24 October 2013

Technology as a geological phenomenon: implications for human well-being

Author: P. K. Haff
Publication: Geological Society, London, Special Publications
Volume 395
Pages 301 - 309


The technosphere, the interlinked set of communication, transportation, bureaucratic and other systems that act to metabolize fossil fuels and other energy resources, is considered to be an emerging global paradigm, with similarities to the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. The technosphere is of global extent, exhibits large-scale appropriation of mass and energy resources, shows a tendency to co-opt for its own use information produced by the environment, and is autonomous. Unlike the older paradigms, the technosphere has not yet evolved the ability to recycle its own waste stream. Unless or until it does so, its status as a paradigm remains provisional. Humans are ‘parts’ of the technosphere – subcomponents essential for system function. Viewed from the inside by its human parts, the technosphere is perceived as a derived and controlled construct. Viewed from outside as a geological phenomenon, the technosphere appears as a quasi-autonomous system whose dynamics constrains the behaviour of its human parts. A geological perspective on technology suggests why strategies to limit environmental damage that consider only the needs of people are likely to fail without parallel consideration of the requirements of technology, especially its need for an abundant supply of energy.

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Published In

cover image Geological Society, London, Special Publications
Geological Society, London, Special Publications
Volume 3952014
Pages: 301 - 309


Published online: 24 October 2013
Published in print: 2014



P. K. Haff
Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Box 90233, Durham, North Carolina 27516, USA (e-mail: [email protected])

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