myth of machine
The Myth of the Machine is a two-volume book taking an in-depth look at the forces that have shaped modern technology since prehistoric times. The first volume, Technics and Human Development, was published in 1967, followed by the second volume, The Pentagon of Power, in 1970. The author, *Lewis Mumford, shows the parallel developments between human tools and social organization mainly through language and rituals
*Lewis Mumford (October 19, 1895 – January 26, 1990) was an American historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and literary critic. Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a broad career as a writer. Mumford was influenced by the work of Scottish theorist Sir Patrick Geddes and worked closely with his associate the British sociologist Victor Branford.
Mumford was also a contemporary and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, Clarence Stein, Frederic Osborn, Edmund N. Bacon, and Vannevar Bush.
Thus he ends his narrative, as he well understood, at the beginning of another one: the possible revolution that gives rise to a biotechnic society, a quiet revolution, for Mumford, one that would arise from the biotechnic consciousness and actions of individuals. Mumford was an avid reader of Alfred North Whitehead‘s philosophy of the organism.
He viewed this device as the key invention of the whole Industrial Revolution, contrary to the common view of the steam engine holding the prime position, writing: “The clock, not the steam-engine, is the key-machine of the modern industrial age. … The clock … is a piece of power-machinery whose ‘product’ is seconds and minutes .
Harshly critical of urban sprawl, Mumford argues that the structure of modern cities is partially responsible for many social problems seen in western society. While pessimistic in tone, Mumford argues that urban planning should emphasize an organic relationship between people and their living spaces.
Mumford’s interest in the history of technology and his explanation of “polytechnics”, along with his general philosophical bent, has been an important influence on a number of more recent thinkers concerned that technology serve human beings as broadly and well as possible. Some of these authors—such as Jacques Ellul, Witold Rybczynski, Richard Gregg, Amory Lovins, J. Baldwin, E. F. Schumacher, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Murray Bookchin, Thomas Merton, Marshall McLuhan, and Colin Ward—have been intellectuals and persons directly involved with technological development and decisions about the use of technology
intro’d to books here (thanks library – prospectored from colorado college):
@monk51295 Have you ever read Munford’s “The Myth of the Machine”?
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/ludicluddite/status/1097891605011406848
in response to this thread
‘ie: everything is yes/no.. if saving time/money.. nothing in the real learning bucket should be treated this way.. learning is not something that is countable/measurable’ @davecormier #teachcomUAL https://t.co/XIVTdznObO
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/monk51295/status/1097877859593379840
same person also sent this in thread:
@monk51295 @davecormier @tobias_revell If you read French take a look at Bertrand Louart’s work, specially “Man is not a Machine”, his critique of the technology born out of Industrial Society.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/ludicluddite/status/1097885073511235584
couldn’t find book anywhere
volume 1 – techniques and human development
1 – prologue
my purpose in this book is to question both the assumptions/predictions upon which our commitment to the present forms of technical/scientific progress, treated as if ends in themselves, have been based..
i think – leading to idea that man is not about making tools.. production .. et al (animals do that w nests etc – p 6)
i shall suggest that not only was karl marx in error in giving the material instrument of production the central place and directive function in human development.. but that even the seemingly benign interpretation of teilhard de chardin reads back into the whole story of man the narrow technological rationalism of our own age, and projects in to the future a final state in which all the possibilities of human development would come to an end. a that ‘omega point’ *nothin would be left of man’s autonomous original nature, except organized intelligence: a universal and omnipotent layer of abstract mind, loveless and lifeless..
