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Technopoly Chapter Summaries

Title Author Rating Type
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology Neil Postman ⚪️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 🤓

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Summary: Our transition from tool using cultures to technocracies to technopoly. Technopoly is a society that doesn't just use technology to support itself, but rather is shaped by it with intense consequences to context and meaning held by individuals in that society, and threatens society itself.


1. The Judgment of Thamus

Chapter focus: Starts the discussion around how all technology holds bias. Outlines the ways that we give too much authority to people who understand newer technologies, and don't critically evaluate their potential impacts enough.

  • We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that every technological innovation has a one sided effect (good or bad)
  • Technology has a way of commandeering our values - and we don’t stop to question how that changes them and how we feel about that
  • We tend, throughout history, to give people who “cultivate confidence” in new tech a status of “undeserved authority and prestige” from the rest of society
  • The “winners” of technology have incentive to encourage the “losers” to still be excited about tech, and whenever questions pop up, can dazzle the “losers” with a flashy part of tech.
  • Tech “creates new conceptions of what is real” and by doing so, undermines older conceptions. Ex. Assigning grades to essay questions, starting in 1792 in Cambridge University. Giving a number to the quality of thought, and paving the way for the same for love, hate, beauty, creativity, etc. He didn’t mean to include human feeling, but now that happens as well.
  • Embedded in every tool is an ideological bias.
  • Technological change has an ecological change effect - it fundamentally changes the entire thing. It’s not a simple add-on.

2. From Tools to Technocracy

Chapter focus: Cultures are either tool using cultures, technocracies, or technopolies. This chapter traces the shift from tool using cultures into technocracies.

  • Marx understood: technologies “create the ways in which people perceive reality”
  • Cultures are classified into types: 1) tool using cultures (all cultures before the 17th century), 2) technocracies, and 3) technopolies
  • Tool using culture:
    • Tools invented for functional or symbolic purposes, and did not conflict with people believing in their traditions, religion, politics, education, etc. Their beliefs led to the invention of tools.
    • Tool using cultures defined by the relationship between tools and the belief system or ideology. That belief system creates the tools, the tools are well integrated into that system.
  • Technocracy:
    • In a Technocracy, the tools play a central role in the thought-world of the culture. Tools are increasingly not integrated into the culture, attack the culture. Tools try to become the culture. Belief systems have to fight against tools.
    • Kepler, building on work of Copernicus, did the first call for a separation of moral and intellectual values, a separation which is one of the pillars of a technocracy (although he did so lightly and was still religious and left room for God). Galileo took it further by making astronomy a source of “pain and confusion to the prevailing theology”. These three blew up the theology of the medieval world. Then Newton. They all kept their religion but laid the groundwork.
    • Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626) was the first man of the technocratic age. Saw the connection between science and improvement of human condition. His work was to advance the happiness of mankind, saw science’s only goal is “endowment of human life with new inventions and riches”. He wasn’t really a scientist but was a good communicator of ideas. He also did a lot of work to make science more accessible to the public, like advocating for public lectures. Europe took 150 years after death to pass to mentality of the modern world / technocracy.

3. From Technocracy to Technopoly

Chapter focus: Tracing a shift and differentiating between a technocracy and a technopoly. The United States is the first Technopoly.

  • First technocracy was in England in last half of 18th century
    • James Watt invented steam engine in 1765
    • 1776, Adam Smith’s wealth of nations → justified the switch from small-scale personalized skilled labor to large scale impersonal mechanized production. Money > land in defining wealth. Principle of invisible hand.
  • Richard Arkwright - First technocratic capitalist - developed the factory system in 1770/80s.
  • 1860s: fervor for invention took hold of the masses
    • Not a question of why to invent things, just how. Learning how = less questions about why.
    • Belief that invention succeeds through objectivity, efficiency, expertise, standardization, measurement, and progress. Most efficient when people are not people, but markets.
  • Bacon’s fault was that he didn’t talk about the consequences of tech change.
  • 19th century and technocracy = more respect for individual person, potential and convenience were important. Public education, literacy, libraries, etc.
    • French revolution - WWI = oasis of quality for great literature to reach the masses, as well as religious and political freedom (partially from stress placed on individuality).
  • Technocracy sped up the world. Time was something to triumph over with technology. The United States embraced this and soared to power. No real focus on what we were leaving behind (thoreau talked about it). People weren’t worried, because didn’t feel like technocracy would fully destroy beliefs/ideologies/culture - which it didn’t. It just worked against them, made it more confusing, confliced. Until 19th century, when they really went against each other. But America couldn’t fully erase the old beliefs. Industrialism was too new and couldn’t completely supplant old world cultures / tool using cultural values.
  • Technopoly makes the old thought-world disappear. It eliminates alternatives to itself. “It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant. And it does so by redefining what we mean by religion, by art, by family, by politics, by history, by truth, by privacy, by intelligence, so that our definitions fit its new requirements. Technopoly, in other words, is totalitarian technocracy.”
  • The Unites States is the only culture to become a Technopoly.
    • The Principles of Scientific Management by Taylor, 1911. He only meant for “scientific management” only for industrial production. It was a system that relieved workers of the burden of thinking - idea that technique of any kind can do our thinking for us. He provided the first formal outline of the assumptions in the thought-world of technopoly:
      • The primary goal of human labor and thought is efficiency
      • Technical calculation is superior in all respects to human judgement
      • human judgement cannot be trusted because it is plagued by laxity, ambiguity, and unnecessary complexity
      • subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking
      • that which cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value
      • that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts
  • Technocracies are concerned with inventing machinery - and changes to people’s lives are taken with that, and that people are sometimes seen as machines is considered necessary and unfortunate. But this isn’t held up as culture. It doesn’t expect you to find meaning in machinery and techniques.
  • Technopoly places meaning and culture in machines. Frederick Taylor who first stated that we’re beneath machines, that society is best when humans are at the disposal of techniques and technology.
  • Technopoly emerged in america because:
      1. A land of wonders, no limitations - maybe from immigrant roots, frontier mentality, abundant natural resources, political and religious freedom. American distrust of constraints.
      1. Genius and audacity of American capitalists of late 19th/early 20th centuries. Exploited economic possibilities of tech. Not concerned with preserving past, esp if in the way of tech innovation.
      1. Tech in 20th century was successful in providing convenience, comfort, speed, hygiene, and abundance. Seemed so great, no need to look elsewhere.
      • Prayer vs. penicillin
      • Family roots vs. mobility
      • reading vs. TV
      • restraint vs. immediate gratification
      • sin vs. psychotherapy
      • political ideology vs. popular appeal established through scientific polling
      • death vs. longer life / cryogenics
      1. Old sources of belief under siege. Lose confidence in believe systems. Only thing that you can see that “works” is technology.
      • Nietzsche announced god was dead
      • Darwin
      • Marx = history has its own agenda
      • Freud = we don’t know our deepest needs, can’t trust traditional ways of exploring
      • John Watsom (founder of behaviorism), showed free will was an illusion and behavior was not unlike pigeons
      • Einstein = no absolute means of judging anything in any case, everything is relative

4. The Improbable World

Chapter focus: Information glut, and how not dealing with an overload of information reduces context and results in cultural chaos. The assumption that more information is always better means we have't protected against the consequences of that, and technological progress has replaced human progress as a goal.

