-
size its material artifacts, which began with the first tools.
Given that the first tools were most likely unaltered stones util-
ized by hominids, all other technologies, except for a few that
are genuinely original, are directly related to their predecessors.
Anything that humans have produced also incorporates some
type of technique, such as the technique of cultivating plants, or
making clay pots, or extracting metal from ores. And when
anything is made, techniques are created, beginning with a
simple procedure and evolving into more elaborate ones. Tech-
nology is based on the accumulation of its results, evolving
from the simplest to the more complex (Arthur, 2009). Be-
cause technology is made up of several interrelated characteris-
tics that are used, elaborated, extended, modified, or reinvented,
it is the result of many factors, only one of which is accumula-
tion. And since accumulation is related to technological effi-
ciency, the latter indicates that the best possible means should
be selected when completing a task. If no means exist, then one
can be invented.
A distinction should also be noted about the artifacts of
technology, particularly, the definition of a tool as a device, and
a device as a tool. We should not be confused about the recip-
rocal relationship because tools and devices since both are uni-
versal descriptions of the artifacts of technology. A device is an
invention designed for a specific purpose, but this definition is
1According to Heidegger, technology is a mode or manner of revealing
truth in which something unknown, such as an object or technique, is
rought forth into the world, or to use Heidegger’s terminology of this
revelation: a “challenging, setting-upon revealing”. Because technology is
associated with truth, it is hidden (to use an ancient Greek concept) and
must be revealed through human ingenuity. Therefore, technology is situ-
ated somewhere, waiting to be discovered by humans. But Heidegger’s
interpretation ignores non-being, the description for those things that do not
exist. Do es technology resid e somewhere waiting to be revealed by h uman
ingenuity, or does it not exist at all until invented by humans? An answer to
this question is fundamental to an understanding of technology. Heideg-
ger’s interpretation makes humans important, but in a subordinate role.
More importantly, Heidegger ignores the becoming of being in relationship
to technology. Since becoming concerns a process for the realization o
being, as discussed in Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. II, 2 (994a34-994b2), this
process is never complete. Even when inhibited or isolated, technology
should continue indefinitely into the future.
Heidegger also contends that we are provoked by technology, and im-
plies that as a result, we are determined by it. Behind this understanding,
Heidegger identifies a framework (Gestell in German) that compel s h uman s
to respond to technology. It is this framework that makes technology com-
pelling, but this interpretation leaves little room for human responsibility.
Heidegger’s interpretation of Gestell should not be equated with method
because although technology acquires a method, the latter is only one fea-
ture of technology’s application.
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applicable as well to tools that are devices that work manually
or mechanically. Therefore, tools and devices may have eq-
uivalent descriptions, but the definition of a machine is also
relevant in so far that it is a more elaborate device. To say that a
machine deals with fixed and movable parts would designate
even a shaduf as a machine because it has a fixed weight at one
end that is moved to counterweight a basket at the other end to
scoop up water for irrigation. If a shaduf is a simple machine,
then many other devices associated with antiquity are also, such
as the lever, pulley, inclined plane, or wedge (McNeil, 1990: pp.
As already noted, technology in large part concerns artifacts
of invention, which evolved from the simplest techniques of
scavenging for meat from dead animals by hominids and early
humans to hunting them with weapons of wood and stone.
Eventually, humans become nomads who hunted animals and
gathered fruits, nuts, and roots. A comparison of the rudimen-
tary technology, for example, of Paleolithic humans during the
Ice Age and our own technology leaves much to be desired, in
fact, almost everything. Having no domestic implements except
for the needle used to sew animal skins together to make
clothes and boots, even lacking the bow and arrow, Paleolithic
humans survived because they had fire, and could use it to cook
food and stay warm. As primitive as the technology was for
Paleolithic humans, the fact that they had technology that aided
their existence is proof of their innovative ability as an essential
characteristic of their being.
Eventually, the hunter-gatherer became a herder of animals,
and later, a cultivator of plants. In addition to food, animals
were also used for other purposes: clothing (derived from their
skins), transportation, physical power, and protection. Because
a settled way of life became the predominant life style for many
people and led to civilization, permanent agricultural settle-
ments gave rise to dietary changes whose techniques were in-
cluded in the so-called Neolithic revolution that began in the
fourth millennium BCE. These techniques involved the devel-
opment of procedures, beginning with the identification of po-
tentially useful plants that could be cultivated, and ending with
the preservation of seeds for the next growing season. By trial
and error, agriculture entailed the invention of special tools for
working the land, and techniques for maximizing the likelihood
of successful cultivation.