whales in sea world.. et al
we cannot understand the role that technics has played in human development w/o a deeper insight into the historic nature of man. yet *that insight has been blurred during the last century because it has been conditioned by a social environ in which a mass of new mechanical inventions had suddenly proliferated, sweeping away ancient processes and institutions and altering the traditional conception of both human limitations and technical possibilities
*not just a century.. before that.. ie: printing press.. before that.. ie: agri
our predecessor mistakenly coupled their particular mode of *mechanical progress w an unjustifiable sense of increasing moral superiority
54 min – what makes us humans in that modern sense.. is not that we are ritual or pragmatic.. but that we *move back and forth between the two.. that’s what creates self conscious beings.. aware of diff social possibilities..t.. we still have this idea that at some point humans were just naive/lost in how to be.. couldn’t possibly imagine another way of existence.. nature/society was the same thing.. and gradually we worked our way into this self consciousness or our possibilities.. and what we’re suggesting is no.. actually.. in fact.. people used to be more able to play around w social possibilities.. somehow we got stuck in a hierarchical rut.. they used to set it up and rip it down.. and one day they didn’t rip it down and they forgot they could rip it down and here we are.. so the idea is how we get back to that cycle again..t
in treating tool making as central to early man’s survival, biologists and anthropologists for long underplayed, or neglected, a mass of activities in which many other species were for long more knowledgeable than man.. there is still a tendency to id tools and machines w tech: to sub the part for the whole
more than a century ago thomas carlyle describe man as a ‘tool using animal’ as if this were the one trait that elevated him above the rest of brute creation. this overweighting of tools, weapons, physical apparatus, and machines has obscured the actual path of human development. the defn of man as a tool using anima, even when corrected to read ‘tool making’ would have seemed strange to plato, who attributed man’s emergence from a primitive state as much to marsyas and orpheus, the makers of music, as to fire stealing prometheus, or to hephaestus, the blacksmith god, the sole manual worker in the olympic pantheon..
no single trait.. not even tool making.. is sufficient to id man.. what is specially and uniquely human is man’s capacity to combine a wide variety of animal propensities into an emergent cultural entity: a human personality..
if the exact functional equiv of tool making w utensil making had been appreciated by earlier investigators, it would have been plain that there was nothing notable about man’s hand made stone artifacts until far along in his development. even a distant relative of man, the gorilla, put together a nest of leaves for comfort in sleeping and will throw a bridge of great fern stalks across a shallow steam, presumably to keep from wetting or scarping his feet. *5 yr old children, who can talk /read/ reason, show little aptitude in using tools and still less in making them: so if tool making were what counted, they could not yet be id’d as human
neither to reading et al.. i’d suggest we focus on daily curiosity ie: cure ios city.. and just let what happens happen.. quit trying to analyze.. label .. nationality: human .. yes.. but no need to find out what is a unique human trait.. wasting time doing that makes us less human.. and perhaps nothing is that cut and dried..
in early man we have reason to suspect the same kind of facility and the same ineptitude. *when we seek for proof of man’s genuine superiority to his fellow creatures, we should do well to look for a diff kind of evidence than his poor stone tools alone; or rather, we should ask ourselves **what activities preoccupied him during those countless years when with the same materials and the same muscular movements he later used so skillfully he might have fashioned better tools..?
not sure where the **second question is heading.. but why are we wasting energy on the *first..
the answer to this question i shall spell out in detail in the first few chapters; but i shall briefly anticipate the conclusion by saying that there was nothing specifically human in primitive technics, apart from the use and preservation of fire, until man had reconstituted his own physical organs by employing them for functions and purposed quite diff form how they had originally served. probably the first major displacement was the transformation of the quadruped’s fore limbs from specialized organs of locomotion to all purpose tools for climbing, grasping, striking, tearing, pounding, digging, holding.. early man’s hands and pebble tools played a significant part in his development mainly because as du brul has pointed out, they facilitated the prep functions of picking, carrying and macerating food and thus liberate the mouth for speech
if man was indeed a tool maker, he possessed at the beginning one primary, all purpose tool, more important than any later assemblage: his own mind activated body, every part of it, including those members that made clubs, hand axes or wooden spears..
to compensate for his extremely primitive working gear, early man had a much more important asset that extended his whole technical horizon: he had a far richer biological equipment than any other animal, a body not specialized for any single activity, and a brain capable of scanning a wider environ and holding all the diff parts of his experience together.. t.. precisely because of his extraordinary plasticity and sensitivity, he was able to use a large portion of both his external environ and his internal, psychosomatic resources..
thru man’s overdeveloped and incessantly active brain, he had more mental energy to tap than he needed for survival at a purely animal level.. only by creating cultural outlets (by canalizing that energy not just into food/sex-reproduction getting) could he tap and control and fully utilize his own nature..t
cultural ‘work’ by necessity took precedence over manual work..
