The Technological Society – Current State
In our democratic societies we can criticize politicians, media, institutions. One thing we are not allowed to criticize is the overall omnipotence of technology. Although some voices were raised to point to its immunity to any control and restraint, nobody under the spotlight had questioned its position in our society. When the new gadgets enter the market we zealously believe that they will improve our life. We secretly hope that the engineers have done a thorough research and are always taking into account the effect upon the human being.
Remember the Unabomber? Despite the fact that he had some sporadic appearances on the media and interviews, the public is not informed about the reason for his crimes. By no means, we should forget the terrible acts of violence he committed. However, some people (including Professor David Skrbina and the founder of Sun Microsytems) admit that his compelling arguments and sound logic should not be dismissed out of hand. When his manifesto was published in the national newspapers, it contained a brief summary of our modern times and a warning about our future. Apart from the consensus view that we are destroying the environment, Ted discusses the fast pace development which causes us to constantly adapt ourselves. This view is a reminiscent of Jacque Ellul’s ideas in “Technological Society”. Another aspect included in the manifesto is that in case the technological system is not stopped it will be “at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine”.
A french philosopher, writing on propaganda, modern technology and religion, Jacque Ellul is among the most notable critics of the role of technology in our society. He claims that whenever it enters any system it inevitably leads to totalitarian order. It demands servitude and obedience, and does not allow for democratic choice, therefore by definition is a tyranny. Jacques Ellul uses the term “technique” to capture more precise his idea. “Technique is the totality of methods, rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.” The characteristics, associated with it are: efficiency, autonomy, universality, automatism. In his views the politicians stay below the technicians and simply deliver their agenda. Propaganda is closely linked to the technocratic state, via amusement and exploiting emotions. The effect is people with degraded critical faculty and at the same time with established good social conscience.
In the following posts we will examine in details some of the most prominent critics of the technology including: Ted Kaczynski, Jacques Ellul, Neil Postman, Heidegger, Theodore Roszak.