Technopoly — the Surrender of Culture to Technology

  • Gadgets of all forms (from the printing press/books onward)
  • Techniques such as grading or statistical analysis that particularly benefit from gadgets

His Conclusions

  • New technology is unstoppable but that doesn’t mean it has no drawbacks. We love tech so much it inhibits our ability to judge its pros and cons.
  • As a society we focus on things that are objectively measurable (wealth, productivity, GDP, gold medals) because grades play well with our digital tech.
  • Our first thought when solving problems is too often technology — there are many problems in the world where lack of technology or information is not the fundamental issue.
  • We need a vision, a human story arc, a transcendent narrative about humanity and where we’re going, which isn’t just about better gadgets.

My Thoughts

  • The barriers to creation of new tech are undoubtedly at an all-time low.
  • My heart tells me technology is an unalloyed good, but intellectually I know there are downsides. Pollution is the most obvious one but AI, automation and VR/AR may provide even bigger problems.

The effect of tech on culture

One pastime that humans have been optimised out of

Automation of culture (partial or full)

  • Photography didn’t kill art (in fact, it made it far more egalitarian — art is now available to all via physical and digital reproductions and there’s still a market for original art).
  • Smartphone cameras didn’t kill photography (in fact, photos now play a bigger role in culture because good work can be generated with less training — creativity is more egalitarian).
  • Recording didn’t kill music (it may have reduced live playing for pleasure, but it made music available to everyone).
  • I’ve already lost all inclination to read physical books — even though I loved them. That means I can’t lend people books anymore so that’s a missing part of my personal culture. That’s a bad thing. On the upside, however, I now read vastly more than I did when I relied on physical books, perhaps because I can get hold of books quicker and carry more of them around. My reading has become tech-enhanced. Again, that feels positive on balance.

My Conclusion

  • I agree we don’t properly consider the downsides of tech and we’re too quick to throw technology at problems (in the tech sector, that’s basically our raison d’etre)
  • I think machine-assisted creativity can be homogeneous, but it does allow more new work to be produced and volume throws up genius. Therefore, I believe mass production of culture and reducing the barriers to entry for creativity is a good thing not a bad thing.
  • I suspect Postman (who died over a decade ago) would question our current technocratic leaders’ lack of a big vision, which is leaving the field wide open for crackpot ones.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Anne Currie

Anne Currie


SciFi author interested in tech, engineering, science, art, SF, economics, psychology, startups. Chaotic evil.