We have erred by conflating machines and technology, the past and the future, the means and the ends.

No fact of modern life is more important than the social and commercial movement of technology. For humans, there is even a spiritual aspect to technology as a technique for living. How surprising it is! The technological phenomenon is so little understood from the larger perspective. We are only beginning to see relations between social goals and the autonomous movement of technology.

The social thinking about technology is truly primitive in character. It begins with controversial, obscure social theories not with deep understanding of technology as a human way. Most thinking on the subject seems to go forwards, only to go backwards. By contrast, we will go backwards to go forward.

We will end with a concept of paleofuturism, a rethinking of the autonomous technological future, what it could and should be.


Inexperience and inattentiveness makes us less empathetic. We miss the truth.

It was very early and only the morning shift workers had entered the cafe. It was still dark but for the lights shining through the cafe’s large windows. The early morning regular was patiently waiting outside at the door.

In the day time, the street was busy with tourists walking on the sidewalk and cars driving slowly through the little street. But in the early hours the street was quiet. The regular liked to stand on the sidewalk, with his own coffee mug, for a few minutes before the doors were unlocked. He looked at nothing in particular but always seemed to be listening for something.

“Last month he lost his job,” the older waiter said.

“Well, that’s not too unusual right now, but it’s tough.”

“He’s an old man. It’s hard to find a job. His wife left him too.”


RPA vendors push the idea that automation is strategic. Maybe, maybe not. Do you need a costly Center of Excellence for automation, if it's not strategic?

It’s become a cliché: “use automation strategically.” That might seem obvious for any significant technology. Many leaders do not distinguish between automation as a strategy and automation in support of a strategy, automation as a means and automation as an end.

Some of this confusion is caused by automation vendors who promiscuously misuse the term ‘strategy’ for almost every feature of their product. We’ll find it very useful to be clear about what strategy is.


Computers don't think. Thinking requires semantics, and computers lack any sense of meaning. Computers operate by logical implication; thinking operates by semantic entailment.

There are two kinds of languages, formal and informal. Informal languages rely on both semantics and syntax to construct intelligible thoughts. Formal languages have a special property which allows us to use either syntax or semantics to get a sentence. But that’s a long way from a thought expressed in a natural language. Let’s take a little trip through mathematical logic, the linguistics of mathematics.

A formal language is defined by three things:

  • lexicon which unambiguously defines the set of ‘words’ in the language. We call these words symbols. A formal lexicon completely defines the symbols allowed in the formal language.
  • We also need a notion of sentences derived by syntax rules. A sentence of a formal language constructed properly according the the grammar rules of the syntax is called a formula.
  • Finally, we require a semantics which correlates symbols and their meanings.

Mathematical logic considers two fundamental questions about such formal languages.