tool technics, is but a fragment of biotechnics: man’s total equipment for life
only a little while ago the dutch historian, j huizinga, in ‘homo ludens’ brought forth a mass of evidence to suggest that play, rather than work, was the formative element in human culture: that mans’ most serious activity belonged to the realm of make believe. .t
so startling was the thesis of ‘homo ludens’ that his shocked translator deliberately altered huizinga’s express statement, that all culture was a form of play, into the more obvious conventional notion that play is an element in culture. but the notion that man is neither homo sapiens nor homo ludens, but above all homo faber, man the maker, had taken such firm possession of present day western thinkers that even henri bergson held it.. so certain were 19th cent archeologists about the primacy of stone tools/weapons in the ‘struggle for existence’ that when the first paleolithic cave painting were discovered in spain in 1879, they were denounced, as outrageous hoax, by ‘competent authorities’ on the ground that ice age hunters could not have had the leisure or the mind to produce the elegant art of altamira..
to consider man, then, as primarily a tool-using animal, is to overlook the main chapters of human history..t
opposed to this petrified notion, i shall develop the view that man is pre eminently a mind making, self mastering, and self designing animal; and the primary locus of all his activities lies first in his own organism, and in the *social organization thru which it finds fuller expression.. t
*ie: cure ios city
technics, at the beginning, was broadly life centered, not work centered or power centered.. .. as in any other ecological complex, varied human interests and purposed, different organic needs, restrained the overgrowth of any single component..t
rev of everyday life. .. what we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people to get back/to an undisturbed ecosystem: ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’
discrimination as equity – like the soil needs to produce many diff things so that it can cycle w the seasons.. as we cycle ..
the main business of man was his own self transformation.. group by group, region by region, culture by culture.. this self transformation not merely rescued man from permanent fixation in his original animal condition, but freed his best developed organ, his brain for other tasks than those of ensuring physical survival..t.. the dominant human trait, central to all other traits, is this capacity for conscious purposeful self identification, self transformation and ultimately for self understanding..
every manifestation of human culture, from ritual and speech to costume and social org, is directed ultimately to the remodeling of the human organism and the expression of the human personality.. it is only now that we belatedly recognize this distinctive feature, it is perhaps because there are widespread indications .. that man may be on the point of losing it.. becoming not a lower animal, but a shapeless, amoeboid nonentity..
need i say that so far from starting w a desire to dispute the prevailing orthodox vies, i at first respectfully accepted them, since i knew no others.. ? *it was only because i could find no clue to modern man’s overwhelming commitment to his technology even at the expense of his health, his physical safety, his mental balance, and his possible future development, that i was driven to re examine the **nature of man and the whole ***course of technological change..t
on the rise of civilization being less about mechanical inventions but of social org..
two things must be noted about this new mech, because they id it throughout its historic course down to the present. 1\ the organizers of he machine derived their power and authority from a heavenly source.. cosmic order was the basis of this new human order.. the exactitude in measurement.. sprang directly from astronomical observation sand scientific calculations.. ie: calendar.. so.. external to man..
by a combo of divine command and ruthless military coercion, a large population was made to endure grinding poverty and forced labor at mind dulling repetitive tasks in order to insure ‘life, prosperity, and health’ for the divine or semi divine ruler and his entourage..t
2\ the grave social defects of the human machine were partly offset by its superb achievement in flood control and grain production, which laid the ground for an enlarged achievement in every area of human culture:.. unfortunately these cultural advances were largely offset by equally great social regressions..
counteract.. ing.. ness
conceptually the instruments of mechanization 5000 years ago were already detached from other human functions and purposes than the constant increase of order, power, predictability and above all, control..
with this proto scientific ideology went a corresponding regimentation and degradation of once autonomous human activities : ‘mass culture’ and ‘mass control’ made their first appearance.
w mordant symbolism, the ultimate products of the megamachine in egypt were colossal tombs inhabited by mummified corpses.. while later in assyria, as repeatedly in every other expanding empire, the chief testimony to its technical efficiency was a waste of destroyed villages and cities and poisoned soils: the prototype of similar ‘civilized’ atrocities today.. t
efficiency et al
as for the great egyptian pyramids, what are they but the precise static equivalent of our own space rockets.. both devices for securing, at an extravagant cost, a passage to heaven for the favored few.. t
these colossal miscarriage of a dehumanized power-centered culture monotonously soil the pages of history ..
sooner or later, this analysis suggests, we must have the courage to ask ourselves: is this association of inordinate power and productivity w equally inordinate violence and destruction a purely accidental one?