Similarly, other technologies were also affected, such as the
making of clothing (the loom), pottery (the p otter’s wh eel) , and
metal utensils and weapons (metallurgy). Apart from the use of
various minerals found lying on the ground, metallurgy became
a specialty because it entails the substitution of one component
of metallic ores with another (usually sulfur) through the appli-
cation of high temperatures, a procedure that took several cen-
turies to perfect.
The tools and machines that were developed in prehistory
and antiquity, and that served as an introduction to the sophis-
ticated counterparts of later generations include all major cate-
gories of technological innovation. From the hoe to the plow,
the water mill to the windmill, the abacus to the computer, the
water clock (clepsydra) to the mechanical clock, the telegraph
to the telephone, the cannon to the automobile, the motor to the
generator, the technologies of the past have influenced the
technologies of later generations. It is impossible to think of
technology without making reference to its artifacts, as enu-
merated above, and its artifacts are expressive of the being of
technology, a revelation of humanity’s continuous application
of the need to assist human existence by modifying nature. And
the effects of this need are everywhere and in every aspect of
our lives. Because inventive ability is emphasized through tools
and machines that indicate how society acts and reacts, inven-
tion is indicative of the being of technology as a force in his-
tory. When applied, invention is transformed into innovation.
And the accumulation of innovations represents a process of
ingenuity, exerting an influence on humanity much greater than
its original purpose.
Formal schooling usually includes an introduction to mathe-
matics. Even when this introduction is limited to arithmetic, it
is accompanied by the idea that numbers and mathematical
functions are natural, that is, they are not fabricated. Since the
study of mathematics concerns the idea that numbers in par-
ticular and mathematical entities in general exist independently
of human beings, this idea has little significance for anyone
who is not concerned about the origin of mathematics, but
much significance for anyone who thinks that numbers are a
valid topic for reflection. Hence, it is to philosophy of mathe-
matics where the notion of mathematical concepts is pertinent.
It is within this context that mathematics is perceived either to
exist apart from human reality or remains dependent on it, that
is, mathematics is either innate within itself or created.
Of course, numbers would have no bearing if they could not
be understood. Some animals, such as pigeons and chimpanzees,
may be assumed to possess a rudimentary numerical ability
(Honig, 1993: p. 62; Thompson, 1995: pp. 199-200), but the
latter must be differentiated from the symbolization associated
with numbers. We may conclude, to which science gives sup-
port, that numbers reflect a mental identification that is the
result of the perception of physical objects. They are not de-
scriptions of what are naturally in the world, but enumerations
of how objects are perceived (Russell, 1956: p. 529). A number
is an idea with its corresponding meaning of enumeration that
we impose on the world. Indeed, we may find many things in
the world, but nowhere will we find numbers. Although consti-
tuting an important part of human reality, numbers are real as
concepts, but not real as things (Carnap, 1983: p. 42). To write
a number on a piece of paper does not confer reality. A number
is a concept represented by a numeral, as the Arabic numeral 4
(or the Roman numeral IV) stands for the number that immedi-
ately follows the numeral 3 (or III) in a progression of symbols.
Despite being used in association with objects, numbers lack
factual content and are not verifiable empirically, since they are
merely mental representations of things.
Arithmetic, as the simplest area of mathematics, is an exten-
sion of object identification. Like many other things we do,
arithmetic is a reflection of everydayness, but it is also a reflec-
tion of the need to modify its conditions. Therefore, every per-
son should have a fundamental understanding of mathematics
because of the human capability of counting and identifying
objects. It is from object identification that humans are able to
add and subtract, multiply and divide (Lakoff & Núñez, 2000:
pp. 77-78). All other areas of mathematics from algebra and
geometry to trigonometry and calculus are artificialities. They
are expressions of human consciousness imposed on the being
of the world.
Why would we need higher forms of mathematics? Although
algebra originated in antiquity, it later concerned the substitu-
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Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
tion of letters for numbers in arithmetical equations, a substitu-
tion that was expanded in the sixteenth century by the French
mathematician François Viète (Hazewinkel, 1988: p. 73). We
should ask why there would be a need for a branch of mathe-
matics that seems to make the latter deliberately complex. Al-
though algebra was invented as a tool to discover unknown
quantities in mathematical equations, the use of letters for num-
bers attempted to uncover universal formulas when applicable
to similar examples.
As is widely known, geometry concerns uncovering the ma-
thematical relationships between points, lines, angles, and sol-
ids. We can refer to the first known historical reference to ge-
ometry in The Histories, written by Herodotus in the fifth cen-
tury BCE that describes the desire to measure land in Egypt
after the annual flooding of the Nile (Herodotus, 1998: pp.