  • When we started moving on from old traditions, wasn’t immediately clear what we were losing, since it happened at the same time as the rise of the narrative of Progress. Works within and outside of religious contexts.
  • Information became the new god of culture. Problem - solved information scarcity, which was easy to see benefits of. But didn’t solve problems of information glut.
    • Not dealing with information glut results in information chaos
    • Few recognize this as the source of their distress
  • Information glut because of technology
    • “The fact is, there are very few political, social, and especially personal problems that arise because of insufficient information.” Yet Technopolists will keep saying we need more information, that that will solve problems.
    • Schools = technocracy’s first secular bureaucracy. Legitimize some parts of information flow and discredits others.
    • Reference: The Control Revolution by James Beniger
    • Information is “dangerous when it has no place to go, when there is no theory to which is applies, no pattern in which it fits, when there is no higher purpose that it serves.”
    • What led to this? Technological conditions:
      • 1st stage of information revolution: Printing press
        • This created new sources of data collection and increased communications among scientists across continents. Created standardization. Created new environment of information. Increased importance of individuality.
        • With that, western culture got on a course to make technocracies possible. But nothing significant happened after printing press from 17th century to mid-19th. Nothing that altered the form, volume, and speed of information. Western culture had 200 hundred years to adjust. Developed institutions. New conceptions of knowledge (more respect for reason and privacy). economic activity like mechanized production and corporate capitalisms. Expressed humane socialism. Public discourse through newspapers, books.
        • Technocratic-typographic America was the first nation ever to be argued into existence in print. US Constitution. A belief in privacy, individuality, intellectual freedom, open criticism, and community action.
      • 2nd stage of information revolution: Telegraph
        • Invention of telegraph at end of 19th century.
        • Loss of the presumed close connection between information, reason, and usefulness. Information now doesn’t have to be local.
        • Transit and info were disengaged
        • Context-free information. Info doesn’t have to be tied to any function it might serve in social and political decision making and action. Info is now a commodity. Not need to be attached to meaning.
        • Penny-press also helped this happen.
      • 3rd stage of information revolution: photography
        • Same time as telegraphy
        • Intrusion of images into the symbolic environment
        • photos, posters, drawings, ads
        • Replace language as our dominant means for construing, understanding, and testing reality.
      • 4th stage info revolution: broadcasting
      • 5th stage info revolution: computer technology
  • In the 20th century - information grew exponentially. Values:
    • interconnectedness is necessary
    • can proceed without context
    • argue for instancy instead of historical continuity
    • fascination in place of complexity and coherence
  • What's the relationship between information glut and human-ness?
    • Technopoly is successful when there's an environment where information and human purpose are not connected. information isn’t connected to anything in particular, high volume, high speed, disconnected from theory, meaning, purpose.
    • Human progress has been replaced by technological progress
    • The aim is not to reduce ignorance, superstition, and suffering - rather, to accommodate ourselves to the requirements of new technologies.
    • We tell ourselves this will lead to a better life, but that is “rhetorical residue of a vanishing technocracy”.
    • We think information is our friend, don’t ask how to control it. Low / no understanding of the consequences - cultures suffer from information glut, information without meaning, information without control mechanisms.

5. The Broken Defenses

Chapter focus: Outlines the type of people who feel comfortable in a Technopoly, and describes the ways in which the culture of a Technopoly takes its authorization from technology and breaks down meaning in society.

  • In a Technopoly, culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, takes orders from technology.
  • Who feels comfortable in a Technopoly? People who are:
    • convinced that tech progress = humanity's supreme achievement and can solve our most prfound dilemmas
    • believe that information is an unmixed blessing
    • People believe that information is only ever good - through uncontrolled production and dissemination we'll get freedom, creativity, peace of mind. In reality: information that is spread this way does the opposite.
  • "Technopoly flourishes when the defenses against information break down"
    • It works like this:
      • Technopoly increases available information.
      • As that increases, control mechanisms are strained
      • Additional control mechanisms put in place, they are technical mechanisms.
      • This, in turn (because they're technical mechanisms), increases the supply of information.
      • Supply is no longer controllable = breakdown in psychic tranquility and social purpose
      • People don't have defenses and no longer have a way to find meaning in their experiences and have difficulty "imagining reasonable futures".
  • Technopoly definition: what happens to society when the defenses against information glut have broken down, and tries to use technology itself to provide "clear direction and humane purpose".
  • Social institutions function as control mechanisms, and a decline in those make people susceptible to information chaos. Information is a source of confusion, not coherence.
    • Examples of institutions: law, education, family, religion, state
  • Technopoly's means of controlling the flow of information:
    • 1. Bureaucracy:
      • This pre-dates technopoly. Goes back 5,000 years, first time called "bureaucracy" in 19th century.
      • John Stuart Mill called them "administrative tyranny", also critiques/hated by Carlyle, Tocqueville, C.S. Lewis, etc.
      • Bureaucracy on principle is: Coordinated series of techniques for reducing the amount of information that requires processing
      • By trying to make rational use of information, bureaucracy "ignores all information and ideas that do not contribute to efficiency". It has no intellectual, political, or moral theory. Implicit assumption that efficiency is the aim of all social insitutions and other goals are worthless.
      • Late 19th century turned it from set of techniques to an "autonomous meta-institution that ... serves itself". Resulted in:
        • rapid industrial growth
        • improvements in transit/communication
        • extension of government into larger parts of public and business
        • Centralization of governmental structures
      • 20th century: information explosion, the effect where the techniques for managing information became more necessary, extensive, and complex, increased number of structures and layers, and the amount of information generated grew.
        • This made it the master of social institutions. It now solves and also creates problems. It defines our problems (defined as efficiency problems).
        • This makes bureaucracy dangerous: it was originally just created to process technical information, now used to address moral, social, and political problems.
      • What is a bureaucrat? A person "who by training, commitment, and even temperament is indifferent to both the content and the totality of a human problem". Only considers the efficiency angle, nothing else. Takes not responsibility for human consequences.
      • "I am only responsible for the efficiency of my part of the bureaucracy, which must be maintained at all costs."
    • 2. Expertise
      • There have always been experts, even in tool-using cultures
      • Technopoly experts have 2 characteristics:
        • ignorant about any matter not directly related to their specialized area
        • claim dominion not only over technical matters but also over social, psychological, and moral affairs
      • These happened as a result of:
          1. growth of bureaucracies (created "specialist-as-ignoramus)
          1. weakening of traditional social institutions
          1. Torrent of information which made it impossible for anyone to possess more than a small amount of the total human knowledge.
      • Bureaucracy when applied to situations that cannot be solved by technical means = disastrous. Efficiency is irrelevant in things like education, law, family life, and problems of personal maladjustment.
    • 3. Technical Machinery
      • Invisible technology like: IQ tests, SATs, standardized forms, taxonomies, opinion polls
        • These help reduce the type and quantity of information into a system
        • There is no test that can measure a person's intelligence - IQ tests are a technology, doesn't actually do what it says it does. "Transforms an abstract and multifaceted meaning into a technical and exact term that leaves out everything of importance."
      • Priests use wine/wafers/incantations to embody spiritual ideas, acknowledge mystery and metaphor. Technopoly "experts" acknowledge none of this nuance when they use forms, standardized tests, polls, etc. They think tech can reveal the true nature of human conditions or beliefs.
      • This form of information control is definitely useful / helps control information, but must be made with intense skepticism. "The delusion is sanctified by our granting inordinate prestige to experts who are armed with sophisticated technical machinery."
      • If we replace social institutions with technopoly as a means of organizing perceptions and judgement, it won't work and has vast consequences.