in the working out of this parallel and in the tracing of the archetypal machine thru later western history, i found that many obscure irrational manifestations in our own highly mechanized and supposedly rational culture became strangely clarified. for in both cases, immense gains in valuable knowledge and usable productivity were cancelled out by equally great increases in ostentatious waste.. paranoid hostility.. insensate destructiveness, and hideous random extermination
counteract.. ing.. ness
2 – the mindfulness of man
1 – the need for disciplined speculation
modern man has formed a curiously distorted picture of himself, by interpreting his early history in terms of his present interest in making machines and conquering nature.. and then in turn he has justified his present concerns by calling his prehistoric self a tool making animal, and assuming that the material instrument of production dominated all his other activities.. as long as the paleoanthropologist regarded material objects mainly bones and stones – as the only scientificallyadmissible evidence of early man’s activities, nothing could be done to alter this stereotype.
like whales in sea world
sound reason to believe man’s brain was from the beginning far more important than his hands, and its size could not be derived solely form his shaping or using of tools; that ritual and language and social org which left no material traces whatever, although constantly present in every culture, were probably man’s most important artifacts form the earliest stages on; and that so far from conquering nature or reshaping his environ primitive man’s first concern was to utilize his overdeveloped, intensely active nervous system, and to give form to a human self, set apart form his original animal self by the fabrication of symbols – the only tools that could be constructed out of the resources provided by his own body: dreams, images and sounds..
the overemphasis on tool using was the result of an unwillingness to consider any evidence other than that based on material finds
the very existence of grammatically complex and highly articulated languaages at the onset of civilization 5000 yrs ago, when tools were still extremely primitive, suggests that the human race may have had even more fundamental needs than getting a living..
what has limited scientific investigation, of course, is the fact that as concerns the unrecorded beginnings of man’s life – all but the last one to two per cent of his whole existence – one can for the greater part only speculate.. this is a hazardous business, whose difficulties are not lessened by scattered finds of fragmentary bones and artifacts, since w/o some imaginative insight and analogical interpretation these solid objects tell all too little..
thinking david and david’s human history
yet to refrain from speculation may be even more stultifying, for it gives to man’s later recorded history an appearance of singularity and suddenness, as if a diff species had come into existence in talking about the ‘agri revolution’ or the ‘urban revolution’ we forget how many foothills the race had climbed before it reached those peaks.. let me then present the case for speculation as a necessary instrument for arriving at adequate knowledge
the generalist’s competence lies not in unearthing new evidence but in putting together authentic fragments that are accidentally, or sometimes arbitrarily, separated, because specialists tend to abide too rigorously by a gentlemen’s agreement not to invade each other’s territory.. although this makes for safety and social harmony, it ignores the fact that the phenomena studied do not hold to the same principles..
i is wiser to assume, in any doubtful situation, that homo sapiens 50 000 yrs ago more closely resemble ourselves than any remoter animal ancestor
the misleading notion that man is primarily a tool making animal, who owes his inordinate mental development largely to his long apprenticeship in making tools and weapons, will not be easy to displace..
our chief reason for over rating the importance of tools/machines is that man’s most significant early inventions, in ritual, social org, morals, and language, left no material remains, while stone tools can be associated w recognizable hominid bones for at least half a million years..
but if tools were actually central to mental growth.. how is it those primitive peoples.. like the australian bushmen, who have the most rudimentary tech, nevertheless exhibit elab religious ceremonials, an extremely complicated kinship org , and a complex and differentiated language..? why further, were highly developed cultures, like those of the maya, aztecs, peruvians, still using only they simplest handicraft equipment though they were capable of constructing superbly planned works of engineering and architecture.. and how is it that the maya, who had neither machines nor draught animals, were not only great artists but masters of abstruse mathematical calculations..
material artifacts may stubbornly defy time, but what they tell about man’s history is a good deal less than the truth
whatever else man may be, he was form the beginning preeminently a brainy animal.
the mind and brain are non comparable aspects of a single organic process.. in giving to the computer.. some of the functions of the brain, we do not dispense w the human brain or mind, but transfer their respective function sot he design of the computer, to its programming and to the interpretation of the results.. no computer can make a new symbol out of its own resources..
the light of human consciousness is, so far, the ultimate wonder of life, and the main justification for all the suffering and misery that have accompanied human development.
slowly man has found out that wonderful though is mind is, he must curb the egoistic elations and delusions it promotes; for his highest capacities are dependent upon the cooperation of a multitude of other forces and organisms, whose life courses and life needs must be respected
the long period of emotional intimacy between parent and child remains essential, we know, to normal human growth: unless love is offered form the beginning, other necessary human qualities, including intelligence and emotional balance, will be deformed..
man’s potentialities are still more important infinitely more important, than all his present achievements. this was so at the beginning and it still holds. his greatest problem has been how to selectively organize and consciously direct both the internal and external agents of the mind, so that they form more coherent and more intelligible wholes..
