Technological Progress and Social Progress Now Act in Opposition to Each Other
I wish this were not so, because I admire technical progress so much – but the facts are staring me in the face.
Technology has always been a double-edged sword. Agriculture, for example, gave us much more food than before, but immediately had political consequences: empires and social inequality appeared; people became much better at killing each other. And there was no going back to the old way way of life.
Progress had us by our private parts and was not letting go. It was not clear whether it was serving us, or we were serving it – but it didn’t matter, we were stuck with what we had, and would have to live with it. Back then, if you were not a slave, you had considerable leeway in what you could do. St. Paul, for example, was a tent-maker in his spare time.
In the Middle Ages, choices were more constricted – mainly limited to agriculture. But gradually, the monastic life came to offer advantages to ambitious people – quite the opposite of its original intention. As was often the case in human history: unanticipated consequences soon overwhelmed the best of intentions.
All of a sudden, the Modern World appeared. This had certainly not been intended, it just happened; one thing led to another. We could not have imagined it in our wildest dreams.
Once again, people were left chasing progress. It didn’t seem that way at the time. It just seemed like a vast improvement – where those who moved the fastest got the mostest. The race was on – and it kept going faster and faster.
It became clear that the owners and producers of technology, sailing ships for example, had a big advantage. Companies were formed in to make this prosperity available to anyone with some ready cash. And people started to wait anxiously for their ship to return to port laden with riches – including slaves from Africa.
This was not a healthy situation, and everyone knew it – but how could you argue with riches? The result, in America, was the Civil War- which was won by the North because of its industrialization.
What was industrialization? It was the social impact of technology – a fact which few seem to appreciate, even now. We were beginning to get nervous about the impact of technology (Abraham Lincoln, after all, was a successful railroad lawyer) – but we were afraid to show our nervousness. And this fear only got worse.
In the next one hundred years technology (epitomized by the movie industry) made it easier and easier to control the populace – who seemed to become more and more foolish. What was going in here? Technology was growing powerful while people were growing weaker. There was no other way for the unbiased observer to see it. But there were not many unbiased observers around.
People still existed, but in a diminished state. But this was going to change – in the biggest change of all time, when they would cease to exist at all. How could anything so shocking happen?
It happened because of high-tech: which produced television, the computer, software – and then the Internet. People became so obsessed with this technology, they seemed inferior by comparison. They decided to become something else instead. We have no words to describe these new beings – but it easy enough to see what they felt they had become. They felt they had been resurrected, and now were new beings – part of the market economy: consumers. They were no longer people, and had no desire to be. As people, they had ceased to exist.
Being no longer had any meaning to them – whereas before it was all-important. The most amazing change in history has occurred – and no one noticed it was happening.
Machines had become like people – and people had become like machines.