6. The Ideology of Machines: Medical Technology

Chapter focus: An exploration of how a Technopoly deifies machinery, which comes with various biases: accuracy as the most important thing, that there is no subjectivity involved in machinery, and that technologies can be applied to solving human problems without consequences. The chapter focuses on the ways in which technology affects our views in the world, what happens when we don't consider the potential downsides, and provides specific examples drawn from medical technology.

  • "When it comes to machinery, what Technopoly insists upon most is accuracy. The idea embedded in the machine is largely ignored, no matter how peculiar."
  • Technology prioritizes machines over intellectual struggle. Machines eliminate complexity, doubt, and ambiguity. They are quick and give us numbers. This is technopoly's magic.
  • The magic of machines directs our attention in the wrong place - gives us a sense of wonder instead of understanding. It asks us to be amazed, and to ignore the ideas embedded in machines. "we become blind to the idological meaning of our technologies." This chapter discusses how technology directs us to construe the world.
  • Ex: U.S. and England have equivalent life-expectancy rates, but:
    • U.S. doctors perform 6x cardiac bypass operations per capita
    • more diagnostic tests than doctors in france, germany, or england
    • American women have 2 to 3x the chance of having a hysterectomy as her counterpart in Europe
    • U.S. doctors do more prostate surgery per capita than Europe
    • U.S. leads the world in c-sections
    • U.S. doctors prescribe higher dosages of drugs and 2x antibiotics
  • Why is American medicine so aggressive?
      1. American character: limitless natural environment = to be conquered. disease = to be conquered by aggressive means. Biased towards action. Having a bias towards action is aggressive, can lead to bad outcomes. American medicine was always attracted to new tech.
      • Early tech: invention of the stethoscope
        • French physician Rene-Theophile-Hyacinthe Laennec in 1816
        • Used to do percussion and palpation, then auscultation. Tried rolling up paper and listening to heart. This led to the invention of the stethoscope.
        • This was very useful, very accurate.
        • Patients were often frightened of it - tools usually meant surgeon at the time. Doctors had objections (ranging from trivial [inconvenience of carrying stethoscope] to serious [being mistaken for surgeons (who were considered craftsmen)]. Physicians used intellect, knowledge, and insight for diagnosis.)
        • Serious concern: "interposing an instrument between patient and doctor would transform the practice of medicine; the traditional methods of questioning patients, taking their reports seriously, and making careful observations of exterior symptoms would become increasingly irrelevant. Doctors would lose their ability to conduct skillful examinations and rely more on machinery than on their own experience and insight."
        • The existance of the stethoscope and every new tool added to the doctor's arsenal promoted the ideas that:
            1. Medicine is about disease, not the patient
            1. What the patient knows is untrustworthy; what the machine knows is reliable
      • 19th century = obsessed with invention and imbued with the idea of progress. This created inventions and "the culture reoriented itself to ensure that technological aggressiveness became the basis of medical practice."
      • Turn of century saw a reliance on technology. We get the emergence of specialists who interpret technical information and have no connection to the patient.
      • Everything - the culture, courts, insurance, bureaucracy, doctor/patient expections - is organized to support technological treatments. Medical competence = the variety and quantity of machinery brought to the disease.
      • Ideas promoted by the domination of tech are:
          1. nature is an implacable enemy that can be subdued only by technical means
          1. The problems created by technological solutions ("side effects") can be solved only by further application of tech
          1. medical practice must focus on disease, not the patient
          1. information coming from the patient cannot be taken as seriously as information coming from a machine, "from which it follows that a doctor's judgement, based on insight and experience, is less worthwile than the calculations of his machinery.
      • Do these ideas lead to better medicine? In some ways yes (doctors using lasers to quickly remove cataracts), some ways no (when you perform medicine because of the existence of technology).
      • ex: C-sections. 1 out of 4 americans born via c-section. Deliver babies who would have otherwise died. But when done routinely as elective option = considerable danger. 2 - 4x times more likely for the woman to die. SO: c-sections save the lives of babies at risk, but when done electively they post an unnecessary threat to health and even life.
      • Sometimes risks of surgery outweigh risks of no surgery.
      • "Would american medicine be better were it not so totally reliant on the technological imperative? Yes.
    • What conclusion can we draw?
        1. Technology is not a neutral element in medicine
        1. Technology creates its own imperatives, and creates a wide-ranging social system to reinforce its imperatives
        1. Technology changes the practice of medicine by redefining what doctors are, redirecting wehre they focus their attention, and reconceptualizing how they view their patients and illness.
    • Rise of tech also came with the rise of drug companies and manufacturers. Expectations of patients changed. Unneccesary diagnoses.
    • "The question of what was being undone had a low priority if it was asked at all. The Zeitgeist of the age placed such a question in a range somewhere between peevishness and irrelevance. In a growing Technopoly, there is no time or inclination to speak of technological debits."

