I’m Blaming Technology

Paul Munn says in his post “technology and the collective”:

…our mechanized and technologically-driven society tends to dehumanize us and detach us from the natural way of life God created us for. And much of our technological equipment even seems to push us further from each other and from God. But I’ve heard many people blame this on technology itself, as if it is somehow inherently evil, and I don’t agree with that. I think the problem is deeper.

I’ve written much about the idolatry of the social collective, how we organize and institutionalize gathered human beings to form “We, the People,” a power much greater than any one person, a terrible substitute for the Body of Christ. I think our technology, as it has developed, has become a clear reflection of the evils of the social collective. No advanced technology can develop apart from this organization of people, and it necessarily reflects the values of the group. Technological developments have to be funded and so are driven by money and the purposes of the group, because what serves them well is what sells. Technology doesn’t drive itself, though it seems to (yes, I’ve read Ellul’s book). And it doesn’t drive people. People are driven by the power of the collective, driven to develop technology in a certain direction and driven to use it and serve it—or be cut off from the group, the source of life.

I think technology (broadly defined) and the power of “We, the people” are almost the same idea (which is to say that both technology and “We, the people” are ideas). Wendell Berry, a good Luddite, demonstrated how his refusal of a certain technology (a computer) amounted to a great social rejection/offense/marginalization, even among otherwise sympathetic environmentalists. Foucault utilized the term “technologies of the self” to describe this similarity. Wikipedia explains the interaction or overlap like this:

According to Foucault, technologies of the self are the forms of knowledge and strategies that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality”…

Foucault argued that technologies of the self must be understood as inextricably linked to his notion of governmentality: the guiding rationalities whereby individuals and social structures regulate and police norms of thought and behavior. Burchell states, “government, is a ‘contact point’ where techniques of domination and technologies of the self ‘interact’.According to Foucault, this “contact point” is where “technologies of domination of individuals over one another have recourse to processes by which the individual acts upon himself and, conversely,…where techniques of the self are integrated into structures of coercion.”

Anyway, I’m not sure I necessarily disagree with Paul’s clarification about technology (not inherently evil), however, its connection and perhaps even similarity to the collective seems to merit more than just a toss-out neutrality.