3 – in the dreamtime long ago
did the breatch between the inner/outer world nto merely cause wonderment but invite futher ocmparison and demand interpertation? if so, it woul lead to a great paradox: tha tit was the dream tha opened man’s eyes to new possiblitites in his waking life..
though the dream, if this interpretation is correct, was one of natures’ most generous gifts to man, it required, before it could fully serve him, to be more firmly disciplined and controlled than any of his other aptitudes.. in the raw, vivid state of sleep, the dream, thru its very capacity to put together unrelated events or to reveal unacted desires and emotional eruption, often suggested or incited demented behavior that animals int heir wild state, w a few doubtful exceptions, seem altogether immune from
all thru history man has been both instructed/frightened by his dreams
our highly mechanized western civilization has many devices for limiting the province of the dream: we even canalize the subjective life into collective mechs like the radio and tv and let a machine do our dreaming for us.. but in childhood and adolescence, the dream still often dominates us, flowing into waking life so actively that the self absorbed adolescent for hours at a time is ‘not here’.. ‘lost to the world’..
once the inviolate pattern of ritual was established, it provided the security of reliable order, an order that primitive man did not at first fin din his pressing immediate environ, not even in the starry sky.. before man could discover an project order outside himself he had first, by constant repetition, to establish it within.. the original purpose of ritual was to create order and meaning *where none existed; to affirm them when they had been achieved; to restore them when they were lost..
perhaps rather.. *where none (meaning) was seen.. thinking we had to define/order things.. rather than listen/look deeper.. cancer to humanity
since ritual order has not largely passed into mechanical order, the present revolt of the younger generation against the machine has made a practice of promoting disorder and randomness: but that, too, has turned int o a ritual, just as compulsive and as ‘meaningless’ as the routine it seeks to assault
4 – the gift of tongues
language was a life reflecting, life enhancing instrument long before it could be shaped for the restricted purposes of intelligent communication.. the very qualities in language that offend the logical positivists – its vagueness/indeterminateness/ ambiguity/ emotional-coloring.. its reference to unseen objects or unverifiable events, in short, its ‘subjectivity’ – only indicate that from the beginning it was an instrument for embracing the living body of human experience, not just the bleached articulated skeleton of definable ideas..
we must not overlook the vital connection between all physical movement and the acquisition of speech, for this has not been established independently by psychologists. in the case of children whose speech has been retarded or has become *disordered, they have found that the child’s ability to handle words can be recovered by re training his motor behavior thru inducing him to resume the earlier posture of crawling, the stage that usually accompanies, or slightly precedes, the first efforts at speech
*importance of idio-jargon as legit
the fact is that right up to our own time, language has surpassed any other form of tool or machine as a technical instrument: in its ideal structure and its daily performance, it still stands as a model, though an unnoticed one, for all other kinds of effective prefabrication, standardization and mass consumption
every member of the community has access to this linguistic organization
at no point, except by the invention of writing, has language ever been the monopoly of a dominant minority,
? – write ness
while the medium itself is so complex and subtle that no centralized system of control was ever, even after the invention of writing, completely effective..
shaw communication law.. et al
but thought the parts of language are standardized and in a sense mass produced, they achieve the max of variety, individuality and autonomy.. no tech has yet approached this degree of refinements..
maybe.. but it’s limiting.. and hierarchical to no need with the means we have today.. to listen to every voice.. everyday.. ie: tech as it could be
if one asks why early man took so long to improve his tech skills and his material facilities, the answer must be: he concentrated upon the greatest of all utilities first.. by his command of words he increasingly embraced every aspect of life and gave it significance as pat of a larger whole he retained in his mind.. *the pursuit of significance crowns every other human achievement
? .. *yeah.. i don’t know..i’d say pursuit (rather even.. listening to) curiosity
5 – finders and makers
such searching and experimenting demanded plenty of motor activity; and this exploratory foraging, along w ritual and dance, must be given a fuller share of credit for man’s development
all these insights denote not merely habits of curiosity but powers of abstraction and qualitative appreciation. if we may judge by later evidence, some of this knowledge was intellectually quite detached and had nothing to do w ensuring physical survival..