135-136). The practicality of geometry is evident as a means of
reassessing land measurements that in turn is applied to many
other occasions when referring to space and distance. Geometry
became a simple tool for the practical application of mathemat-
Similarly, trigonometry concerns the mathematical relation-
ships of the sides and angles of triangles. It was developed,
most likely, as an extension of geometry, particularly, for the
use of surveying land in the determination of boundaries, and
the construction of roads and buildings. It was developed as an
applied science, and fulfilled a rudimentary step in the study of
mathematical functions when no quantitative value is known,
which mathematically is described as a variable.
The branch of mathematics that expands trigonometry and
that deals with the differentiation and integration of functions
of one or more variables is known as calculus. It concerns ana-
lyzing one set of numbers in relationship to another. Differen-
tial calculus concerns finding the rate of change between these
two sets. The opposite operation to differentiation is integral
calculus in which change as a factor is already known, but the
result of change is not. As introduced independently by Isaac
Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz in the seventeenth
century, differential and integral calculus are essential to under-
standing the movement of objects in space. Apart from the
calculation of gravity, the invention of calculus had a techni-
cal application because ballistics (the study of missiles and tra-
jectories) was directly related to astronomy. Once the science of
ballistics was developed, aeronautics was rendered possible as
We must conclude that if arithmetic is innately conceptual,
then all other branches of mathematics must be extensions of
elementary mathematics. Because of the way these extensions
are utilized, they may be described as technological modifica-
tions of basic mathematics, since they are organizational ap-
proaches to reality. They are used, for example, to construct
buildings, to measure canals for irrigation, to erect aqueducts or
roads, to calculate the trajectory of satellites into the atmos-
phere, to create all types of devices, to formulate images in
pixels—all of which, whether ancient or modern, are the result
of applied mathematics, an application that would be unneces-
sary or undesirable in a society in which the being of technol-
ogy has lesser importance. As we said above, mathematics is
the technological effect of a numbering system derived from
the identification of objects. Although mathematics evolved
into the systematic study of the symbolic relationship between
quantities, it remains at heart the result of a self-expression that
has been technologized into a highly skilled scientific discipline.
It is a revelation of how the world, itself the result of human
activity, can be explained as an extension of humanity’s mental
positing of the world. Because mathematics is an example of
the workings of human ingenuity, it is one way in which hu-
manity gives meaning to the world.
Writing and Alphabetization
Whether humans can speak or are mute, and they are not
paralyzed, they all communicate in some way, but the most
useful form of communication is writing. In non-literate cul-
tures in which traditions are past down orally to succeeding
generations, the inability to commit traditions to writing, or to
record new discoveries, relegate their cultures to an inferior
position. Nevertheless, speech offers only a partial conception
of language, which is supplemented by the practicality of writ-
But writing is dependent on texts. Is a text defined solely by
the fact that it is written down, or does it transcend its medium?
Materially, a text is commonly defined by a clay tablet, stone
stele, papyrus, vellum, paper, or electronic transmission that it
depends on, but a physically related medium portrays a text
(even when electronically devised) from only one perspective.
In a sense, texts are transcendent, although they are tied to their
medium, as they are tied historically to the age in which they
are produced2. Therein lies a major difference between literate
and non-literate cultures.
Naturally, a textual transcendence is dependent on future
generations. Although countless original texts have been lost in
the past, they may continue to exert an influence because copi-
es had been produced, such as those texts laboriously copied by
monks in European monasteries during the Middle Ages, or
reprinted for modern use by the printing press. Since texts pre-
suppose the existence of writing, conversely we can say that
writing presupposes the existence of texts, or at least the as-
sumption that somehow they must exist. If writing and texts are
associated with literacy, then their absence is associated with
illiteracy (Stock, 1983: pp. 3-4, 8).One can be taught to read
and write without a dependency on texts, but it may be presup-
posed that reading and writing are somehow related to them.
We should also ask if texts exert an influence on our collective
memory, but it is not our task to assess whether or not this in-
fluence is long lasting. It is possible that a tradition, idea, or
remembrance may be lost because conditions, either deliberate
or accidental, may have been set in place that have allowed for
These thoughts, however, are merely preparatory to an un-
derstanding of writing. Although language is phonetic because
it depends on sounds as a means of communication, writing
also intensifies it. This relationship is evident when we reflect
that language is based on distinct sounds, each represented by a
sign, which when written may be preserved indefinitely. Lan-
guage, of course, is more than just sounds because it is derived
from conceptualizations that are the result of human interaction
with the world. Despite being adversely criticized for attribut-
ing signs as the only requirement for language, Ferdinand de
Saussure in the early twentieth century concluded that language
begins with representation of signs through concepts (Saussure,
2Texts bring to mind their importance to religions, from the Vedas to the
Quran, from the Old Testament to the New Testament of the Bible. Even
for Martin Luther, faith in the Bible guaranteed salvation, but this conclu-
sion presupposed the t echnology of writing.
