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.

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Anne Currie

Anne Currie

1.5K Followers

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