what is missing form the usual petrified model is all the knowledge and art and equipment passed on by ie from man’s early exploration of his environ.. it was this foraging activity, with its limited need for tools, that possible accounts for the slowness in their (tools) improvement..
the continued occupation and intensive exploitation of a small territory must have been favorable not only to the increase of knowledge but to the stability of family life; and the better care of the young under such conditions would increase the prospect of transmitting learned behavior by imitation..
as w language and ritual, body decoration was an effort to establish a human id, a human significance a human purpose.. w/o that, all other acts and labors would be performed in vain
? why.. maybe we’d be better off w/o an id, significance.. et al
6 – fore stages of domestication
1\ agri revolution
a modern observer in africa..noticed the contrast between the batwa hunters ‘gay w an uncomplicated cheerfulness’ and the ‘rather sullen demeanor of the average bantu’.. in his employ. and he asks himself: ‘is it possible that the hard but unfettered life of the hunter brings a freedom of the spirit that the sedentary agriculturalists have lost?’
2\ breeder’s eye
for first time, under neolithic cultivation and building, man began deliberately to change the face of the earth.. first domestication of animals..
3\ collecting to planting
with this new security derived from a regular food supply came a new regularity in life; a w this regularity, a new tameness too..
4\ the daily grind
one of our common expressions for work, ‘the daily grind’ would not have been a figure of speech in the early neolithic community. but it was not only grain that needed daily grinding.. the domestication of grain was accompanied by an equally radical innovation in the prep of food: the invention of bread.. daily bread brought a security in the food supply that had never before been possible.. w this security it was possible to look/plan ahead w confidence.. 5\ ritualization of work.. protection, storage, enclosure, accumulation, continuity.. as work begins to disappear in our society under automation.. and the daily grind becomes personally meaningless, we shall perhaps for the first time realize the part that neolithic culture played in the humanization of man
7 – garden, home, and mother
the earliest animal to come under domestication was man; and the very word we use to describe the process reveals its point of origin. for ‘domus’ means home; the establishment of a fixed hearth w a durable shelter..
garden culture, diff from later field culture, is pre eminently, almost exclusively, woman’s work. clearly the first steps in domestication were taken by her..
so if grinding stone was tedious and remaining in single spot added to the monotony, there were compensations: security; longer life; more time for knowledge; .. but if one wishes to focus on most critical neolithic advance, it is w/in the circle of woman’s interests that one will find them: above all, in the new mutant, the garden
so earliest gardens must have developed form the mere guarding of wild patches that produced edible leaves or fruit.. some of that wildness surely remained…
behind all these varied changes in domestication was an inner change .. the change that went on in his mind and was translated, long before he made further practical use of them, into the forms of religion, magic, and ritual: the consciousness of sexuality as a central manifestation of life itself, and of a woman’s special role i both effecting and symbolizing sexual delight and organic fecundity..
the secret of this social and tech success was twofold. every member of the community had access to the entire cultural heritage, and could ordinarily master every part of it; and there was no order of authority, no hierarchy of precedence, except the natural one of age, since in such a community, he who lived longest knew most.. thee easy interchange of skills and occupations, w a min amount of specialization, gave village culture a flexibility and range that counterbalanced its eventual conservatism, once the first great experiments in domestication had been made..
in short, every member of the village community, of every age.. had an active part in its whole economic and social life, each contributing his effort and skill to the extent of his ability..
despite all its basic human advantages, the archaic village nevertheless had too narrow a province.. the very stability and fruitfulness of such a community might cause it prematurely to cease experiment and settle down. isolation in -group loyalty, self-sufficiency – these archaic village traits do not make for further growth..
in short, the neolithic village community had to pay the penalty for its success: its own virtues arrested it.. the horizon was too confined, the routine too limited, the religion too closely bound to petty ancestral gods, the village itself too complacent in its isolation, too narcissistic/self-absorbed.. too suspicious of the stranger, too hostile to invading customs .. even the language of such villages tended to become so inbred that a local dialect might be unintelligible a day’s walk away.. in surviving tribal communities all these vices have become ingrained by 5000 yrs of repetition and protective isolation and perverse elaboration: the creative moment has long passed..
all these traits made for persistence and endurance: but at a low level..