7. The Ideology of Machines: Computer Technology

Chapter focus: Traces our cultural shift towards thinking of humans as machines, and how that has removed a lot of our human agency, sense of responsibility, and identity. The chapter starts focusing on how we need to not only ask what benefits technology can provide, but also ask what we lose in the acquisition and use of technology.

  • We've embraced computers in a mindless way that leads to unfortunate outcomes: the thoughtlessness with which we've adopted this technology leads to enforced mindsets and "usurped powers".
  • Good resource on this is the book Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum. The difficulties he ran into because the universality of computers means:
    • That their uses are infinitely various
    • That computers are commonly integrated into the structure of other machines
  • "Computer" now refers to a machine (invented by John von Neumann in the 1940s), before that it was a person who performed mechanical calculation.
  • 1936: Alan Turing built a machine that in many ways behaved like a problem-solving human being. His definition of "intelligent" was if the machine could exchange thoughts with a human through typed messages.
    • MIT AI Lab: Joseph Weizenbaum wrote a program called Eliza. He showed that he could meet Turing's test for intelligence. If you asked Eliza a question with a noun in it, Eliza could say "Why are you interested in" + the proper noun and a question mark. He had created a Turing Machine.
      • He eventually wrote Computer Power and Human Reason where "he raised questions about the research programs of those working in artificial intelligence; the assumption that whatever a computer can do, it should do; and the effects of computer technology on the way people construe the world-that is, the ideology of hte computer."
  • The shift towards humans being defined as machines:
    • Book Turing's Man by J. David Bolter: comprehensive idea conveyed by the computer:
      • Argues that "[the computer] defines our age by suggesting a new relationship to information, to work, to power, and to nature itself. That relationship can best be described by saying that the computer redefines humans as 'information processors' and nature itself as information to be processed".
      • This means that he defined humans as (thinking) machines. This "subordinates the claims of our nature, our biology, our emotions, our spirituality. The computer claims sovereignty over the whole range of human experience, and supports its claim by showing that it "thinks" better than we can."
    • John McCarthy, inventor of the term artificial intelligence. "Even machines as simple as thermostats can be said to have beliefs" - This remark redefined the meaning of "belief" - "rejects the view that humans have internal states of mind that are the foundation of belief and argues instead that 'belief' means only what someone or something does." Also implies: simulating an idea is the same as duplicating the idea. Also: rejects the idea that mind is a biological phenomenon.  - Now we've gone from: humans are in some respect like machines → humans are little else but machines → human beings are machines.
    • This means → machines can duplicate human intelligence, so research into AI was inevitable. It's reductionist. Human intelligence is not transferable. Humans have a unique "biologically rooted intangible mental life" that can't be duplicated by machines. Machines can't feel or understand. Meaning makes us unique.
  • How does the machine as human manifest, and what are the consequences?
    • people talk about "programming" or "deprogramming" themselves
    • speak of our brains as a piece of "hard wiring"
    • Nov 4, 1988: Arpanet network became sluggish, then clogged with data. Spread to 6,000 computers in the US and overseas. This was a "worm" used to disable computers but started being called a "virus". The name stuck. Newspapers called the virus "virulent, contagious, and attempts to "quarantine" computers were made. They wanted to "sterilize" the network, programmers wanted to develop a "vaccine" to fight it.
    • This language "reflects a profound shift in perception about the relationship of computers to humans." It implies that the computer has will, intentions, and reasons. Which means that humans are relieved of responsibility for the computer's decisions. Why ever blame people if it's the computer's fault?
    • This is called "agentic shift": humans transfer responsibility for an outcome from themselves to a more abstract agent. This means we don't have control, and gives us the ability to pursue "ill-advised or even inhuman goals because the computer can accomplish them or be imagined to accomplish them. (a concept from Stanley Milgram)
    • People very obediently accept explanations like "the computer shows..." or "the computer has determined..."
    • It constrains us from complaining or accusing - so the computer has "strengthened bureaucratic institutions and suppressed the impulse toward significant social change."
  • Have computers improved society?
    • Computers are used to automate political, social, and commercial enterprises - it's unclear if they've made them more efficient, but it's definitely diverted attention from questioning the necessity of such institutions or how they can improve. Can't go into the defects in an insitution's "asumptions, ideas, and theories". "Computer technology....has not yet come close to the printing press in its power to generate radical and substantive social, political, and religious thought."
    • Computer technology has made technopoly stronger, has made "people believe that technological innovation is synonymous with human progress. It has done this by advancing several interconnected ideas":
        1. Amplified the metaphor of machines as humans and humans as machines. This leads to "a loss of confidence in human judgement and subjectivity. We have devalued the singular human capacity to see things whole in all their psychic, emotional and moral dimensions, and we have replaced this with faith in the powers of technical calculation."
        1. Give us technical process without much substance. Emphasis on speed and ability to store huge quantities of information. This is dangerous when applied to human affairs.
        1. "The computer argues...that the most serious problems confronting us at both personal and public levels require technical solutions through fast access to information otherwise unavailable." Nonsense. "Our most serious problems are not technical, nor do they arise from inadequate information... Where people are dying of starvation, it does not occur because of inadequate information." The computer is useless in addressing human problems.
  • How does Technopoly treat new technology's impact on society?
    • Paul Goodman coined term "technological modesty", which is "having a sense of the whole and not claiming or obtruding more than a particular function warrants".
    • Technopoly also "encourages insensitivity to what skills may be lost in the acquisition of new ones. It is important to remember what can be done without computers, and it is also important to remind ourselves of what may be lost when we do use them."
    • It's not necessarily that we should be "against" computers, but asking what we lose by subordinating our power to computers.
      • Ex. Law: When we use computerized systems to increase efficiency in a legal system, what happens to the authority of precedent? Precedent is unnecessary when there are very few cases that you can access, but also "unworkable when there are too many". What will this mean?
      • Ex. Medicine: We know that doctors who rely on machines have lost skill in making diagnoses based on observation.
      • What other human skills are being lost? "Technopolists do not worry about such things."

8. Invisible Technologies

Chapter focus: This chapter focuses on mechanisms that act as machines, but which are not usually thought of as technology. Examples include IQ tests, polls, management, and systems of grading. This helps us understand the ways in which technology changes our basic perceptions and changes what we consider objective and true.

