Ignorance Explosion

Ignorance Explosion: Understanding Industrial Civilization

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 301
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  • Book Info
    Ignorance Explosion
    Book Description:

    The author reveals the darker side of Western society's adoption of, and adaptation to, modern technology. Despite his portrayal of an increasingly complex, artificial and dehumanized technological environment, Lukasiewicz writes with humour and humanism and makes an enlightening contribution to the habitually grim literature on this subject.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7390-1
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of “Boxes”
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Designation of References
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Preface
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  9. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  10. Introduction
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)

    The object of this study— industrial civilization— is enormously complex and the views on technology— the underpinning of industrial civilization—highly controversial. It will be therefore useful to define first the basic premises and the scope ofThe Ignorance Explosion.

    It is essential to recognize that technology (and hence industrialization) is unique to human species. An expression of creativity, it is a facility with which only humans are endowed. As Marshall McLuhan observed, we are “the sex organs of the machine world” (McLuhan 1964,46).

    Technology is most adequately defined as an extension and expansion of our natural, biologically determined capabilities....

  11. 1 The Paradox of Human Progress
    (pp. 1-10)

    What is human progress? By what criteria should it be judged?

    Today, progress is universally identified with the growth of material affluence and expansion of social services, with the ability of a society to create knowledge and to innovate through the adoption of the latest state-of-the-art technology in every field. In this prevailing Western view, a high standard of living and efficiency, or more simply, ever-growing productivity, are the hallmarks of progress.

    This is a narrow view: it merely reflects the unprecedented development of Western societies since the Industrial Revolution, over a period of hardly a moment’s duration in the...

  12. 2 Humanities, Social and Physical Sciences: The Two Cultures
    (pp. 11-34)

    C.P. Snow touched a sensitive chord when he gave the Rede lecture at Cambridge University in 1959 onThe Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. First published in 1959 and, after many reprints, issued in 1964 in an expanded version asThe Two Cultures and a Second Look(Snow 1969), Snow’s analysis met with a flood of comment and criticism.

    The issue of the two cultures, as seen by Snow, concerns the communication gap between scientific and non-scientific cultures.¹

    In our society (that is, advanced Western society) we have lost even the pretence of a common culture. Persons educated with...

  13. 3 Technology: The Land of Many Faces
    (pp. 35-110)

    Since the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century and the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Western societies have been increasingly immersed in scientific and industrial activities. Today the results of these endeavours literally permeate all aspects of life in the West, and increasingly influence life on the rest of the planet. Science and technology are the pillars of our contemporary Western society; in no civilization known to us have they wielded a greater influence.

    It is not surprising that, in view of its tremendous impact, the process of industrialization has met with severe criticism and outright opposition....

  14. 4 The Ignorance Explosion
    (pp. 111-144)

    In “The Paradox of Human Progress” (Chapter 1), I suggested that the complexity of the industrial environment exceeded our capability to manage and control it and I pointed out that in this respect we did not differ fundamentally from our primitive, non-industrial ancestors who did not comprehend the workings of nature. I have further argued (in Chapter 3) that the impact of affluence on peoples' values and expectations, and the complexity of the socio-economic system were probably the most serious problems facing industrial civilization.

    Examination of the limits of human intellectual capacity as compared to the complexity of the industrial...

  15. 5 The Brave New World of Globalization
    (pp. 145-174)

    As soon as specialized knowledge and skills are acquired by some members of a society, individual self-sufficiency and independence are destroyed, interdependence takes their place, co-operation and integration become necessary in order to benefit from products of specialization. This has been the story of industrial civilization, which in the twentieth century attained a truly global reach.

    The post-World War II era has seen a dramatic growth of transnational and global activities in the industrialized West and beyond. The desire of the nations of the world to liberalize and expand international trade led to the conclusion in 1947 by 23 founding...

  16. 6 Language in the Service of Identity— or Communication?
    (pp. 175-212)

    One of the most sensitive and controversial aspects of the integrative pressures of industrial civilization concerns their impact on language. Among its many manifestations, three stand out: the use of foreign words and expressions for which native equivalents may or may not exist the use of a foreign language in spoken and written communications, and the adoption of a phonetic system of writing and the Latin alphabet in place of native script. All of these developments enhance transnational communications but run counter to the traditional view of language as the main exponent of cultural and national identities, and as the...

  17. 7 Technology and War
    (pp. 213-236)

    As already noted, the consequences of deployment of technology are often unforeseen and unpredictable. This has been particularly true of military applications.

    It is a truism to observe that technology—from the stirrup that gave rise to cavalry, to the canon, machine gun, tank, aircraft, radar, ballistic missile and nuclear explosive—has governed the character of war. And yet, more often than not, the impact of new weapons has been poorly understood not only by the society at large, but also by the military and politicians, the professionals responsible for the procurement and deployment of weapons.

    Marshall McLuhan, widely acknowledged...

  18. 8 Jettisoning the Harness of Biology
    (pp. 237-250)

    Possibly the most difficult and intractable issues that confront industrial society are those created through direct intervention of science and technology into the biological nature of the human species.

    In this case, the basic cause of our predicament is the difficulty of establishing unambiguous rational, moral, and ethical criteria for resolving the unavoidable conflict which occurs when the application of science and technology affects the characteristics and behaviour we have been endowed with by nature. Longevity, procreation, human genome, and sexuality are subject to the most obvious and significant interferences and interventions.

    In pre-industrial society death was viewed to be...

  19. 9 Has Vision Been Lost?
    (pp. 251-260)

    The scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the industrial revolution which soon followed gave birth to modern science and technology. The science of Classical Antiquity and the scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages were destroyed, the fundamental laws of nature were discovered, the required analytical tools developed and, through a rapid succession of inventions, technologies of thermal power, electricity, and mass production were created. As large scale industrialization took off, the future possibilities of science and technology appeared to be almost boundless; they gave rise to many imaginative explorations by science fiction writers.

    Most of the prophesies...

  20. Subject Index
    (pp. 261-272)