Hal Forsstrom Ellul, Chapter 2: The Characterology of Technique Conclusion: There is no common denominator between the technique of today and that of yesterday. While there are remaining examples, they do not constitute the progress of the world today, and as a result are not a part of the dominant society "technique" creates. At one time technique belonged to a civilization, now it has overtaken civilization. "Psychology of the tyrant" "We must assess, not the internal characteristics of the technique, but the actual situation of technique in human society." p.64 Traditional Techniques and Society: In Paleo-Technical Societies (I'll use the description *past* to group all of these societies before Ellul*s technological one) there were several specific conditions which kept technique in check within a society: 1. Man worked only as much as was necessary to furnish the goods necessary for consumption. Work was not a virtue. How does modern's "more for your money" life affect this attitude towards working overtime (wholesale clubs and shopping malls as the expenditure point of all this extra work in particular)? Returns to last week's argument that now we work to accumulate money, which we then can spend on material goods. 2. "What do we define as the things which make us comfortable?" Ellul argues that "comfort" did not mean lots of goods but rather an atmosphere of comfort. 3. Technique was based on the "old style," which slowly evolved. The difference between past and present civilizations lay in the attitude that the deficiency of the tool was always to be compensated for by the skill of the worker. In such a relationship the tool remains as a tool. In the modern technological society it is the machine which compensates for the the worker*s lack of skill. Direct referece to the hand planning trunks vs. the machine planning. Is the mechanical planer a tool or a worker? Could anyone in ID have a career without the machine? How does this affect society's consumer based society? "Is the workshop (master apprentice) system dead as a result?" 4. Relative Isolation of societies. Past societies were so diverse and self dependent that techniques could not transfer from one to another easily. Direct confrontation and some aesthetic similarity between cultures was necessary for any cross cultural exchange. 5. "Active vs. Passive" Societies Western (specifically European): Classified as Active, expansion, exploitative of Earth's resources. Eastern: Classified as Passive, concentrate on preserving own culture, keeping out anything that would taint it, tended towards preserving Earth. In either of these past societies, there was the choice for a person to break away from society. Always the option available to exclude oneself from the dominant empire, live a *life of contemplation.* "IS IT IMPOSSIBLE NOW FOR PEOPLE TO BECOME HERMITS?" Think about the Unibomber. Now he is a joke, but society has a tendency to single out and make examples of those people who stray from society*s principles (which are focused around technique). People planning to lead contemplative lives must do so around the hectic schedule of contemporary life: the thought of abandoning modern civilization for such a pursuit is practically unheard of anymore. What I find interesting is that the people who tend to be alienated by society are the ones who are the stereotype of the programmers and scientists who CREATE THE TECHNIQUE which dictates the society that could not accommodate them. Division of Nature and Technique. Technique is rational, based on a clear and efficient way of doing things. Most machines, by visual reference, explain the process by which they function (ex: cars have wheels). Nature in past societies always existed within the realm of the unknown. Therewas a fear and/or a respect for it, which resulted in mysticism. Technique allowed science to reveal nature*s secrets. This allows for enough of an understanding for people to no longer fear it. People really haven*t conquered nature. The average city dweller woudn*t survive the dangers of the wild, and our society has conditioned us to not want to. The manner by which technique conquered nature is that it leaves the dangers as our decision. Someone who died of a snake bite shouldn*t have been out in the wild, but they *took the risk* of leaving the safety of civilization. We still fear it, but can now avoid it in everyday life. However only a fool would think we completely conquered it: look at the fear which erupts as soon as wild animals creep into our society. "Artificiality" Ellul's definition: "Technique as art is the creation of an artificial system." 7. Automatism: Technical movement becomes self directing. Where does that leave us? Ellul's argument is that it leaves us with the job of deciding which technique is most efficient. This could be just an illusion of power. We feel as though we are in control of the direction things are heading, but it is in fact just another step in the same direction. The person is reduced to nothing more than a part of the process, not the end result OF that process (a redundant point in every chapter). pp.78 Argument (of Communism): Capitalism cannot function with technique's constant innovation- it would break down the system in the process of trying to keep up. But the advent of the PC actually argues against this prediction: look at how quickly companies upgrade software and internal parts. What Ellul failed to realize (as almost every argument of this period) was the potential for technology to condense in size! Computers then took up entire rooms- the idea of buying new computers every six months was absurd. Our simple solution was the technique of inserting a small chip to upgrade. As a result we are reduced to caretakers f the machine. But the machine will not die if it doesn't get more RAM, unlike a child who doesn't get fed. Instead it is the end user who, unless they keep up with the pace of upgrading, is not longer on the cutting edge of modern technology. "HAVE WE ALL BEEN REDUCED TO TECHNICIANS?"pp.82 Why Technique really is separate from machines: The reality that machines are self defeating. When one is obsolete, it is thrown away for the newer model. In some cases, the shell or parts are reused in the next model. This could be compared to eating a corpse to absorb its power or another form of "Lineage tradition" from one technique to the next, but more often then not the old are abandoned in 2-5 year life spans. This life span is contracting, as Ulllman*s book shows, with modern technology obsolete almost upon inception. 