  • Ideology is "a set of assumptions of which we are barely conscious but which nonetheless directs our efforts to give shape and coherence to the world" → "then our most powerful ideological instrument is the technology of language itself."
  • We tend not to realize how language does its work. We have very little sense of how the world looks differently to people who speak different languages. We assume everyone sees the world the same way.
    • Ex. Susumu Tonegawa (1987 Nobel Prize in Medicine). Said the Japanese language doesn't "foster clarity or effective understanding in scientfic research". He means that English has a specific ideological bias that Japanese doesn't.
    • Language has an ideological agenda, but people feel like it's just an objective and natural expression of who we are. "Because it comes from inside us, we believe it to be a direct, unedited, unbiased, apolitical expression of how the world really is."
  • Example invisible technology: the formation of a sentence
    • A machine is outside of us and is modified by us. But a sentence can function much like a machine.
    • "The structure of any question is as devoid of neutrality as is its content. The form of a question may ease our way or pose obstacles. Or, when even slightly altered, it may generate antithetical answers."
      • Ex. A disease afflicted a place in Lithuania. People would go into a coma-like state, and it wasn't always clear if people had died or not. People were afraid of being buried alive. Two solutions based on two different questions: "How can we make sure that we do not bury people who are still alive?" (= stock the coffins with water and food and drill air holes into them - expensive but seemed worth it) vs. "How can we make sure that everyone we bury is dead" (= Less expensive solution of putting a 12-inch stake to the coffin lid at heart level, so the person would certainly be dead when the coffin closed).
  • Another kind of invisible technology is a zero.
    • Came from India to Europe in the 10th century.
    • By 13th century, in Western consciousness.
    • Without the zero, you can't do a lot of simple calculations (multiply MMMMMM by MMDCXXVI...)
    • Abacaus-users (didn't like zero because "it registered the absense of a power of ten, which no roman numeral did, seemed aesthetically offensive, seemed bizarre.) vs. algeorists who used Hindu numerals with a zero sign.
    • Zero is a technology that makes certain kinds of thoughts easy, whereas before the zero those thoughts were inaccessible. It has an idea. The use of zero and the Hindu numbering system made possible a sophisticated math which led us to statistics.
  • Statistics
    • Stats gives us new perceptions and realities by exposing large-scale patterns. But Technopoly gives free reign to apply this indiscriminately across society.
    • Ex. Francis Galton, 1822-1911 (like a founding father of Technopoly). Founder of Eugenics. The science of arranging marriage and family so as to produce the best possible offspring based on the hereditary characteristics of the parents. Wanted to rank human characteristics, anything could be measured and statistical procedures could explain things. He wanted to demonstrated the inheritance of intelligence. Measured skulls.
      • Read Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man to learn about the history of this and how problematic it was. He made these points:      - 1. Reification → converting an abstract idea (mostly, a word) into a thing. Aka using the word "intelligence" to refer to specific human capabilities we approve of, even though there is no such thing as intelligence. It's a word, not a thing.
          1. Ranking → requires a criteria for assigning individuals to their place in a single series. Uses objective numbers.
          1. This ranking is restricted and biased, but we forget - the subjectivity becomes invisible. The objective number is reified.
      • E.L. Thorndike saw that intelligence tests suffered from defects:
          1. What they measure is not known
          1. How far it is proper to add/subtract/multiply/etc with teh measures obtained is not known
          1. What the measures signify concerning intellect is not known
      • Intelligenct cannot be quantitatively measured along a single linear scale. Technopoly doesn't recognize this. Needs to believe that science is objective. "Technology searches for a source of authority and finds it in the idea of statistical objectivity."
    • Polling: Our political leaders are supposed to represent us, so they need some information about what we "believe". The problem comes from:
        1. The forms of questions that are asked. The public's opinion will depend on phrasing and what is asked. These are often yes or no questions, which doesn't tell you much, is misleading.
        1. The technique promotes the assumption "that an opinion is a thing inside people that can be exactly located and extracted by the pollster's questions." Alternative view: opinions are not momentary things but a "process of thinking, shaped by the continuous acquisition of knowledge and the activity of questioining, dicussion, and debate".
        1. Polling "ignores what people know about the subjects they are queried on."
        1. It shifts the responsibility between political leaders and their constituents. Leaders need to understand constituents and then use their own judgement about the public's best interests. Before polling, leaders were judged on their capacity to make decisions based on wisdom - they were responsible for the decisions they made. Post-polling, under increasing pressure to not use any of their own knowledge and wisdom and fully defer to voters opinions even when those opinions are ill-informed or short-sided. Responsibility shift.
    • Stats also compounds problem of information overload, turns into information trivia - it puts all information at an equal level. Even if it's useless: "Since 1984, the Buffalo Bills have won only two games in which they were four points ahead with less than six minutes to play."
  • Some technologies come in a disguise.
    • Ex: IQ tests, polls, systems of ranking/grading, credit cards, accounting procedures, achievement tests. Academic courses - Academic courses are a technology for learning. Why do classes last a specified time? For administrative efficiency. But we come to believe it exists for one reason (it's the best way to learn) when it exists for another (efficiency/bureaucracy).
    • "One characteristic of those who live in a Technopoly is that they are largely unaware of both the origins and the effects of their technologies."
  • Example of lack of awareness: the belief that modern business invented the technology of management. But the truth is that management invented modern business.
    • Based on research by Alfred Chandler, Sidney Pollard, Keith Hoskin, Richard Macve
    • Most likely origin: Great Britain in late 18th and early 19th centuries. Before any concept of "managerial class".
    • Management created in the U.S. - 1817 in the US Military Academny by the academy's 4th superintendent, Sylvanus Thayer. 2 innovations:
        1. Grade examinations by giving numerical marks (borrowed from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris), an "objective measure of human performance.
        1. Line-and-staff system. Divided into two divisions, organized hierarchically. Regular reporting. Written communication.
    • 2 of the cadets at the academy, Daniel Tyler and George Whistler, graduated in 1819 and took this approach elsewhere.
      • Tyler did a time and motion study in 1832, "established objectively based norms of production for every job in the armory". Worker productivity measured against established productivity norms. Resulted in increased production, decreased costs.
      • Whistler, chief engineer of the Western Railrod, developed a managerial system in 1839. Organized the railroad along hierarchical lines (central staff office, descending to regional managers and local managers). Used the grammatocentric principle.
    • Principles of calculability and grammatocentrism are foundations of modern systems of management. Numbers and being removed from everyday realities.
      • calculability led to accounting, inventory control, productivity norms
      • grammatocentrism promoted idea that "the best way to run a business is to know it through reports of those lower down the line".
    • Why is this instructive?
        1. management functions as does any technology. Made up of procedures and rules "designed to standardize behavior."
        • This isn't an issue, until it becomes autonomous. "In a Technopoly, we tend to believe that only through the autonomy of techniques (and machinery) can we achieve our goals. This idea is all the more dangerous because no one can reasonably object to the rational use of techniques to achieve human purposes." This isn't to say that management isn't potentially necessary. But the question is: "who will be the master? Will we control it, or will it control us?" We must still be in control of the technique or else we can't control those answers.
        1. management is a good example of something invisible that creates a new way of doing things (subversively). "When a method of doing things becomes so deeply associated with an institution that we no longer know which came first...then it is difficult to change the institution or even to imagine alternative methods for achieving its purposes."
      • This means it's important to understand where techniques and technologies come from, contextualize them. This will let us gain back our sovereignty.

