Introduction: When Technological Development Takes Its Toll on Society
There is no need to stress how dependable on technology the modern world is. Imagining one’s life without a mobile phone, for example, is practically impossible for most of the present-day citizens; in addition, with the advent of the Internet and the incredible availability of information, the power of technology has become obvious.
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According to Neil Postman, for the modern society, the transformation from a technocratic to technopolical is highly undesirable, yet practically unstoppable. Although Postman claims that dependency on technology makes people stop striving for further development, it can be considered that newest technological advances should be considered, instead, another step to further progress.
The Conceit of Wisdom as a Real Threat: In the Grip of Misconception
Starting the first chapter of his book, appropriately enough, with the legend of Thamus, Postman stresses the fact that each invention has its positive aspects and downsides, and, therefore, shows the presently occurring split of the society into Technophiles and Technophobes as a pointless and, quite honestly, dangerous process.
Instead, Postman argues, the golden mean of treating the recent innovations must be found. Thus, according to Postman, people will be able to use the recent technological innovations instead of letting the latter run their lives: “A bargain is struck in which technology giveth and technology taketh away” (Postman, 2011, 5).
While the given approach sounds very reasonable, it is still raises a number of questions. While Postman definitely has the point when claiming that technological innovations have not only changed people’s lives for the better, but have also introduced a plethora of new problems, he seems to be misinterpreting the key concept of technology.
Much like pure knowledge, technological advances are not supposed simply to make people’s lives easier; they should also provide the grounds for further researches and new discoveries, therefore, boosting the development of science (Adams & Hamm, 2013). Unless the latest developments were imperfect, scientists would have stopped trying to invent something new and, thus, the progress would have ceased.
Tools and Technology: The Crutches for the Feet of Clay
The argument that Postman presents in his next chapter, i.e., the way in which tools shape people’s lives and how tools can be opposed to technocracy, is also rather valid, yet ti clearly needs a different focus or more clarity, since at present it is, for the lack of a better word, rather vague.
According to what Postman says, the key specifics of the so-called “tool society,” the specimens of which can be still found nowadays in some remote corners of the Earth, was the fact that the produced tools “did not attack (or, more precisely, were not intended to attack) the dignity and integrity of the culture into which they were introduced” (Postman, 2011, 23). Therefore, Postman claims that the earliest technological developments were perfect in their simplicity, for they did not question people’s beliefs.
Although one must give Postman credit for respecting the cultures that are different from the dominant ones, the given statement seems intrinsically wrong. If the technological inventions were supposed to comply with the beliefs of a specific group of people, the development would have stopped at the point when a certain civilization would have considered a car “the devil’s vehicle,” since it moved without any obvious pulling force (Feist, Chantal & Shukla, 2010).
Postman’s argument, however, can be interpreted as the fact that technological development must be aligned with the cultural and educational level. That is, introducing a technological innovation to the people who will most likely fail to appreciate it would be wrong. However, the people whose cultural beliefs do not align with technological development clearly need to reconsider their ideas (Kurtz & Turpin, 1999).
When Technology Takes over the World: the Judgement Day Is Approaching
Finally, the issue that surrounds the transgression from technocracy to technopoly needs to be addressed. According to Postman, technopoly alters people’s vision of the world and of their own life to the point where people do not need wisdom at all. The given statement, however, also seems very arguable.
While technology is used by many people to make their life easier, it still serves the process of solving tasks that are even more complicated. Using a calculator to multiply two times two is, indeed, a sign of degradation; however, using it to quickly count something and, therefore, use the obtained number to solve the task that is more complicated shows that technology is being used the right way (Huttenegger, 2009).
Conclusion: The War Between the Humanity and Machines Will Not Start
Judging by what Postman says, at present, the humankind is standing at the crossroads, where one path leads to making efficient use of the existing technological innovations and boosting technological growth to make people’s lives even more comfortable; and the other leads to becoming the slave of technology and substitutes the concept of learning with false knowledge. Once people get their priorities straight, however, the efficient use of technology and the resulting control of the influence that technology has on people will be achieved.
Adams, D. & Hamm, M. (2013). Demystify math, science and technology: Creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. New York, NY: R&L Education.
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Feist, R., Chantal, B. & Shukla, R. K. (2010). Technology and the changing face of humanity. Ottawa, Canada: University of Ottawa Press.
Huttenegger, G. (2009). Knowledge management and information technology. Berlin, DE: GRIN Verlag.
Kurtz, L. R. & Turpin, J. E. (1999). Encyclopedia of violence, peace, and conflict. New York, NY: Academic Press.
Postman, N. (2011). Technopoly: the surrender of culture to technology. New York City, NY: Vintage.