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from Metropolis, by Fritz Lang, 1927

This is from Jerry Mander’s 1991 book, In The Absence of The Sacred: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations (p. 49). He develops the thesis that modern technology is contributing to a mad “megatechnology,” and that we need to develop a way to assess the holistic impact of new technologies on our culture. These ten points, help him “maintain appropriate attitudes to protect against the one-sided information onslaught.”

  1. Since most of what we are told about new technology comes from its proponents, be deeply skeptical of all claims.
  2. Assume all technology “guilty until proven innocent.”
  3. Eschew the idea that technology is neutral or “value free.” Every technology has inherent and identifiable social, political, and environmental consequences.
  4. The fact that technology has a natural flash and appeal is meaningless. Negative attributes are slow to emerge.
  5. Never judge a technology by the way it benefits you personally. Seek a holistic view of its impacts. The operative question is not whether it benefits you, but who benefits most? And to what end?
  6. Keep in mind that an individual technology is only one piece of a larger web of technologies, “megatechnology.” The operative question here is how the individual technology fits the larger one.
  7. Make distinctions between technologies that primarily serve in the individual or the small community (e.g., solar energy) and those that operate on a scale outside of community control (e.g., nuclear energy). The latter kind is the major problem of the day.
  8. When it is argued that the benefits of the technological lifeway are worthwhile despite harmful outcomes, recall that Lewis Mumford referred to these alleged benefits as “bribery.” Cite the figures about crime, suicide, alienation, drug abuse, as well as environmental and cultural degradation.
  9. Do not accept the homily that “once the genie is out of the bottle you cannot put it back,” or that rejecting a technology is impossible. Such attitudes induce passivity and confirm victimization.
  10. In thinking about technology within the present climate of technological worship, emphasize the negative. This brings balance. Negativity is positive.