According to Neil Postman, technopoly is term where a society worships the power and the limitless of technologies. In the book, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Postman states that technology can be a friend or an enemy. However, he believes that technology is more likely to be an enemy than a friend since it changes or alters the society’s perspective of life and future.
Technopoly causes dangers to civilization because it changes the culture we once live in, changes the traditional values we once believe in, changes “the character of our symbols: the things we think with” 1, changes “the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop. ” 2 A technology is not to be seen as adding or subtracting something to a society because once a technology is introduced to the community, the technology will cause change to everything. Postman separates cultures into three categories: tool- using cultures, technocracies, and technopolies.
All three types of cultures can be found on Earth at different period of time. In tool- using cultures, the two main characteristics are “to solve specific and urgent problems of physical life, such as in the use of waterpower, windmills, and the heavy- wheeled plow” 3 and “to serve the symbolic world of art, politics, myth, ritual, and religion… [etc. ]” 4 In here, tools were not replace the original usage when they were first introduced to the society. However, tool- using cultures are disappearing nowadays because of our increase usage of modern and advance technologies.
Each technology is created to have multiple functions, as a result, the original function of a tool is being replaced for efficiency and convenience. In technocracies, “tools play a central role in the thought- world of the culture. ” 5 The tools change the culture of the society and taking over and “to become the culture”. 6 As a result, traditions, politics and religions of the culture are forced to fight for their existence, if not, they would be eliminated and replaced by technocracies.
There are three great technocracy inventions where they are still currently heavily impacting the modern society and the inventions were the mechanical clock, the printing press and the telescope. Originally, the invention of mechanical clock was used for monks to have a regularity to their routines of monasteries. However, overtime the mechanical clock was introduced to the society and slowly, the mechanical clock, became a precise technology for people to have a sense of time. Eventually, this invention slowly changed the culture and the people of the society which led to capitalism and the modern world.
Originally, Gutenberg’s printing press was to mass- produced the bible, so that he could get rich. However, the mass production of the bibles gave each individual to have his or her own theologian which created a difference “between unity and diversity of religious belief. ” 7 In the end, the printing press has a different function than it was originally introduced and now the printing press is used to diversify knowledge and media throughout the world. The invention of the telescope has an effect on both what the reality is and what the church believes in.
This 1, 2 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 20 3, 4 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 23 5, 6 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 28 7 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 15 invention has led to many debates and trials not only in the field of science, but also in the field of religious beliefs. Postman argues that in technocracy, ”the technological and the traditional world views — coexisted in uneasy tension. 8 Technological perspective is the stronger one; however, the traditional perspective still existed and still exerting some influence on the technological perspective, but the effect is very minimal. Postman states that there are scientists and inventors who contributed to the foundation of each cultures.
For example: Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton contributed to the foundation of tool- using cultures. Bacon was considered the first person of technocracy because he was the first to see “pure and serene, the connection between science and the improvement of the human condition. 9 His main purpose was to bring happiness to human life with the use of new technologies. He was the first person to have a theory and philosophy to incorporate technologies into mankind and improve the conditions; however, his influence didn’t really strike the public until 150 years later where the industrial revolution took place. And after the rise of industrial revolution, the use of technologies only increase.
Bacon modified what people believe in before the industrial revolution. He led them “to believe that knowledge is power, that humanity is capable of progressing… 10 As a result, the world is turning from a tool- using culture to technocracy and from technocracy to technopoly, eventually. In technopoly, Postman states that technopoly eliminates the traditional perspective and only concentrate on the technological perspective. Unlike technocracy, traditional perspective has no value and irrelevant in the world of technopoly. Technopoly is where the ultimate culture where technology becomes the culture and everything in a society. The rise and the fall of a society depends on technology.
During the industrial revolution, Luddite Movement led by skilled workers destroyed the machines, garment and industries because of the wide spread of factories’ mass productions, child labour, and the elimination of the laws that were once protected the skilled workers. At the end, Luddite Movement failed and industrial revolution raised to its peak. In this case, we can see there was a uneasy tension between the traditional perspective which led by the skilled workers and the technological perspective which led by the people who owned and invented the machines.
As the machines being introduced to the society, the values of the traditional perspective decreases because of the lack of efficiency, economic advance and interest. Technopoly also redefines the new meanings of art, religion, history, intelligence, etc. As a result, technopoly is a totalitarian technocracy. In the book, Postman states that why technopoly is successfully introduced to United States of America. Firstly, Postman reveals the idea of American character where American is very new compare to any other countries in Europe, it is known as the land of wonders.
There isn’t a deep rooted history behind the church and science. The church didn’t play a central role in 8 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 48 9 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 35 10 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 38 America than in Europe. Politics, ideology, and religions run more freely in America than any other countries on Earth. Because America is relatively new, some may say “the American skepticism toward culture offered encouragement to radical and thoughtless technological intrusions. 11
New technologies were invented and there was no restriction of using them. Unlike, in the Europe, what the invention of the telescope brought upon the society didn’t really affect the Americans that much because of a more diverse and free perspective without the interaction or interference of the church where it believes god creates everything and the church strictly against any ideology and philosophy that defies god. Secondly, Postman states that American men were quicker, more understanding and more focused on the economic bloom during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
With the increase usage of technologies, new economic possibilities opened up drastically. Because people were more adapted to new technologies, they were much more comfortable and not afraid to use them. With a limited American history, technology became the culture and the sole purpose of living. As a result, American is turning to become a technopoly. Thirdly, Postman says that with the success and advanced technology in bringing Americans with comfort, convenience and efficiency, there is no reason for American to look back to the traditional value or perspective of the culture.