9. Scientism

Chapter focus: This chapter traces the shift in the study of humans to be more codified as a hard science, even though it needs to and provides value when it exists more as cultural narratives, historical contextualization, and mythology. This over-emphasis in the study of humans as a hard science results in the hope and belief that a standardized set of procedures called "science" can provide us with an unimpeachable source of moral authority.

  • There is a problem with the modern presentation of social science.
    • The general feeling is that the study of human behavior, if studied in a rigorous manner based on the physical and biological science methodologies, "will produce facts, testable theories, and profound understandings of the human condition."
  • The "science of man" is created:
  • 1794, Paris: The ecole Polytechnique school founded
    • From here came the beginning concepts of a "science of man".
    • Lavoisier and Ampère and Volta and Alexander von Humboldt taught there - their work in chemistry and physics laid groundwork for modern science. This was good, beneficial.
    • Also from this school - "scientific hubris" from Pierre-Simo de Laplace, no limits to the power of scientific research (Essai philosophique sur les probabilités published in 1814).
      • "A mind that in a given instance knew all the forces by which nature is animated and the position of all the bodies of which it is composed, if it were vast enough to include all these data within his analysis, could embrace in one single formula the movements of the largest bodies of the universe and of the smallest atoms; nothing would be uncertain for him; the future and the past would be equally before his eyes." - Essai philosophique sur les probabilités published in 1814.
      • This isn't really directly believed by anyone now, but it held a scientific ideal that inspired people to "believe that the reliable and predictable knowledge that could be obtained about stars and atoms could also be obtained about human behavior."
  • The study of humans as a science:
    • Ex. early social scientists who believed this: Claud-Henri de Saint-Simon, Prosper Enfantin, August Compte. They started the idea of "social engineering", the concept of Scientism was born from. They had two beliefs that are foundational to Technopoly:
        1. That the natural sciences provide a method to unlock the secrets of both the human heart and the direction of social life.
        1. That society can be rationally and humanely reorganized according to principles that social science will uncover.  - Scientism: Made up of 3 ideas, together which for a single pillar for Technopoly. The first two are the same as 👆🏻.    - 1. The methods of natural sciences can be applied to human behavior (same as above)
        1. Social science generates specific principles which can be used to organize society on a rational and humane basis (same as above)
        1. Faith in science can serve as a comprehensive belief system that gives meaning to life, as well as a sense of well-being, morality, and even immortality.
    • Next part is showing how these concepts relate to each other and give form to Technopoly.
  • "Science" as a term:
    • Definition: the work of people in the physical, chemical, and biological disciplines
    • First used in 1867 in Murray's New English Dictionary
    • Popularized in early 19th century
    • By early 20th century, had been appropriated.
    • Now used familiarly with psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. This is deceptive, blurs lines between processes and practices.
    • Processes: things occuring in nature, nothing to do with human intelligence.
    • Practices: Creations of people, events resulting from human actions and decisions.
    • Science is the quest to find immutable and universal laws to govern processes, assumes there are cause-and-effect relations between processes. This can't apply to the understanding of human behavior and feeling.
  • Social science:
    • Sociologists can use quantification to give some precision to their ideas, but not more than that. Not really scientific. Precision is used all the time (number of constituents, number of murders), it's not science. Scientist study things with objectivity, independent of what people think or do. "The opinions people hold about the external world are...always an obstacle to be overcome". Heisenberg uncertainty principle = at subatomic levels particles do "know" they are being studied, at least in a special meaning of "knowing". Social science is further invalidated as a science given that "there are almost no experiments that will reveal a social-science theory to be false". Theories disappear because they are boring, not because they are refuted. This isn't science.
    • This isn't to say that belief in theories is harmful. Just that they fall outside the definition of science.
    • Ex. Stanley Milgram's study (Obedience ot Authority), which found that "in the face of what they construe to be legitimate authority, most people will do what they are told. ...the social context in which people find themsleves will be a controlling factor in how they behave". This is basically a commonplace of human experience, pretty obvious. Except that it wasn't predicted by psychiatrists who he surveyed beforehand. Also, this study wasn't empirical: not natural life situations. Also didn't answer "why".
      • But what happens if you find people who do the opposite of the study (ex. the Danes who resisted the Nazis). Does this invalidate his study? No.
      • His study isn't science. It's something else. It's documenting the behavior and feelings of people as they confront problems posed by their culture. It's a form of storytelling.
  • Social science is closer to imaginative literature than science:
    • Closer to imaginative literature. Uses unique interpretations, draws appeal from the power of language, depth of explanation, relevance of examples. This has "an identifiable moral purpose".
    • "The words 'true' and 'false' do not apply here in the sense that they are used in mathematics or science. For there is nothing universally and irrevocably true or false about these interpretations. THere are no critical tests to confirm or falsify them. There are no natural laws from which they are derived. They are bound by time, by situation, and above all by the cultural prejudices of the researcher or writer." The researcher leads by reason, logic, argument, focus on a wider field than fiction.
  • Why do social researchers tell their stories? Didactic and moralistic purposes.
    • Social research never discovers anything (unlike science). Only rediscovers. Telling these stories in new ways. But Technopoly doesn't want these stories, it wants facts. Hard facts, scientific. Precise > truthful. Technopoly wants to solve the "dilemma of subjectivity. Diversity, complexity, subjectivity, ambiguity of human judgement are enemies of technique. This makes it necessary to turn psychology, sociology, and anthropology into sciences. This is why we now announce "discoveries" in social sciences, even if they're sort of obvious. Trying to be a scientific enterprise. Social researchers can then be seen as scientists without bias or their own values.
    • "In Technopoly, it is not enough to argue that the segregation of blacks and whites in schools is immoral...the courts must be shown that standardized academic and psychological tests reveal that blacks do less well than whites and feel demeaned when segregation exists." Social scientists want to align themselves with scientists to be taken seriously in a Technopoly.
  • Science, Social Research, and imaginative literature are all different. All of them are storytelling, but with different aim, questions, procedures, and meanings of "truth".
  • When Galileo, Newton, etc laid foundations for natural science, they also discredited earlier authorities like Genesis. Undermined belief, took away where we look for moral authority. Even though science doesn't claim to tell us what is moral, it left us without anything else. This leads science to start suggesting things. Everyone is desperate for it, so social science answers. "Scientism".
    • It's not just a misapplication of techniques, or confusion of material and social space of human experience. In addition to that, scientism is the hope and belief that a standardized set of procedures called "science" can provide us with an unimpeachable source of moral authority.