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1983: pp. 28-29, 98, 146).
Because a written language presupposes the existence of
signs, either logographic, pictographic, or alphabetic, signs
would be non-existent without a written language. Although it
may be concluded that writing began in Mesopotamia in the
late fourth millennium BCE, no alphabet existed at that time.
The development of writing represents a slow, laborious proc-
ess, and reflects the increasingly complex nature of human
culture, especially, as a result of urbanization. The earliest
writing emphasized consonants only, although the sound of
vowels was included in the pronunciation of words. Because
writing originally addressed practical matters that served as
descriptions of commodities used in trade or donations made to
local temples, it heightened the preservation of data without
relying on memory. In Mesopotamia, cuneiform fulfilled this
function, and in Egypt, hieroglyphics. Writing also acquired
importance because it became the means that distinguished
history from prehistory. And by writing we are not referring to
casual markings or signs on objects for a specific purpose, but a
system of preservation of cultural significance for a general
purpose. Essentially, writing denotes a system of communica-
tion, not a conglomerate of isolated signs.
The simplification of writing was accompanied by the inven-
tion of the alphabet. Although the Phoenicians may be attrib-
uted with modifying the alphabet, they were not its innovators.
The alphabet in a most rudimentary form is attributed to the
Canaanites when they lived and worked in the Sinai Peninsula,
although assigning their writing to a precise date is difficult.
This earliest alphabet evolved as a simplification of hiero-
glyphics, which itself is a highly sophisticated and stylized
system of pictographs that originally represent an object or a
sound (Gardiner, 1957: p. 8). The alphabet is based on letters,
not pictures, and above all, it is not based on objects. In this
sense, writing is not natural, but artificial. The alphabet gave
rise to letters as representations of sounds. It is an example not
only of a technological application that transcends the natural
world, but it is also an indication of technological civilization
The alphabet associated with the Sinai Peninsula and later
with Palestine, respectively known as Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-
Canaanite, must be distinguished from a cuneiform alphabet
that developed at Ugarit in western Syria in the fourteenth or
thirteenth century BCE (Puech, 1986: pp. 197-198). The Proto-
Sinaitic alphabet is considered to have been developed between
the seventeenth or sixteenth centuries BCE (Naveh, 1987: pp.
26-27). It later influenced the alphabets associated with the
Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. Although the introduction of
letters for vowels is accredited to the Greeks, the Phoenician
alphabet, emphasizing consonants only, had an influence on the
Aramaic alphabet from which Hebrew and Arabic developed.
Writing is a way of recording information so that it may be
preserved. It is a way in which other people, who may or may
not be directly involved in writing themselves, may benefit
from it. Because writing appeals to a much larger audience than
the audience immediately intended by authors of particular
works, it has an influence far greater than many other human
endeavors, which is now augmented by the internet. Even when
attempting to understand an ancient people, the preservation
and decipherment of their writing give insights into their cul-
ture. Although these thoughts may explain why writing is im-
portant, they do not explain why alphabetization was invented.
Actually, we should not ask why any one alphabet was invented.
Instead, we should ask why alphabets in general, some earlier
and some later, were invented.
Nevertheless, there have been several explanations for the
origin of the alphabet, such as an attempt to preserve a people’s
literature, or an effort to leave a mark of one’s presence, or an
intensification of writing that serves as a substitution for speech,
or a proposal to develop a national script, but none of these
explanations seem to address the fundamental reason why an
alphabet was invented. Although these explanations hold some
practicality, they do not seem to reveal its underlying necessity.
Of course, after its invention, the alphabet was adopted by
many cultures for different purposes over vast expanses of time.
The fact that there were the proto-Sinaitic and cuneiform alpha-
bets should lead to the conclusion that alphabets facilitate and
simplify the technology of writing, and illustrate their impor-
tance to human culture (Coe & Van Stone, 2001: p. 20)3. More
important than any one alphabetic script is the idea of alpha-
betization itself as the means for the increased importance of
the technology of writing that communicates with a present
generation and preserves information for future generations.