With the help of new technologies, life becomes more effective and more convenience which led to the fourth point. Postman argues that “old sources of belief came under siege” 12 As technology keep advancing, old traditional beliefs are blocked or discarded. Just like a true technopoly where traditional perspective is being ignored. As Bacon once implied that technologies should bring mankind happiness and to improve human life, Americans with their limited cultures and history is now undergo a change where technology is the culture, technology is the history and the technology is the future.
Because of all these reasons, American was successful in creating their own culture based on technology — a true technopoly. Technology not only can utilize and affect a culture, but it can also demoralize the behaviour of human interaction. It also stirrups trust issues and appropriate judgements. For example, the machine “lie detector” shows whether a person is lying or not. Before, this machine, no one is capable of knowing if a person is telling the truth or not. In a court, this machine provides a supplementary evidence whether the convict has creditability on telling the truth or not.
With this technology, the trust between every individual decreases and the only way to show that a person is not lying is to take the lie detector test. In this case, the trust between each individual starts to demise. Since we human are unreliable, biased, complex and doubtful, we usually need the help of a technology to determine and help us to overcome difficulties. For example, IQ tests are use to give us a score in a scale where how smart we are. DNA tests are use to give information between an offspring and the parents.
The disadvantage of a machine is that 11 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 53 12 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 54 since machine has no feelings or emotions and they only look into facts, it is hard to ask and solve questions related to human interactions. But, machine does give us advantages on many other things. Because machines are not bias and they have no emotional or experience attached, their results are usually much fair than we, human, make. However, machines and science alter the real meaning of truth, trust and intelligence we once believe in.
Nowadays, we can simply use lie detectors to find the truth in a person, use internet and computer to find knowledge and intelligence. Our over dependency on machines lower our original value on trust, love, and truth. As a result, machines undermines human characteristics of life and social interactions between individuals. Just prior to the industrial revolution, the introduction of new technologies shifted the world’s major beliefs. The societal view point shifted from a spiritual point of view to a more scientific point of view. For example, in traditional world, everything is created by God; the Earth is the center of the universe.
However, in scientific world, with the help of new technology such as the telescope, scientists were able to prove that the Earth is not located in the center of the universe, scientists were also able to show that everything has an ancestor which means everything evolves and diverse from a species. The product of this shift is that spiritual point of view creates unease environment when it is put into a scientific point of view. Because God cannot be proven or back up by natural science, as a result, spiritual point of view lacks the idea of reality. In scientism, everything is proven and backed up by another fact.
As a result, scientism is more real and logical compare to the spiritual point of view where everything is uncertain and unproven. Computer is considered a near-perfect technology for technopoly by Postman. Nowadays, we cannot live without computers as they hold all of your bank and private information, create convenience communication pathways , easy accessible data and knowledge. The evolution of the computers has been advancing at a very high pace during the last decade. Even in education, some books have been abandoned and replaced by ebooks which are more easier to access and convenience to bring around.
In the field of science, computers are required for advance physics and chemistry to do difficult calculations. Entertainment and knowledge are now all accessible through computers. Even in the government, computer serves as an organizer where documents are stored and ready to be access whenever. The invention of computer heavily impacts and changes the culture and the people in the society. As we increase the usage of computers and electronics, we undermine the original usage of paper and pen. Just like other tools, paper and pen would eventually be replaced by the advance technology like computer.
As we are entering in the cyber-world where computer and data are being used regularly, one of the dangers of this technopoly is that cyber hacking and computer virus are more often to happen. Since the government holds the most valuable information of its city or country, it is inevitable that hackers would want to steal information from the government and sell the data to elsewhere or for their own purpose. In other words, the danger of using computer is a possibility since nowadays computers are really easy to buy and the computers have an easier access route to one’s personal information than ever.
Overall, we are obedient to various forms of technology and technological systems. The problem of being so obedient is that we over dependent on technology. Looking at today’s world, everything we do, everything we wear, everything we use is either a form of technology or an item that is manufactured from a technology. Back in the day, horses and boats were used for travelling long distance, and now, planes and cars are used because of their efficiency and convenience. Our clothing are all made from machines. Banks store our wealth with computers. Educations starting to go a new irection towards computers and online studies.
Courses are offered online for students to take. Everything is done by technologies. Our world is becoming to a full technopoly where the original and traditional perspective of the world is being ignored. As a result, our over dependent on technology to change the world to technopoly is creating a negative effect to our history, religion, and traditions. For example, with the new electronic education, computers, and online courses, the tradition where students go to school and teachers teach students will be reduced.
This indirectly affects the job opportunity for future teachers and also damages the student’s cooperation with another individual, group learning and social responsibility. This also undervalues the original idea of school where students attend to class and learn. The best way to revolutionize this technopoly is by using the school. School gives coherence in knowledge, provides meanings and responsibilities to the students. On the other hand, online courses and electronic studies fail because they lack of moral, meaning, social and intellectual centre where an instructor teaches through his or her experience.