Book Sharing: Technopoly by Neil Postman

14 Nov

Technopoly, written in the perspective of a Luddite, posits how technology has swarmed us, overtaken us, and is controlling us. With the advancement of mankind, technology has no doubt been rampant, and parallels the evolution of time. However, what we aren’t aware of, is the way how technology has been controlling all of us, and desecrated culture in its wakes.

In Postman’s essay, technology is seen not as evil, but instead its advantages and disadvantages as “this and that”, where every piece of technology no doubt has its advantages, but its disadvantages as well.

His essay tells of the history of technology, the characteristics of a Technopoly, and examples of how technology has overtaken us, and changing our cultural landscape. His use of “culture” isn’t so much the culture we are used to hearing and understanding, but the culture of the mind, where an example could be of symbols we understand will change due to the influence of technology (i.e., the meaning of computer in the past was someone who computed figures, but computers now are used in a different sense).

One of his more pressing arguments tells of how scientism is a product of technopoly. Where scientism is the issue of how urgently we need to “see” everything as science, as science is a technological product, in order to comprehend our world. He went as far as saying that the Social Sciences is non other than a fancy term for a fiction, and is worse than a fiction, at least a fiction owns up to being one, whereas the social sciences hides cowardly behind a veil of pseudo-science, that argues and convinces their readers within its own paradigm and structure. Likewise in a fictional work, a social science’s paradigm and structure could be akin to its narrative structure and style. Because, as in every piece of research, for example Milgram’s Shocking Experiment (where participants were shown to obey authority in giving lethal electric shocks to confederates) could not be generalized to real situations. For example, Postman highlighted this fact by providing a case where a group of 400 citizens in Germany chose to aid the Jews in escaping instead of listening to the “authorities”, which were the fascist Germans. In part of the experiment breaking down here, then, what Postman suggested is that the social sciences can only be used to tell a tale, and that only in “controlled conditions” that the situation could be rendered true. But why people are so interested in this tale can only be attributed to our need for scientific “truths”, and our evoked desire for tales.

No doubt, if you would to tell a colleague that you have just read a research showing the negative correlation between exercise and the growth of their pre-frontal cortex, many would choose to believe you. This is then, the product of technopoly.

His essay is no doubt mind provoking, and haunting, for it is oblivious to us that we have given technology a gripe over our culture, and humanity. Hence, when someone says that the over zealous  trust the Bible and in God blindly, think again, because we people of the scientism era trust our texts and in Science blindly as well.

Yours,
Mark

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