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Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1992)

av Neil Postman

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,915208,901 (3.88)12
In this witty, often terrifying work of cultural criticism, the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death chronicles our transformation into a Technopoly: a society that no longer merely uses technology as a support system but instead is shaped by it--with radical consequences for the meanings of politics, art, education, intelligence, and truth.… (mer)
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    Den ensamma massan : en studie av den amerikanska karaktären i förvandling av David Riesman (proximity1)
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    Le destin technologique av Jean-Jacques Salomon (proximity1)
    proximity1: Le destin technologique , which presents interesting complementary reading to Technopoly, was published in the same year, 1992. Both are fascinating and both are by brilliant thinkers. See also, by J-J Salomon, in English, Mirages of development : science and technology for the third worlds … (mer)
  3. 00
    Exploring the Black Box: Technology, Economics, and History av Nathan Rosenberg (proximity1)
    proximity1: see also: http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=A+Reading+Course+in+%27Technology+%26+Society%27+-+main+text&view=proximity1
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    You are not a gadget : a manifesto av Jaron Lanier (proximity1)
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    In the Country of the Young av John W. Aldridge (proximity1)
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    Det mänskliga förfallet av Konrad Lorenz (proximity1)
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    The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University av Louis Menand (proximity1)
  8. 00
    The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project) av Andrew Bacevich (proximity1)
    proximity1: The logical consequences of technopoly go hand in hand with an ever-expanding and ever-more-intrusive state surveillance aparatus which their proponents try to justify by assumptions about national security matters. These works, both so important, should be read together or serially for greater effect.… (mer)
  9. 00
    Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up av William Poundstone (themulhern)
    themulhern: These books have an affinity: Postman looks at the bigger picture and Poundstone is relatively trivial. Poundstone is a great deal more contemporary. They both are about a technology that can take away all our capacity to think.
  10. 00
    The Meaning of it All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist av Richard Feynman (themulhern)
    themulhern: Both are thoughtful books by smart people. They intersect in their impatience with the pretensions of the social sciences.
  11. 00
    Pillar of the Sky av Cecelia Holland (themulhern)
    themulhern: "Pillar" is a case study of the effects of technology on culture which Postman addresses in "Technopoly".

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» Se även 12 omnämnanden

Thought provoking. A very prescient, for its day, insight into the trouble with technologies, particularly the way we unthinkingly embrace all technology as an advance and sign off progress instead of considering the consequences of a trivialized onslaught of information that is worse than meaningless as it renders us dumb and confused in a world divorced from connection and historical perspective and meaning. Postman cautions the reader to beware of polls (always ask, what was being asked! I.e is it okay to smoke while praying? No. Is it okay to pray while smoking? Yes) all subjects should be taught as history, not just history. He wants to find reverence again in religion but here I think he misses the opportunity for secular faith which will bring us or of our destructive extractive culture…but overall very good and thoughtful. The medium is the message.
  BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
One of the best book by Postman, as usual based on good historical research and very clear thoughts. Written in 1992, it's still fresh and an indispensable read to understand the role of technology in society (coupled with other classic on this topic). ( )
  d.v. | May 16, 2023 |
This book by Neil Postman is profound, engaging, and challenging. These days, when we speak of 'technology,' we speak of mobile phone technology, computer technology, and other allied topics. However, the role technology has played in our lives is deep.

Neil Postman takes us on a journey, starting from the concept of technology and why he coined a new word, 'technopoly.' Inventions like the clock, the printing press, photography, etc., have profoundly shaped humanity, and we do not think of this. We take these technologies for granted.

It is thirty years since he wrote the book, and the lessons he offers hold even today when the developments are even more rapid.

The question is: are we ready, and can we adapt? An excellent companion book to this one is Alvin Toffler's "Future Shock."

His last chapter on education is instructive.

Neil Postman writes forcefully and keeps you engaged right until the end. This book is important. ( )
  RajivC | Nov 28, 2022 |
Another pithy Neil Postman polemic! And he's mostly right, too. Once one becomes familiar with Neil Postman, I think one can read individual chapters as stand-alone essays.

So, I went straight to Chapter 9: Scientism, as I already have a dismissive attitude to the so-called "social sciences", based on reading works written fairly long ago, like Feynman's essay on "Cargo Cult Science" and more recent things, like the psychological experiments on a frozen salmon. Bad ideas of scientism as Postman lists them:

1. The methods of the natural sciences can be applied to the study of human behavior.
2. Social science generates specific principles which can be used to organize society on a rational and humane basis.
3. Faith in science can serve as a comprehensive belief system that gives meaning to life, as well as a sense of well-being, morality, and even immortality.

He points out that both scientists and "social scientists" use quantities, that's not proof that they're doing the same thing, any more than it's proof that accountants are doing science. Both sometimes do things that they call experiments, of course. "Social science" is, he points out, unfalsifiable. "Social science" is our modern substitute for the kind of thing we might usually seek through the reading of novels, and learn more by so doing. What is going on in "social science" is the establishment of a mythology.

