The technology of emotion

In my systems studies I’ve come across the work of Humberto Maturana, and his writing is changing how I understand the relationship between emotion and technology:

Technology is not the solution for human problems because human problems belong to the emotional domain as they are conflicts in our relational living that arise when we have desires that lead to contradictory actions.1

Maturana does not see progress or technology as values. Instead, his plea is that we become honest and clear about our emotions and desires. Only then can we take responsibility for what we do – and by implication (my interpretation) design technologies that are rooted in empathy, both for people and the environment.

Technology can’t change problems rooted in our inner conflicts if those technologies sprang from our inner conflicts themselves (Facebook, for example), yet we use technology to try to change our emotions by being inauthentic (contradictory actions). But the problems remain and we abdicate responsibility claiming: technology is changing us. But technology can only change us if we allow it.

Technology brought forth by people contain no power in itself, the power resides in the emotions and desires of the people who created it, and ultimately in those who consume it without question. And this is where we need to take a hard look at ourselves, as we, and not technology, are creating the world we live in.