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Living in the Labyrinth of Technology

Living in the Labyrinth of Technology

Willem H. Vanderburg
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 550
  • Book Info
    Living in the Labyrinth of Technology
    Book Description:

    Living in the Labyrinth of Technologyargues that the twenty-first century will be dominated by a pattern of re-creating human life in the image of technology unless society intervenes on human (as opposed to technical) terms.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5729-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction: Where Are We Going with Technology?
    (pp. 3-14)

    Our collective story of the last two hundred years has been characterized in many different ways, as industrialization, rationalization, modernization, secularization, and most recently, computerization. Some accounts celebrate the many spectacular successes and extrapolate these to predict a brilliant future. Others emphasize the equally spectacular failures, arguing that it is high time we rethought our steps. A few may still proclaim that, despite the injustices and enormous human suffering, the ‘laws of history’ will soon see a new world rise from the ashes of the present one, but many have turned their backs on this secular gospel of salvation.


  5. Part One:: Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to the Earth and the Gods

    • chapter 1 Industrialization as ‘People Changing Technology’: Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to the Earth
      (pp. 17-70)

      The Industrial Revolution conjures up images of great inventors, machines, factories, filthy slums, and widespread poverty. We are less likely to associate with it major changes in language, artistic and literary expression, religious and political beliefs, morality, and much else that added up to a fundamental change in the way human beings thought of themselves and of their relations with one another and the world. It began a process of remaking human life in the image of technology, and it has contributed much to who and what we are today. It is for this reason that the process also involved...

    • chapter 2 Industrialization as ‘Technology Changing People’: Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to the Gods
      (pp. 71-132)

      ‘People changing technology’ by means of the technical division of labour, mechanization, and industrialization separated the technology-based connectedness from the culture-based connectedness of human life and society. It was impossible to change this technology-based connectedness, moored as it was in the earth, by respecting the culture-based connectedness, moored in the traditional gods. As a result, on the heels of ‘people changing technology’ came ‘technology changing people.’ People internalized the many changes in their world, which gradually led to a mutation in the organization of their brain-minds and, through it, in their culture. In the course of generations, this committed everyone...

    • chapter 3 Living with New Moorings to the Earth and the Gods
      (pp. 133-170)

      Some long-term implications of the process of industrialization become apparent when we investigate how the progressively strengthening technology-based connectedness gradually enveloped the correspondingly weakening culture-based connectedness of human life and society. It changed society’s moorings to the earth and the traditional gods – a change of which a relatively distinct economy and new secular gods were the primary manifestations. It also set in motion a much more long-term process: technology gradually began to function as a relatively distinct system within human life and society. The technology-based connectedness linked together all the material elements of technology, and at the same time it...

  6. Part Two: Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to Experience and Culture

    • chapter 4 People Changing Technology: Severing the Cultural Moorings of Traditional Technological Knowing and Doing
      (pp. 173-207)

      The transformation of traditional societies into the first generation of industrial societies, as described in Part One, gradually put enormous pressures on their technological traditions. This was to be expected since these societies found it next to impossible to continue their tradition-based ways of life. Too many of the required adjustments were without any precedent, and their linking together into an expanding technology-based connectedness greatly weakened the culture-based connectedness. Since technological traditions were integral to these societies, they were weakened both from within and from without. They experienced an additional limitation resulting from their need that anything of technological importance...

    • chapter 5 Scientific and Technological Knowledge in Human Life
      (pp. 208-235)

      Having introduced the concept of scientific and technological knowledge separated from experience and culture, I will now turn my attention to examining how these non-cultural elements are introduced into human life and how they coexist with the role of culture, particularly in the lives of scientific and technical specialists. The learning of science involves a process of secondary socialization into a non-cultural way of symbolizing and acting on the world. The fundamental premise is that when teenagers and young adults are introduced to science or technology in high schools, colleges, and universities, we can expect a continuity in the way...

    • chapter 6 Adapting to the New Technological Knowing and Doing
      (pp. 236-308)

      Out of the struggle by the first generation of industrial societies to overcome the limitations of technological knowing and doing embedded in experience and culture, an entirely new and universal technology gradually emerged. This process began in the closing decades of the nineteenth century and came to full fruition during and after the Second World War. The separation of technological knowing and doing from experience and culture completed the transition from traditional technologies to modern universal technology. This came about by means of another chain-reaction-like process involving both technology and society. The principal modifications to technology included a restructuring of...

  7. Part Three: Our Third Megaproject?

    • chapter 7 Technique and Culture
      (pp. 311-337)

      The full significance of the developments described in Parts One and Two may now be seen in the light of my earlier claim that humanity has begun its third megaproject: creating a global civilization primarily based on the technical approach to life and only secondarily on the cultural approach, thereby creating firsthomo economicus, and laterhomo informaticus. In Part One, we observed how human life broke its bonds with local nature and the gods, and in Part Two how it also began to break its bonds with local cultures. When this detachment spread throughout all of life, human beings...

    • chapter 8 Human Life Out of Context
      (pp. 338-375)

      The technical approach to life has reached far beyond industry and the economy. We have examined how the culture-based connectedness of human life and society became torn as a result of the growing pressure from an ever more independent technology-based connectedness. The first two phases in the process of industrialization prepared the ‘meta-experience’ on which the phenomenon of technique was based. Initially, many new situations for which there was no precedent in experience or culture were thought through by means of reason, still deeply rooted in culture. The results were not satisfactory because they tended to be more compatible with...

    • chapter 9 From Experience to Information
      (pp. 376-425)

      The Second World War and its aftermath spurred industrial societies into making an ever-greater use of the technical approach for organizing and reorganizing their ways of life. The result was the emergence of a number of new phenomena that many observers regarded as over-shadowing industry. A debate ensued as to what was really happening to human life and society. Were societies becoming advanced industrial, post-industrial, or post-capitalist societies? Were they consumer societies, mass societies, neighbourhoods of an emerging global village, mega-machine societies, spectator societies, new industrial states, or technetronic societies?¹ The only consensus appeared to be that something radically new...

    • chapter 10 Remaking Ourselves in the Image of Technique: Culture within Technique
      (pp. 426-482)

      In the previous chapters, we have seen that ‘underneath’ the many new phenomena of the latter half of the twentieth century there was an extraordinary stability, namely, a steadily expanding technique-based connectedness within the so-called industrially advanced nations. It gradually acted as a network of the most efficient transformations exchanging inputs and outputs of materials, energy, labour, capital, and information with one another without any decisive reference to their meanings and values for human life, society, and the biosphere. It was as if technique had reorganized the world to increase the efficiency of certain flows of goods and services by...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 483-488)

    According to the spirit of our age, this narrative should end with an effective and efficient prescription for our woes. Failing that, there should at least be some affirmation to the effect that the human spirit will triumph in the long run; that there is a political solution; that biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and other developments are producing something genuinely new and better; or that there is some new ‘ism’ to the effect that if only we believe or do this or that, humanity and our world will be saved. I cannot subscribe to any of this.

    There is no...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 489-530)
  10. Index
    (pp. 531-539)