Monday, July 4, 2016

Postman, Neil (1993): Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

What is it about?

The book is basically (though perhaps somewhat crudely put) against technocracy, as understood as an overarching emphasis on efficiency, scientism, and objective facts.

This, Postman argues, has, in the modern Western world, gone too far, with the expense of meaning. That is, children are being taught innumerable facts and humans are being evaluated on the basis of "marketable skills", while at the same time the meaning of life is being lost and "grand narratives" gradually vanish.

One could argue that Postman adopts quite an extreme position in his social criticism, and towards the end he all but acknowledges that (the beginning of the last chapter), but all the same he has some resonant points to advance.

Was it good?

Yes, the book was good. Postman is an excellent writer and capable of making his points quite forcefully. In this sense, the general style of the book is quite comparable to his Amusing ourselves to death, which I read a couple of months ago. On a very general level, the basic argument is quite the same as well, losing of meaning in society.

It would be particularly interesting to see Postman debate Andrew Keen, the author of The cult of the amateur, who apparently holds quite a different position, calling for most emphasis to be placed on experts (the very core of technocracy).

The main take-away for me?

There perhaps if no single tangible take-away from the book for me, but certainly Postman manages to convince one - including me - to approach any fact, scientific finding and even the very practice of science itself very cautiously. I don't mean here skepticism per se, but a reflective stance towards any fact, statistic of research result concerning their meaning in the larger societal perspective. For example, Postman would certainly have something to say about a research finding according to which Viagra reduces hamsters' jet lag.

Who should read the book?

The book should, like so many books, be read by everyone, because it fosters a healthy critical stance towards our modern increasingly technocratic society in the Western world. And in particular, those with social criticism stance are quite guaranteed to enjoy the book.

The book on Technopoly

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