Good quotation:
"Unlike science, social research never rediscovers anything. It only rediscovers what people once were told and need to be told again."

Chapter 10, "The Great Symbol Drain" is a bit harder to follow. I think I'm so constructed that anything that has symbolic meaning has to be complicated. A flag, for instance, means nothing to me in itself, even if the country does. Postman also talks about more complicated symbols, those that arise in religion for example. He claims that the reproduction of images makes them less meaningful, but I'm not sure that's true, either. His statement that cultures must find narratives is interesting in 2020, but chilling because it makes comparisons of the USA in 2021 with the Germany of the pre-WWII years all too easy to see as illuminating or plausible. There is a brief foray into education and a somewhat prescient remark about how "education must become a tribal affair; that is, each subculture must find its own story and symbols, and use them as the moral basis of education." This isn't what's happening, now a single subculture is asserting its incoherent philosophy of education as far as it can.

There is an excellent quotation from Plato's Phaedrus in Chapter 1. Below is a slightly different translation:
If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.

That's our internet, alright. ( )
  themulhern | Feb 7, 2021 |
It is difficult, if not impossible, stray too far into the literature of contemporary cultural criticism without running headlong into a Neil Postman reference…typically brief, often coated with a benign diplomacy that betrays nothing useful, and sometimes with a tone of sighing obligation. It seems that, like Stanley Fish, Neil Postman is one of that breed of intellectual that takes an almost excessive delight in raining on OTHER people's parades.

I'll admit, as a scholar in my own small right, I felt a bit uncomfortable reading a scholar who…well, deeply questioned whether or not our culture even really understood what "scholarship" really was. (Just read his thoughts on social "science" and the value of "statistics," and you'll understand that last sentence.)

But Postman is not some sociology prof-reject out to right some past tenure-interview-gone-terribly-awry. The project of "Technology" is at once more basic and more profound. Honestly, I found the argument of the book incredibly simple and easy-to-follow: The relationship of humanity to its technologies has passed through two complete evolutionary stages: from tool-using to technocracy and has now entered a third phase that is the title of the book. The issue here is not the development of specific technologies (note the lowercase "t") but a shift in the positioning of Technology (note the capital "T") in relationship to other domains of knowledge. No longer content to coexist with, say, other realms of truth-telling like Religion and Tradition, Technology now threatens to overtake them. As Postman writes:

"Technopoly eliminates alternatives to itself…It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant" (p. 48).

Technopoly is, he summarizes, "totalitarian technocracy." To put his point in more theological terms that I can better grasp, modern Western societies (especially the USA) now have more faith in the promise of Technology than they do in the promise of Humanity. (Faith in the promise of Divinity began its slow fade with the rise of the Enlightenment, but that is a digression from the topic at hand.) The balance has subtly shifted from optimism that WE (Humanity) could shape Technology to meet OUR ends to a new kind of optimism that Technology could rescue/save US from the frightening ends to which we have put it. So, in the Technopolist world, the answer to, say, the threat of nuclear holocaust is—in fact, MUST be—a technological one. Bigger bombs, better defense systems, satellites with lasers…you get the point, I hope.

Postman is not out to destroy Technology; he doesn't promote some impossible return to a pre-technological age. Rather, he wants to break Technology's DOMINATION over other ways and realms of human knowing. Postman simply tries to illuminate Technopoly's slow creep. Ever so subtly, Technology has become the Master and Humanity has assumed the role of servant. Truth is reduced to Data; Wisdom is misidentified as Information. And anything that does not easily convert to a "data-stream" format—any Truth that cannot be spit out as a number in a data table—becomes useless. What makes the effects of Technopoly so insidious is both their subtlety and their pervasiveness. This kind of thinking is literally everywhere, from dating websites that match users based on some system of personality "profiling" to educational assessment strategies that focus on "data-driven decision-making processes" (if I had a dollar for every time I heard THAT phrase at an accreditation conference). And in a Technopoly, the educator doesn't even think to ask: "Why should data be what drives educational decisions?" What a person earns after completing a college degree actually tells you very little about whether or not they are an "educated" person; it's simply a good way for the government to track their ROI on student grants & loans programs, a classically Technopolist concern.

I suppose it feels a bit overblown to describe a book as "revolutionary." And perhaps you will think Postman's work ISN'T that, after all. But it is the closest I'VE come to a "revolutionary" read in the past few years. Postman's problem is not that his observations are off-base; his problem is that they are prophetic…observations that will "take on" meaning and significance as the decades pass. And, unfortunately, as with the observations of most prophets, I fear their truth will recognized by most in society at a point too late to matter. ( )
  Jared_Runck | Jan 27, 2019 |
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In this witty, often terrifying work of cultural criticism, the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death chronicles our transformation into a Technopoly: a society that no longer merely uses technology as a support system but instead is shaped by it--with radical consequences for the meanings of politics, art, education, intelligence, and truth.

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