Towards a physiagogic understanding of technology

Thomas Schindler
2 min readOct 4, 2022

In her book “Lo-TEK” Julia Watson describes many highlights of indigenous infrastructure from various areas of the world. One of these are the “Jingkieng Dieng Jri”, the living root bridges of the Khasi people of northern India. The Khasis cultivate roots over generations into bridges and ladders as the only kind of infrastructure that can withstand the forces of nature. While other bridges routinely get washed away by floods, the roots bridges exist for generations.

Definition: Physiagogy is the science and art of guiding growth — “physis” — ancient Greek term for “nature”, from the verbal noun φύσις, “phusis”, meaning “growing”, “becoming”, itself from φύω, “to grow”, “to appear”. + “-agogue” ancient Greek combining form with the meaning “guide, leader, bringer,” of that named by the initial element.

Definition: Technology is the application of abstract knowledge into concrete usable tangible and intangible forms.

The development of technologies is usually driven by the need for an — often societal — need. Most of these needs revolve around sourcing raw materials, refining them into usable products and distributing them to where they are needed and or wanted.

Up to now the specific configuration of technologies used by humanity has evolved unguided and without much reflection, leading to a series of frozen and accumulating errors.

One example of this is the combination of the social technology implementing our current form of democracy into a partisan representation, locked into a short term election cycle, with the main success metric being economic success — in tandem with another social technology implementing signaling of needs and storage of surplus in the form of GDP backed FIAT money.

These two technologies in combination creates a downward spiral leading to a family of technologies that can be defined by extraction, reduction and externalisation of negative effects.

In contrast, physiagogic technologies are growth based technologies. They use existing flows of physcial objects like nutrients, other molecules, photons, etc in order to run metabolic pathways that generate desired outcomes while supporting the balance of the environment they are embedded in.