Writing is a learned experience that promotes factual infor-
mation for practical purposes, which then may be applied to
other endeavors, such as literature. Although many literary
works, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odys-
sey, or Beowulf were originally oral, they were subsequently
committed to writing, which increased their importance to their
respective cultures. The same phenomenon is also applicable to
the legal customs or laws of a primitive people. Writing is the
means by which the influence of the past may be extended into
the future. Therefore, the past acquired new meanings when
preserved in writing because writing allowed memory to be
projected indefinitely into the future. Like mathematics, the
invention of writing has lent itself to humanity’s innovative
accumulation and indicates that the metaphysics of technology
is demonstrative of a process of becoming.
The definition of science has changed over the ages, but for
the present age, science is far more specialized in its analysis of
reality when compared with the more general applications of
science in the past. Although many topics that qualified as sci-
ence in antiquity would be categorized in the modern age as
pseudoscience, it is not our intention to pass judgment on what
legitimately was science in a former age. Nevertheless, regard-
less of the age in which it appears, we should ask how science
is related to technology. Although there may be some confusion
about the influence of science on technology, there should be
no confusion about the influence of technology on science.
Science and technology evolved with distinct objectives. Sci-
ence concerns an understanding of the manner in which knowl-
edge about reality is acquired, no matter how far reaching that
may be, but technology concerns the practical applications of
that knowledge. As a result, a distinction evolved between the-
ory and practice. But as technology invaded the exclusive areas
of science, the latter lost its purely theoretical basis and was
rendered technical instead. We should speak of science’s tech-
nologization more than technology’s scientification. Since tech-
nology dominates everything we do, it could just as easily
3The Landa or Mayan alphabet is not an authentic alphabet, but an artific-
alitycreated by Diego da Landa, a sixteenth century Catholic bishop, who
wanted to convert the Ma
a to Christianit
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Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
function without regard for usefulness. This is to say that
method takes precedence over practicality (Habermas, 1974: pp.
253-256). In this sense, practicality loses its importance be-
cause the bulk of our emphasis revolves around technology’s
performance to the exclusion of everything else which is mani-
fested through technolog y’s prolific ubiquity.
In some way, science has always been associated with tech-
nology, at least in so far as technical applications are concerned.
But in the modern age, technological apparatus, instruments,
devices, and procedures commandeer science. No longer inde-
pendent and no longer superior, science has been rendered sub-
ordinate to technology, since the triumphs of science are ren-
dered possible only because of benefits made available by
technology. For example, chemistry has advanced considerably
because of the refinement of laboratory equipment, and without
it, chemistry would have progressed little since the time of
Lavoisier. If science has become more technical, its technicality
is attributable to its technologization, which would seem to be
true in both western and non-Western cultures (McGinn, 1990:
The displacement of science by technology, or at least the
accelerated influence of technology on science, occurred with
greater intensity in the nineteenth century when the industrial
revolution took place (Pollard, 1981: pp. 85-87, 142-148). At
that time, the techniques of technology were greatly aligned
with the methods of science. No longer could science proceed
without the benefit of technology, although technology does
benefit from the discoveries of science that, for example, a llow
for the invention of better tools and machines. The alignment of
science with technology occurred by a gradual process that
resulted in the manifested presence of technology in all aspects
and in all places of the world. Consequently, we may describe
the technologization of society more as a process of degree
rather than kind.
The advancement of modern technology, and therefore its
relationship with science, is essentially twofold. First, technol-
ogy has benefited from the past because of its hist oric evolution,
to which initially it made a minor contribution, but from which
eventually it was the principal beneficiary. And this past is
attributed to the European Middle Ages, which gave to tech-
nology its dynamic forward directedness that was acquired
from Christianity and a Christian culture (Benz, 1966: pp.
121-142). Second, the method of science had changed at the
end of the Middle Ages that initiated not only a new way of
looking at reality, that is, a new science, but also a new way of
applying this knowledge that facilitated a new technology. This
new method formed the basis of the scientific revolution, in
which technology was “implied as a possibility in the meta-
physics” of the new science (Jonas, 1974: pp. 47-48).
But more than its implication and its Christian underpinning,
technology came to represent metaphysics itself. It surpassed
the science that resulted from the scientific revolution and re-
placed the metaphysics of the Middle Ages, that is, technology
superseded Christianity as the foundation of the metaphysics of
Western civilization. Ultimately, technology became expressive
of the metaphysics of the world at large. More than being in the
world, technology is expressive of the being of the world. It
owes a debt, in part, to the past for the impetus in accomplish-
ing this goal. To express these thoughts in other words, we
might say that humanity’s being is reflected unto technology. It
demonstrates that technology’s mode of being is revealed as a
manifestation of ourselves.
