Dialectics & Technological Innovation

A Hegelian dialectic is a triad consisting of a thesis, antithesis, and a synthesis. A thesis is a basic concept. The antithesis being a simple representation of the exact opposite of the thesis. The synthesis is the union or compromise of the thesis and antithesis. Continuing the dialectic, the synthesis becomes the next-generation thesis. This method of deriving truth was originally attributed to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. However, it was actually Immanuel Kant who through Johann Gottlieb Fichte made it popular. The Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis dialectic is an invaluable tool for deriving innovative thought.

Hegel utilizes the Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis dialectic to illustrate the progression of government forms. Let’s look at a simplier implementation of the Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis dialectic through the lens of the 1999 movie The Matrix. Humans represent an original thesis as purely organic organisms. The antithesis of humanity is depicted as purely machine. Out of the synthesis of humanity and machinery we are introduced to the matrix which is a perfect blend of humanity and machinery. Humans within the matrix become the next generation thesis with agents within the matrix becoming the antithesis. The synthesis is depicted as Neo, a perfect blend of humanity within the matrix and the agents. Neo, as a new thesis of both humans and machines inside, has Agent Smith as his antithesis. Here is where the series ends but it isn’t too difficult to see, utilizing the dialectic where the Wachowskis could have taken a new sequel. The synthesis of Neo and Agent Smith would give rise to a being of both distributed machine interfaces and the creative talents of a human superhero. The antithesis?

While the model was around the characters from a movie it is a straight-forward implementation in any line of thought. Looking for the next generation model of social networking? We already see the socially monolithic Facebook (thesis) being eroded by smaller, more niche social networks (antithesis). Their synthesis is what technology companies will be chasing soon.

The Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis dialectic is an amazing tool for mapping out several generations of iterative idea thought. Innovation is rarely disruptive in a parthenogenic sense. Innovation comes from constant iteration in the resultant of an idea and its exact opposite, technology is no exception.

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