Technology and Human Responsibility

Issue #169                                                    May 10, 2007
                   A Publication of The Nature Institute
             Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (

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Editor’s Note

The Language of Nature (Part III) (Stephen L. Talbott)
   Does nature rejoice in the morning?


About this newsletter


The book based on my writings in this newsletter -- Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines -- has just been released by O’Reilly Media. You’ll find a description of it on the O'Reilly website. It’s worth going there just to see the cover; O’Reilly did a very nice job on it. Also, you can read the introduction here


Goto table of contents

Stephen L. Talbott

The following is the concluding part of a three-part essay. It rests solidly upon the earlier two parts, and is not intended to be read as a standalone piece. You will find the earlier parts of the essay here:

Part I:
Part II:

You will always find the latest version of the complete essay at


The Wholeness of the Instrument

We are creatures of the word, inhabiting a world that can be understood only as speech or text - even if we prefer to notice only its blank, unspeaking grammar (which, nevertheless, presupposes the speech). Our own communication depends upon the word-like character of the world; if we did not find word-stuff all around us, we would have no material for our own words. Nature presents us, not with blank, mute, disconnected objects, but with expressive images, and such images are the native elements of story, song, and poetry. Even at the level of "mere" sound we can say: only because every sound has its own gestural and significant form - only because it speaks with its own qualities - can we recognize it as a distinctive element and employ it for our own speech.

Further, even where we have reduced spe