Because of sundials, water clocks, and mechanical clocks
(and by extension, quartz digital clocks and watches), time
reckoning has evolved as a consequence of time’s computation.
But more than time reckoning, it is time-consciousness that
concerns us. In fact, time-consciousness—itself an effect of
technology—is rendered possible primarily because of the
reckoning of time. Of these three different inventions described
above, it was the mechanical clock, conceived and developed in
the late Middle Ages, that led to time’s mechanization, in which
time is not only compartmentalized into smaller and smaller
units, but also rendered into a commodity that could be regu-
lated, manipulated, and projected. Above all, time-conscious-
ness exerts an influence on daily life as to transform completely
an undefined understanding of time into a motif that penetrates
everything. If time was not an important feature of the human
psyche before the invention of the mechanical clock, it certainly
has become one since its invention, whose ticking manifests a
presence of time’s fragmentation. Everything from birth to
death is now adjusted or tempered by time-consciousness. The
vehicle for making money or pursuing pleasure, for devotion to
one’s family or the pursuit of idleness occurs by means of the
consciousness of time, which inevitably is followed at some
point by the fear of wasting it. Consciousness of the passing of
time dominates all aspects of life. Because the telling of time in
many languages relates to a description of time derived from
the clock, the latter has acquired a meaning far beyond its
original intent (Rivers, 2000: pp. 225-226).
The augmentation of time by means of technology is not to
be confused with natural cycles or so-called economic cycles
representative of the effects of prosperity (or its lack) because
they do not obliterate technology’s progressive momentum. The
fact that there is a cycle of anything does not preclude the line-
arity of time, which is the result of the Christian conception of
time (and its biblical background) that helped with technologi-
cal progress. Likewise, the difference between time internally
experienced, which is ontological (a natural metaphysical phe-
nomenon), and time externally given, which is artificial (an
unnatural metaphysical phenomenon), is exaggerated by tech-
nology. This exaggeration plays a part in the distortion between
the future and its absorption by the present, so that the possibil-
ity of the future seems to be consumed by an ever-present pre-
sent, a characteristic that is attributable to the clock. Conse-
quently, the perception of time is variable, ranging from man-
datory obligations to free time, from an emphasis of time as a
quality to its emphasis as a quantity. In fact, time acquires a
power hereto non-existent because its quantity enables it to be-
come the means of accomplishing anything (Blumenberg, 1986:
Nevertheless, how would society be made aware of time
reckoning if there was no way to be informed of it, if there was
no clock in the town square, or if there were no watches? If
time were not tied to specific hours of the day, what use is time-
consciousness? Since the invention of the mechanical clock,
which itself had a slow and localized influence in medieval
monasteries before it had an influence on society in general,
time-consciousness took much time to be perfected. Likewise,
other changes in the past have also taken considerable time,
even centuries, to have an impact, such as the use of the wheel,
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domestication of plants and animals, or writing. Even as late as
the eighteenth century, time-consciousness had no influence on
people who had little need for it (Landes, 1983: pp. 227-228).
Time-consciousness is not inherent in the being of being
human, but it is a mode or manner of an awareness of temporal-
ity as a characteristic of being. Time-consciousness is a tech-
nological artificiality, but temporality is an ontological reality.
There is no being without time, and no time without being.
Since temporality is a characteristic of being, it may be sup-
plemented by time-consciousness that is artificially induced by
technology. Whether or not human reality has benefited by this
relationship is not the issue. Calculating the time of day by
noticing the rising and setting of the sun, or by reading the stars
after the sun has set gave the first glimpses of the passing of
time that goes back to time immemorial; but these simple hap-
penings lacked the precision of time-consciousness with its
positive or negative connotations. Like so many other happen-
ings, once a threshold has been crossed, it is impossible and an-
achronistic to go back. As in other endeavors, technology is the
result of an accumulative process. It is based on the choices of
the past that help to set the conditions of the future.
How much has time-consciousness changed human culture?
How m uc h ha s it altered foreve r the way the world is perceived?
If time-consciousness can be ignored and the world can con-
tinue without time’s overbearingness, then time-consciousness
is irrelevant, but the world has changed because it has been
compartmentalized. Even when time awareness is rejected and
people move to a remote island somewhere, this desire is cho-
sen most likely because they are conscious of time. This rejec-
tion of time-consciousness is the immediate result of the cog-
nizance of time’s ubiquitous presence (Griffiths, 1999: pp. 11-
Human society is a social structure definable by networks of
interaction among its members who generally demonstrate a
willingness to work cooperatively, and who often show a sense
of fairness, or at least mutuality. Although society may also
refer to chimpanzees, baboons, bees, and ants, for our purposes
we will limit the use of this term to humans only. Because the
societal relationships manifested by these other animals are the
result of evolution, the benefits of cooperation among members
of one’s own species, human or non-human, should outweigh
any advantages supportive of individuality. As far as humans
are concerned, the social structure associated with cooperation
originates between two or more people, and most commonly
within a family, even if the latter consists of a husband and wife
cohabiting without children.
