The technosphere concept
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.
Figures & Tables
Humankind has pervasively influenced the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere, arguably to the point of fashioning a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. To constrain the Anthropocene as a potential formal unit within the Geological Time Scale, a spectrum of indicators of anthropogenically-induced environmental change is considered, and shown as stratigraphical signals that may be used to characterize an Anthropocene unit, and to recognize its base. This volume describes a range of evidence that may help to define this potential new time unit and details key signatures that could be used in its definition. These signatures include lithostratigraphical (novel deposits, minerals and mineral magnetism), biostratigraphical (macro- and micro-palaeontological successions and human-induced trace fossils) and chemostratigraphical (organic, inorganic and radiogenic signatures in deposits, speleothems and ice and volcanic eruptions). We include, finally, the suggestion that humans have created a further sphere, the technosphere, that drives global change.