8. "Gray Area" of Technology" Again we fall upon the argument of whether technology is neutral or not. The self defeating nature of its evolution seems to prove Ellul*s arguments that technique is blind to society. That leaves society to see its effects as the motivator of passing judgment, and as the party responsible for cleaning up the aftereffects of unleashing it upon the world. We always use something asap with the desire to know its *benefits.* While it is a fine argument that a technique should not be unleashed if it is potentially dangerous, the amount of time and financial expenditure for a technique necessitates applying it as soon as possible, and passing moral judgment later. Atomic Bomb: Nuclear Power*s benefits, but also its devastate properties *needed* to be seen for us to judge whether it was a worthwhile pursuit. By acting first and thinking later, are we a society devoid of moral consciences? Or has the role of technical innovators been so diminished that as technique continues to branch out into more specialized forms we simply cannot ascertain what may occur when a technique is applied in the real world? The problem remains that now we fcus on what is the most economic solution for the society. Solutions that are not the BEST but are the most efficient in terms of labor, money, and industry are those implemented to solve the problems technique poses. But these solutions do not act to expand our civilization: they function just to keep a technique implemented. THE BIGGEST HURDLE IS OUR INABILITY TO RESTRAIN OURSELVES FROM INDULGING IN TECHNIQUE. 9. Thus Society conforms to assist Technique: Government, Police, Propaganda, Economy all act together to maintain a structure conducive to accommodating whatever surprises the implementation of a technique. "Prison Camps," in administrative aspects. ORDER is the highest value of the technical society, these must all function together to keep ORDER. Organization of the state in every technically oriented society is crucial to stability. 10. Technical Universalism: As soon as a society (3rd World) takes the first steps towards technique, no hope to change back. *Advanced* nations introduce the overflow of goods which result from technique into *primitive* nations. The only for their societies is to function by the same rules as other *modern* nations to accommodate the change. International *GENEROSITY* allows technique to reach out and assimilate others. With similar governments and policing structures implemented, these societies become part of worldwide civilization. Public schooling becomes so important to technology because through it a child*s ancestry is diluted. The technical society can be introduced into almost any culture in the modern world, and then conforms it to the standard through social institutions. Is technique creating a greater gap between social groups? Does it leave the *have nots* locked in a state where they cannot grasp the techniques of society? The reverse appears to be true. Technique has evolved to the point where it has diversified and manifested itself in so many forms that at least one is simple enough to involve groups of people (speciically the lower class and third world nations) through the technology once alienating the nation. Techniques must become available on some level to reach the masses it constrains through government, and by enveloping them into the civilization it leaves everyone *happy* as a part of the social whole. As a result, technique appears to evolve down to people without the inclination towards technology. Does this undermine the technique*s merits further, or provide the end result of any technical innovation (use on some level by everyone)? *WHAT ARE THE NECESSARY TECHNIQUES TO TRANSFORM A NATIVE CULTURE INTO A TECHNOLOGICALLY ORIENTED ONE? WHAT ARE THE HALLMARKS OF A TECHNICALLY ORIENTED CIVILIZATION?* See factories, smoke stacks, apartment complexes, parking lots, malls, all to accommodate the same *needs* of society. Japan- after bomb, changed completely. However people had no problems with letting go of their society to KEEP PACE (the key phrase). In the span of 200 years a relatively isolated nation is one of the leaders of industry. "WHY IS THE WESTERN SCHOOL OF THOUGHT SO REVERED, ONLY FOR PEOPLE TO RETURN TO THEIR NATIVE COUNTRIES?" To spread the technique that is being used, and technique*s epicenter is the Western World. 11. "Technical invention does not involve the simple addition of new values to old ones* Old bottles are being broken." Nature has been conquered and changed to technique*s accommodations. Is religion ABANDONED, or has it changed? Does technique supplant its role? As Ullman showed with the AIDS project, we invest so much in technique that we cannot let it go even if it is not viable. The financiers have a reverence towards technique they partake in but don't completely understand, while the programmers of technique*s many forms have no association with its ends. The Gods and Supernatural of nature are no longer revered, since technique has provided technologies as a means of DIMINISHING THEIR SUPERIORITY through necessity in a society. It never kills themcompletely, but instead reduces their role in society to a quaint option for people to choose if it suits their lifestyle in the Technological Society. It is the same choice for a woodworker using the planer by hand instead of the machine. These remnants of non-technical societies cannot offer enough resistance to the expansion of our civilization to stop the wheels set in motion already. The path upon which we are headed is unknown. We put faith in technique and our ability to create new techniques to clean up any problems to guide us into it safely. Technique produces such obvious results that it is easy to put faith in whatever direction it*s headed. The problem is that it has no apparent direction. It*s only certainty is that it is self replacing, allowing us to wonder what more efficient technique could replace the civilization we exist in now. That make*s Ellul*s farfetched technological nightmares a little more disconcerting. Final Question: "HAVE WE REACHED A POINT OF STAGNATION WITHIN OUR CULTURE? ARE WE TREMENDOUSLY ADVANCING ANY LONGER AS A SOCIETY, OR JUST EXPANDING?"
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