Related to the idea of association is the notion that society
denotes a type of organization, and it is organization that is
particularly important. How an individual reacts to another lays
the basis for society, whether expressive of identity that is
based on ethnicity, culture, social solidarity, or patterns of au-
thority. Like the system introduced into Chinese society by
Confucius whose goal was the maintenance of stability in an
uncertain time, society in general deals with relationships be-
tween and among individuals, families, communities, countries,
cultures, and b y extension, civilizations.
One should ask if social mechanisms associated with society
are derived from interactions between people that require more
than one person, or derived from the human brain that is indi-
vidually based and not initially tied to other people. Regardless
of its derivation, it is the interaction between people that is the
basis for society because if humanity were reduced to only one
individual, there would be no need for (and no benefit derived
from) other people. Society does not exist when humanity is
reduced to a sole survivor.
Indeed, what need would there be for society unless it
achieved something that individuals could not achieve alone. In
some sense, when compared to politics, we may say that society
is similar to a confederal system in which a central government
has the power to do something that individual state govern-
ments cannot do efficiently for themselves and from which
central governments derive their power. Similarly, if the pur-
pose of society is the attainment of social goals, these goals are
variable. They would differ among societies, but they would
also differ within them, as if each enclave within a community
or country denotes a distinct society with noticeable differences,
such as the associations of a crime family, a religious commu-
nity, an ethnic neighborhood, personal affiliations within a
profession, or any subdivision of a culture. Societies regulate
some type of social order, but they become more complex when
they reveal elaborate patterns of control. Nevertheless, we are
not concerned with the alleged stages of social evolution that
impact the development of society, but with the importance of
society in general.
Society comes into existence from the interaction of at least
two people, and therefore, it is as old as humanity itself. The
question for us to ask, therefore, is self-evident: If society is
natural, to what extent is it influenced by technology? Or we
may rephrase the question: How have different technologies
given rise to different societies? Since culture determines what
makes us human, we are defined by willful human choices. It is
a common conclusion within anthropology that humanity is
defined culturally, not biologically. It is this distinction that
separates humans from other life forms. If society could be
defined solely by biology, then it would hardly be subject to
Anthropologically, culture may be defined as a configuration
of the natural order. Because the relationship of the natural
order with an alleged “human nature” is determined by biology,
we must conclude that human nature is a distortion because it
supposedly is a description of qualities that all humans share.
An accurate definition of human nature should include physio-
logical traits because humans are mammals. Non-physiological
traits that would more accurately define the nature of humans
are traditionally excluded because these traits are variable. It is
variability that indicates that culture, not biology, is what de-
fines us. Therefore, the designation of human nature from any
other perspective as a definition of culture is a misnomer.
It should be apparent that society helped cognitive develop-
ment, and it is fundame ntal to the promotion of social behavior.
Given that human society is often compared with simian socie-
ties, it is more complex than the latter and entails greater or-
ganization. Any elaborate organization implies some type of
technology. When referring to society, its structure reveals that
its individual components are combined in particular ways that
form integrated wholes. Society concerns the means by which
individuals are incorporated into a framework. The process in
which this integration takes place is technological. But societies
are not passive because they develop through conflict, that is,
through deliberate actions that shape cooperation and form
complex institutions. One type of conflict concerns warfare,
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and another type concerns trade. Therefore, conflict may have
negative and/or positive consequences, both of which are af-
fected by technology.
It may be impossible to uncover the conditions that led to the
first human societies, but the transition from pre-human (or
hominid) to human society most likely included the develop-
ment of spoken language because the latter is paramount for
cooperation, without which well-developed social relationships
would be impossible. Regardless how long it may have taken to
develop language with all its complexities, changes in kinship
and even the development of myth may have been important for
its evolution (Barnard, 2011: pp. 92-93, 109). The social coop-
eration that was needed for hunting and gathering helped in the
development of society, both of which evolved with an increase
in brain size, and all of which facilitated the development of
language. Experiences evolved into traditions that could be
perfected, and traditions evolved into societies that could be
expanded. As a result, cultural evolution was the beneficiary of
Since spoken language entails the designation of sounds for
distinct entities, early humans must have developed words as a
way of understanding the world. Nevertheless, we should be
mindful that to look for the origins of anything is really to seek
the causes that answer all our questions. Such a quest is both
beyond our reach and highly suspect (Bloch, 1953: pp. 29-30).