10. The Great Symbol Drain

Chapter focus: Technopoly trivializes and erases the narratives and symbols that provide meaning to existance, with vast consequences. In a Technopoly, education is viewed with great skepticism. At the same time, Technopoly provides no moral center while professing to provide one through technology.

  • Symbols are important, have meaning. We're experiencing a lot of trivialization of symbols in Technopoly. Using religious symbols or other things isn't blasphemy, it's trivialized through over-exposure. There are no laws against trivialization. In Technopoly, "the trivialization of significant cultural symbols is largely conducted by commercial enterprise."
  • Adoration of technology > anything else.
  • Two intertwined reasons for trivialization of traditional symbols:
      1. Although symbols are endlessly repeatable, they are not inexhaustible.
      1. The more frequently a significant symbol is used, the less potent is its meaning.
      • The Image by Daniel Boorstin in late 20th century. Talked about mid-19th century beginning of a "graphics revolution" - Easy reproduction of visual images. Gave everyone more continuous access to symbols. Prints, lithographs, photographs, movies, television. = breeding indifference. Before this, a scarcity of images contributed to their power.
      • The frequency of use, but also the indiscriminate nature of contexts in which images are used.
  • Advertising and symbols
    • It is possible to have a market economy that respects the seriousness of words and icons, and that doesn't trivialize them through overuse. This is how it worked in America from 1830 to the end of the 19th century, a period of industrial growth. Ads didn't play a big role in the economy, and ads used straightforward language.
    • On March 3, 1879, the Postal Act gave magazines low-cost mailing privileges. Magazines emerged as conduits for national advertising. This was the start to the ad industry emerging in the early early 20th century.
    • By turn of century, advertisers started finding that reason alone didn't work as well as symbols. Psychology and aesthetic theory.
      • This led to a rejection of a basic princple of capitalistic ideology: "That the producer and consumer were engaged in a rational enterprise in which consumers made choices on the basis of a careful consideration of the quality of a product and their own self-interest." Now influencing the consumer with symbolic narratives and imagery.
      • At core of Technopoly: industry using all available symbols to further economic interests, devour the psyches of consumers to do that.
        • Jesus's birthday as an occasion for commerce to exhaust Christian symbology to sell things
      • This ideology gives "boundless supremacy to technological progress and is indifferent to the unraveling of tradition."
      • Symbol drain wasn't caused by advertising - it's caused by the "technologies to make it possible and a world-view to make it desirable." Advertising is a symptom of a worldview where tradition is seen as an obstacle.
  • Tradition vs. technopoly:
    • Tradition needs symbols, and acknowledgement and relevance of the narratives that gave us those symbols.  - When asking "why should we bring TV and film into the classroom, the answer can just be "to make learning more efficient and more interesting", since efficiency is the only requirement in Technopoly. This doesn't address the question "what is learning for?" → no pathway to an educational philosophy if the answer is just "efficiency and interest". Doesn't answer the question "why".
    • No culture can flourish without cultural narratives - Genesis, Bhagavad-Gita - things that are narratives of transcendent origin and power.
      • BUT: sometimes narratives do not ensure stability or strength, like Adolf Hitler's narrative. He used Teutonic mythology, ancient symbolisms, created a narrative of Aryan supremacy. It was powerful, but in a negative way. Lasted 12 years.
      • The alternative to narratives is to live without meaning.
    • Symbol drain is both a symptom and a cause of a loss of narrative.
  • American education: what is its purpose?
    • What story does American education want to tell now? In a Technopoly, what is education for?
    • Technopoly encourages education to have the goal of helping students get a good job. And that's the only purpose. (maybe also to help us compete economically with other countries).
    • This means that the U.S. is not a culture. It's just an economy.
    • Attempts are made to provide a comprehensive purpose to education. Cultural Literacy by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. defined literacy as the "capacity to understand and use the words, dates, aphorisms, and names that form the basis of communication among the educated in our culture." He made cultural encyclopedias. But his proposal is inadequate for 2 reasons:
        1. The present condision of techonoly-generated information is so long, varied, and dynamic that it is not possible to organize it into a coherent educational program.
        1. Confuses a consequence of education with a purpose. He only tried to answer "what is an educated person?", not "what is an education for?"
    • The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom makes a complaint against the academy: that American professors have become moral relativists, "incapable ofproviding their students with a clear understanding of what is right thought and proper behavior." Also are intellectual relativists, not defending their own culture and not preserving the best of what has been thought and said. He suggests we go back to the basics of Western thought.
      • Bloom, an education philosopher "is a moralist who understands that Technopoly is a malevolent force requring opposition."
      • People who don't like Bloom's ideas give these reasons:
          1. Such a purpose for education is elitist. Western civilization is problematic, alientating to many, doesn't provide meaning.
          1. Assertion that the "story of Western civilization" is partial, biased, and oppressive. Leaves out most groups.
      • Postman feels: if that last assertion is true, "it means nothing less than that our national symbols have been drained of their power to unite, and that education must become a tribal affair; that is, each subculture must find its own story and symbols, and use them as the moral basis of education."
      • Also there are religious groups that feel that education is for the greater glory of God and to "prepare the young to embrace intelligently and gracefully the moral directives of the church."
  • General mood towards education in a Technopoly:
    • There is a general mood of skeptism, an "agnosticism of judgement, sometimes a world-weary nihilism in which even the most conventional minds begin to question both distinctions of value and the value of distinctions.
    • Technopoly emphasizes: progress without limits, rights without responsibilities, technology without cost. No moral center. Values efficiency, interest, economic advance. Technological progress as the best thing. Gets rid of traditional narratives and symbols that suggest stability, orderliness. Emphasizes skills, technical expertise, consumption.
    • Technopoly "answers Bloom by saying that the story of Western civilization is irrelevant; it answers the political left by saying there is indeed a common culture whose name is Technopoly and whose key symbol is now th computer, towards which there must be neither irreverence nor blasphemy. It even answers Hirsch by saying that there are items on his list that, if thought about too deeply and taken too seriously, will interfere with the progress of technology."

