When we have ceased to think of work and money in the purely economic terms implied by “the Problem of Unemployment”, then we are on our way to thinking in terms of creative citizenship, for we shall be beginning to make something with our minds-instead of “solving a problem” we shall be creating a new way of life.
Dorothy Sayers, Mind of the Maker
While waiting for the specialists to get on with their work on behalf of society, each of his, in his own life, must seek ways of resisting and transcending technological determinants.
Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society
What we have is “a civilization committed to the quest for continually improved means to carelessly examined ends. Indeed technique transforms ends into means…The Technical Man is fascinated by results, by the immediate consequences of setting standardized devices into motion.”
Robert Merton in the introduction to The Technological Society
“The term technique, as I use it, does not mean machines, technology, or this or that procedure for attaining an end. In our technological society, 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.”
Jacques Ellul again
“It is an illusion–unfortunately very widespread–to think that because we have broken through the prohibitions, taboos, and rites that bound primitive man, we have become free. We are conditioned by something new: technological civilization. I make no reference to a past period of history in which men were allegedly free, happy, and independent. The determinisms of the past no longer concern us; they are finished and done with. If I do refer to the past, it is only to emphasize that present determinants did not exist in the past, and men did not have to grapple with them.
In my conception, freedom is not an immutable fact graven in nature and on the heart of man. It is not inherent in man or in society, and it is meaningless to write it into law. The mathematical, physical, biological, sociological, and psychological sciences reveal nothing but necessities and determinisms on all sides. As a matter of fact, reality is itself a combination of determinisms, and freedom consists in overcoming and transcending these determinisms. Freedom is completely without meaning unless it is related to necessity…We must not think of the problem in terms of a choice between being determined and being free. We must look at it dialectically, and say that man is indeed determined, but that it is open to him to overcome necessity, and that this act is freedom. Freedom is not static but dynamic; not a vested interest, but a prize continually to be won. The moment man stops and resigns himself, he becomes subject to determinism. He is most enslaved when he thinks he is comfortably settled in freedom.
In the modern world, the most dangerous form of determinism is the technological phenomenon. It is not a question of getting rid of it, but, by an act of freedom, of transcending it. How is this to be done? I do not yet know. That is why [I] appeal to the individual’s sense of responsibility. The first step in the quest, the first act of freedom, is to become aware of the necessity. The very fact that man can see, measure, and analyze the determinisms that press on him means that he can face them and, by so doing, act as a free man. If man were to say: “These are not necessities; I am free because of technique, or despite technique,” this would prove that he is totally determined. However, by grasping the real nature of the technological phenomenon, and the extent to which it is robbing him of freedom, he confronts the blind mechanisms as a conscious being.”
And Ellul yet again.
“Technology is a major cultural determinant, no less important in shaping human lives than philosophy, religion, social organization, or political systems. In the broadest sense, these forces are also aspects of technology.”
I have only completed the introductions (up to page xxxiii) of this 400 page library book, and I have had it for nearly two weeks. I don’t think I am going to finish it. Not because I don’t want to, not because I don’t think it has anything to say to me- I do, and it does. But I just don’t know that I have the brain power or the time.
When even the introduction gives me this much to think about, well, I feel a bit weak at the knees and frontal lobes.