The innovation series: Part 1— Understanding humans & the role of technology

Technology is just a tool for survival

Vichar Mohio
6 min readDec 22, 2022

This cable is the first of three. Dive into the others at:

The innovation series: Preamble — Ru-Wa-Aki’s mission

The innovation series: Part 2— Measuring the potential of technology — which tech is most imp

The innovation series: Part 3 Understanding the flip: when brilliant tools sabotage species

A quick introduction to human behavior

While human behaviour seems wonderful, ever-evolving and all over the place at first glance, it is not as mysterious as it may first appear (discussed in greater detail by many human authors.

In fact, most life on Planet X4 (Earth) started in the same furnace and therefore shares a lot of similarity.

Let’s start with some broad-brush strokes about how conscious life seems to have evolved on Earth

- At its heart, life on Earth (like other planets) emerges with birth of self-conscious boundaries that instinctively make a distinction of I (things within boundary) vs others (things outside boundary). These boundaries are mostly physical-based for most life, but can incorporate emotional and intellectual elements for some species

- Boundaries (esp the physical components of boundaries) can be said to operate in an physical environment of chaos & entropy (gradual degradation of order) that will inevitably lead to breakdown of boundary (i.e., death) if nothing is done

- This leads to a pre-occupation of living things to focus on survival & thrival of the boundary.

- Securing access to resources helps in the fight against entropy + chaos & helps organisms survive & thrive

- Unfortunately, most of these resources (again especially physically aligned) were traditionally scarce and this led to different strategies to secure resources (incl. competition and co-operation between species and members of species)

From the above brush-strokes, we can paint a small picture as follows:

Human behaviour, like the other forms of life on Earth follows the above blue-print as well.

The biggest difference between humans and other animals on the planet is likely to do with the first arrow. I.e., formation of boundaries.

Firstly, humans are more consciously aware of boundaries than other species — often choosing how to define their boundaries themselves. Related to this point, while a majority of the animal kingdom deals with boundaries related to the physical world, human boundaries often incorporate emotional and intellectual elements in them as well.

And while each human may define different boundaries for themselves, one common fact is that each has its source in three worlds that humans inhabit — (1) Physically-aligned world, (2) Emotionally-aligned world, (3) Intellectually-aligned world. A boundary could have its source in a complicated mish-mash of all three worlds, or simply be more geared towards one of these worlds.

In contrast, the third arrow is probably where humans are most similar to other animals (and amongst themselves as well). I.e. a pre-occupation with using their time for survival and thrival of the boundary.

Given this similarity, technology / innovation can be viewed as a set of strategies that help with surviving & thriving (third arrow). And it does so by impacting the touching arrows (second & third).

Part 1 — Technology & de-risking

A big pre-occupation of human progress is with limiting the impact of the second arrow. In particular trying to reduce the disorder and chaos within the world that humans occupy.

Another way to look at it is that innovation focuses a lot on bringing stability to the system. Or reducing the variance of outcomes — ideally by not using too many scarce resources to do so.

These different ways of speaking basically allude to the same thing — de-risking the environment that humans occupy. And these are some of the first technologies that emerged in human society

Early examples include bureaucracy & formation of governments to prevent a descent into chaos and anarchy.

Major societal breakthroughs too have occurred when tools/technologies that de-risk the environment take off. Revolutions such as agricultural revolution which reduced the risk of food availability.

Perhaps one of the biggest innovations in human society that follows this logic is what humans call the “scientific method”. While the scientific method might lead to ground-breaking innovation which has nothing to do with stability, the scientific method (with its focus on replicability & peer review) in itself is a perfect example of a stabilizing mechanism whose aim is to reduce variance in an observed cause-effect relationship.

Part 2 — Technology & enhancing

If there are systems in place that help bring stability, then human efforts become geared towards fighting the inherent scarcity of resources that life was forged in (the fourth arrow).

In other words, maximization & increasing the size of the pie takes centre stage. Humans often celebrate innovations of this kind and, at an abstract level, this type of technology is about using knowledge & creativity to convert scarcity into abundance (hence increasing size of the pie).

A subtle point on technology that focusses on abundance. Given that humans are sub-consciously aware of their finite time on the planet, a scarcity of time is often an unaddressed stress for them. Therefore technologies that try to convert scarcity of time to abundance (by making things faster or easier to do) also fall under this umbrella.

Together these advances can be labelled as enhancing the human condition (versus derisking).

Human history is peppered with such innovations after periods of stability — and a bunch of similar innovations is usually clubbed under the term “revolution”. The most famous of such revolutions include the Industrial revolution which converted the scarcity of labour to an abundance of labour.

The energy revolutions (perhaps called energy 1.0) was focussed on creating an abundance of energy (often at the expense of sustainably eco-systems).

The green revolution, introduced in the 1960s, was focussed on converting food to an abundant vs scarce resource.

A more recent phenomenon is the digital revolution, which has been instrumental in converting information from a scarce resource to an abundant one.

Part 3— Technology & escaping

While the most commonly adopted technologies deal with improving the ability to survive and thrive, there are also technologies that fulfill other purposes. These often “solve” the problem by making us forget the problem exists to begin with.

Certain drugs that highjack the physical nervous system to such an extent that the human stops caring about surviving / thriving of the boundary (third arrow); preferring instead to focus all his/her energy on securing more of the technology (read drugs) involved.

The entertainment industry & revolutions in gaming too are designed to give us a vacation away from our “real-world” problems and instead immerse us in a place where we can forget about the chaotic & entropic world or the fact that we have scarcity of resources.

These technologies are very powerful, but are traditionally not considered “innovations” in the same way as ones that fall under part 1 & part 2 mentioned above.

Given the theoretical underpinning of technology, we could start isolating the high-impact technologies. I.e., those innovations that have a very high potential for change (for both good and bad).

This would be the first step towards pinpointing the specific scenarios that could lead to a species’ self-destruction.



Vichar Mohio

Writing about topics I find interesting & original. Usually a mix of philosophy, evolutionary psychology & technology