11. The Loving Resistance Fighter

Chapter focus: This chapter is a light exploration of a strategy through which to resist Technopoly. It is grounded in maintaining a strong critique towards technology and its impact, always questioning technology and looking at potential consequences. The author suggests that one of the strongest ways we can cultivate this is through a shift in education: focus on teaching historical context for every subject, shifting the teaching of history itself to focus on the meaning and context of historical accounts, and provide everyone with a strong foundation in semantics.

  • If you participate in cultural criticism, people will always ask you "what is the solution to the problems you describe?" in a few ways:
    • gentle and eager
    • threatening and judgmental
    • wishful and encouraging
  • This book is armed less with solutions than an explanation of problems, but Postman has some ideas. Two parts:
      1. what the individual can do irrespective of what the culture is doing
      1. what the culture can do irrespective of what na individual is doing
  • A principle for working against Technopoly: be a loving resistance fighter.
    • Loving = "always keep close to your heart the narratives and symbols that once made the United States the hope of the world and that may yet have enough vitality to do so again." Ex. American resistance during Vietnam War = only case in history where public opinion forced a government to change its foreign policy. Ex. Public education for all citizens.
      • America has always been a series of experiments. 3 are especially important:
          1. End of 18th century: Can a nation allow the greatest possible degree of political and religious freedom and still retain a sense of identity and purpose?
          1. Middle of 19th century: Can a nation retain a sense of cohesion and commuinty by allowing into it people from all over the world?
          1. Now: Can a nation preserve its history, originality, and humanity by submitting itself totally to the sovereignty of a technological thought-world? (Postman things the answer isn't going to be great)
    • Resistance fighter = people who resist American Technopoly are people:
      • "Who pay no attention to a poll unless they know what questions were asked, and why"
      • "Who refuse to accept efficiency as the pre-eminent goal of human relations"
      • "Who have freed themselves from the belief in the magical powers of numbers, do not regard calculation as an adequate substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth"
      • "Who refuse to allow psychology or any "social science" to pre-empt the language and thought of common sense"
      • "Who are, at least, suspicious of the idea of progress, and who do not confuse information with understanding"
      • "Who do not regard the aged as irrelevant"
      • "Who take seriously teh meaning of family loyalty and honor, and who, when they "reach out and touch someone" expect that person to be in the same room"
      • "Who take the great narratives of religion seriously and who do not believe that science is the only system of thought capable of producing truth"
      • "Who know the difference between the sacred and the profane, and who do not wink at tradition for modernity's sake"
      • "Who admire technological ingenuity but do not think it represents the highest possible form of human achievement"
      • Understand that every technology is a product of an economic and political context, has a program, agenda, and philosophy that may or may not be life enhancing. All of which requires scrutiny, criticism, and control.
      • Resistance requires an "epistemological and psychic distance from technology, technology should always appear somewhat strange, never natural or inevitable.
  • Education can play a role in this resistance.
    • School is a type of technology, but it is also regularly scrutinized, criticized, and modified. Our best tool for addressing problems that paralyze other social institutions.
    • Schools can: give a sense of coherence in their studies, a sense of purpose, meaning, interconnectedness. Put forth a clear curriculum, clear vision of what constitutes an educated person.
    • Schools don't need to further stress the idea of self, that's already very present in society and renders curriculum irrelevant.
    • Possible theme of education for a diverse, secularized population:
      • The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski. Emphasizes science, but also includes arts and humanities. Must join art and science.
      • The ascent of humanity is a scaffolding to build a curriculum.
        • This could come from joining science and art, past and present. It's a continuous story. This doesn't require inventing new subjects or getting rid of old subjects. Can start at the earliest grades and go through college in deeper and wider dimensions. Gives students a point of view to understand meaning of subjects. Can give us a nontechnical, noncommercial definition of education.
        • Look at subjects in a historical context. Educated = to become "aware of the origins and growth of knowledge and knowledge systems; to be familiar with the intellectual and creative processes by which the best that has been thought and said has been produced.
        • This is idea-centered and coherence-centered (not problem or skills or child or training-centered)
        • What we learn doesn't have to be urgently related to a problem of today.
        • Stresses: "history, the scientific mode of thinking, the disciplined use of language, a wide-ranging knowledge of the arts and religion, and the continuity of human enterprise."
  • Education based on history:
      1. history is not just one subject - every subject has a history (biology, physics, math, lit, music, art). All teachers must be history teachers, teach every subject as history. To teach all subjects with historical context means we can develop a sense of meaning around what we know and how we know it. Knowledge is not fixed. Teaching the history of subjects teaches connections. The world is not created anew every day.
    • What would a history teacher do then? History as a subject would be about what history is: "hypotheses and theories about why change occurs." We know that history is told from specific viewpoints, told for a specific purpose. Historians know this, but we don't teach this. This prevents people from understanding how history can change and why different groups view history differently. If other subjects teach relevant history, then history teachers can now do this - show how history is a product of culture, how the biases of the culture, the religion, politics, geography, economy lead them to re-create their past in specific ways.
    • If not, history as it is taught now just re-produces Technopoly's bias: history as a chronicle of fragmented, objective, concrete events, without concepts and theories. Meaningless stream of events.
    • Need to present past events with coherence, through theories, concepts, hypotheses, comparisons, deductions, evaluations.
    • Need courses that help us understand that science is not just a pharmacy or technology or magic trick - it's a special way of employing human intelligence. Practice a set of canons of thought, disciplined use of language.
    • Schools should also always offer a course in semantics - "the process by which people make meaning". The relationship between language to reality. Every teacher should be a semantics teacher. Uses of language, relationship between things and words, symbols and signs, factual statements and judgements, grammar and thought. Semantics should be foundational, basic, taught early. Generates critical thought, understand underlying assumptions, how language can distort reality. Not people who just follow orders, spell correctly.
    • Since society has amply supply of popular culture, education needs to take the role of supplying appreciation and context for past culture. This might feel painful to learn or teach, but shows that "not all worthwhile things are instantly accessible and that there are levels of sensibility unknown to them."
  • Two subjects are important to understand the historical context of:
      1. History of technology. Help us begin informed conversations of where technology is taking us and how.
      1. Comparative Religion (which much of painting, music, technology, architecture, lit, science are intertwined). Religion as an expression of humanity's creativity, response to fundamental questions about meaning. No particular religion. Should show the metaphors, literature, ritual.
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