International College Hong Kong

Human Technologies Venn Diagram

A ‘technology’ can be a new object, replete with flashing lights, a keyboard and a screen, but it doesn’t have to be. At ICHK the definition of ‘technology’ is broader and deeper than that. While tangible technologies (e.g.The iPhone X, The wheel, the steam engine) are integral to the study and practice of Human Technologies, there is a much bigger picture.

Netflix CEO Wilmot Reed Hastings provides a succinct definition of technology as “…The story of human progress from as long back as we know”. The epic story of human history contains everything our species has developed, from the simplest tool, to scripts, systems, devices, routines, rituals, methods, methodologies, recipes, procedures, protocols, instruments, frameworks, practices, orthodoxies, conventions, apparatuses, customs, formulae … the list goes on.

Take for example the words you are reading at this very moment. Now consider the earliest days in the evolution of language, the development of the Roman alphabet, pen, ink and paper, the history of printing and the emergence of the systems of education which make literacy possible.

These are all significant stories in their own right, and they are interwoven.

The Human Technologies Venn Diagram identifies five broad types of technologies, and places the remaining four - cognitive, material, social and spiritual - within the enveloping context of the fifth, the Somatic (technologies promoting the use and maintenance of the physical body).

So it is that the scope of Human Technologies is far-reaching. We can choose to consider everything that humankind has created for its ongoing benefit, but also to its detriment. We consider how we acquire better thinking skills, how we learn to influence others, and the forces that shape who we become, we consider how best to collaborate, and how to cooperate toward shared common purposes.

As an area of engagement with learning, Human Technologies invites us to explore the cumulative technological progress of humankind and, with the growing awareness of that, the potential in ourselves to employ appropriate technologies, whilst avoiding those which will not serve us well. Possibly, given the dearth of wisdom we sometimes display as a species, ’Homo technologicus’ is a more fitting title than ‘Homo Sapien’ - meddlers and tinkerers not seers and sages. School should be about changing that.

  • SOMATIC – technologies of the body – technologies that allow you to maintain and use your body more healthily and effectively. Examples would include – any practice that helps you get enough sleep; any custom that leads to a good diet; any routine that helps you to sustain good fitness.

  • COGNITIVE – technologies of the mind – technologies that allow you to think more effectively and to realise your thoughts more satisfactorily. Examples would include – language; mathematics and working with numbers; the scientific method; Thinking Routines; understanding how to tell a good story; Edward de Bono’s thinking tools.

  • MATERIAL – physical tools and devices – technologies that allow you to act in and get to grips with the world of things more effectively. Examples would include – fire; clothes; computers; hammers; cooking utensils; pens; books.

  • SOCIAL – interpersonal technologies – technologies that allow you to understand and get on with other people more effectively. Examples would include – a handshake; consciously nodding to show agreement; being seen to put the team’s interests before your own; using your sense of humour to energise and inspire; active listening; a communal meal.

  • SPIRITUAL – intrapersonal technologies – technologies that allow you to understand yourself better and to make you feel good about yourself. Examples would include – yoga; singing in the shower; mindful breathing; a walk in the woods; noting reasons to be cheerful in a journal; providing loving service to others.

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