The earliest tools, which were unmodified stones, were used by
hominids, but the skills required for the flaking and chipping of
them came much later and probably were associated with the
development of speech. Thus, technology, language, and coop-
eration (or altruism) are associated with human society and
played a part is its development (Hurford, 2007: pp. 268-271).
It should go without saying that technology is a human phe-
nomenon. Although one person can invent a technology, any
social application it may acquire must be distinguished from its
invention. This idea concerns the truth that technology is more
than a human phenomenon; it is also a social one. For example,
was the wheel invented for the benefit of one person who had
wares to transport, or did several people contribute to its inven-
tion for their mutual benefit, such as its use for ceremonial rea-
sons? It is possible that the whee l could have been invented for
either purpose, but it was only after it was applied among many
people that it acquired social significance, that is, acquired an
importance to society. And we should also consider the envi-
ronmental conditions that may or may not have allowed the
wheel to be useful (Basalla, 1988: pp. 9-10). Although indi-
viduals precede society, society is followed by humanity. And
by humanity we mean the qualities of being human, which
takes place when individuals cooperate and become integrated
parts of a group and promote its well-being. It is at this point
where technology achieves its greatest impact, that is, when
inventions appear, when they are modified, even when they are
These thoughts lead to another. If society is a type of social
organization, then it is a type of method. But we do not have to
ask where this organization originates. It is apparent that we
create it because societies are variable based on the cultural
conditions from which they evolve. Although societies must
address the human condition to which all people are subject in
the satisfaction of basic needs, how societies deal with these
conditions vary widely. An introduction to cultural anthropol-
ogy reveals the infinite variety of human societies. It indicates
that society, for example, is characterized by the way in which
it uses technology in maintaining life, in protection from harm,
in food production, in education, in planning for the future.
These examples are expressions of social mechanisms that bind
people together and promote solidarity of the entirety of human
life. They indicate that technology’s presence is expressive of a
fundamental truth about the nature of society, a truth that indi-
cates that the social structure of society is supported and pro-
moted by means of technology, in fact in everything we doin
our lives. Without it, society would be represented by a dis-
jointed assemblage of human beings struggling to maintain
daily existence. Metaphysically, we may say that society, as the
embodiment of human reality, reveals its own being, that is, the
being of the world, by means of technology.
Technology is the result of human ingenuity, originating
from ontological freedom, influenced by conceptualization, and
given actuality through the manipulation of the world. Together,
these factors help to describe the essence of technology. As we
said above, technology’s involvement reveals its essence. Its
interaction with the world is embedded in our choices, occupied
by our decisions, and committed to the means that are projected
to their ends. Since the essence of technology is founded upon
its presence, the latter is fundamental to its being. Technology
is made real initially through praxis, since praxis is how tech-
nology’s engagement is played out. For example, writing is a
mode of technology. It maintains a presence through its exer-
cise of symbolization, but writing in itself is not essential to
technology. Writing may be important for communication,
society, and human progress, but it is not fundamental to tech-
nology’s essence. The technological importance of writing does
not concern what is written, but rather the process or manner of
writing. It concerns the symbolization of signs and letters, that
is, the substitution of written words for things. Whether these
words are written in Arabic, Urdu, or Greek is incidental. It is
the idea of writing, rather than its form, that makes writing
important. And technology’s being is applicable to all the cate-
gories we have discussed above. Therefore, the being of tech-
nology, regardless of the form it takes, concerns its overriding
reality, as if it possesses an aura of some distinct quality or
breadth of vision. Although any being, that is, any entity, pos-
sesses potentiality because being denotes existence, neverthe-
less, potentiality may not be actualized. It should be assumed,
however, that technology’s being would have an impact on the
world by its mere presence, which is expressed through its ap-
As we said above, the being of technology is expressed
through its applications, which begins with the nature of con-
ceptualization and its relationship to truth. Once technology is
conceptualized, it may be devised and used. Applications are
the means by which technology is made evident, from the first
tool to the last, from a simple procedure to the most complex,
from a particularized technique to a generalized method. Be-
cause it participates in human activity, technology is one link
between thought and action, that is, between thinking about the
world and creating it. It manifests the completion of tasks when
its designated means attain their ends. Like art or literature,
technology is a phenomenon that transforms humans and
changes the world. It is the means by which humans express
their being, that is, technology is the way in which humans
reveal their being to the world. And what is the world if not our
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