once formed the neolithic culture lacked the very qualities that had made it so attractive in the beginning – its exploratory curiosity and its adventurous experiments.. the route of civilization..t
yet it is not, perhaps, a mere coincidence that the occupational therapy now used to restore neurotic patients to normal activities and mental balance utilizes the chief neolithic arts – weaving, modelling, carpentry, pottery making.. the repetitive nature of these formative tasks helps control the erratic unchannelled impulses of the personality and provides in the end a gratifying reward for submitting to a constructive routine..
why? why routine?.. why a reward..?
perhaps this was not the least contribution of neolithic culture: it taught man the importance, not only of sex and parenthood but of regular work. that less we forget at our peril
?.. work ing on others problems.. not a good fit…
8 – kings as prime movers
1\ the role of social org
all these tech improvements were important (writing, potter’s wheel, loom, plow, ..); but behind them was *a more central motive force that has been neglected: the discovery of the power of a new kind of social org.. capable of raising the human potential and bringing about changes in every dimension of existence.. changes that small, down to earth communities, on the early neolithic scale, could hardly contemplate in the imagination..
on these three foundation stones – communion, communication and cooperation – the basic village culture was erected.. but outside the restricted territory of the tribe or village, these essential modes of socialization operated only sporadically and ineffectively..
new social org: no longer dispersed in small units, but unified in large one’ no longer ‘democratic’.. that is based on neighborly intimacy.. but authoritarian centrally directed under the control of a dominant minority: no longer confined to a limited territory, but deliberately ‘going out of bounds’ to seized raw material and enslave helpless men, to exercise control, to exact tribute.. this new culture was dedicated not just to the enhancement of life, but to the expansion of collective power.. by perfecting new instruments of coercion, the rulers of this society had, by the 3rd millennium bc, org’d industrial/military power on a scale that was never to be surpassed until our own time..
at this point, human effort moves from the limited horizontal plane of the village and the family to the vertical plane of a whole society.. the new community formed a hierarchic structure, a social pyramid, which from base to pinnacle included many families, many villages, many occupations,.. many gods..
this political structure was the basic invention of the new age: w/o it, *neither its monuments nor its cities could have been built, nor, one must add, would their premature destruction have so persistently taken place
*how do we know that?
viewed from our present tech perspective, the passage to ‘civilization’ is hard to interpret. while no single tech facto marked the transition .. yet.. ‘civilization’ from the beginning was focussed on the machine; and it will help us to understand what was new in the post neolithic technics, if we place the new inventions side by side, along w the institutional controls that they demanded. we shall then see how the might of an invisible machine anticipated the machine itself..
it was in the orderly exercise of this (wider public org) over-all control by the temple and the palace that writing was first invented, to keep account of quantities of produce received or disbursed. the political agents that collected/distributed the grain could control the entire population
in all these operations two changes become increasingly evident, a change of pattern and a change in scale.. the common factor that underlies these activities is an increase in mechanical order, mathematical exactitude, specialized skill and knowledge, and, above, all centralized intelligence..
.. new qualities derived directly from the systematic observation of the heavens.. astronomy and math.. to calendar et al..
the cultivation of this new language gave its possessors, the early priesthood an exceptional power of astronomical and then meteorological prediction.. this was a source of the supernatural authority, as interpreters
at the center of this whole development lay the new institution of kingship
control and violence as coercion ..in the name of order
apart from murder and rape, the most horrendous crimes punished by civilized authority stem back to he ‘unpardonable sin’ of kinship: disobedience to he sovereign. murderous coercion was the royal formula for establishing authority, securing obedience, and collecting booty, tribute and taxes. at bottom, every royal reign was reign of terror.. w the extension of kingship, this underlying terror formed an integral part of the new tech and the new welcome of abundance.. in short, the hidden face of the beautiful dream was a nightmare, which civilization has so far not been able to throw up
6\ civilization and ‘civilization’
w kingship, power as an abstraction , power as an end it instead, became the chief identifying mark of ‘civilization’ as opposed to all the earlier norms and forms of culture
9 – the design of the megamachine
the unique act of kingship was to assemble the manpower and to discipline the org that made possible the performance of work on a scale never attempted before..
this machine escaped notice and so naturally remained unnamed until our own day: invisible/labor/military/megamachine.. to perform the larger part of daily work
to understand the point of the machine’s origin and its line of descent is to have fresh insight into both the origins of our present over-mechanized culture and the fate and destiny of modern man..
thru the army, in fact, the standard model of the megamachine was transmitted form culture to culture..
if one single invention was necessary to make this larger mech operative for constructive tasks as well as for coercion, it was probably the invention of writing..t.. this this method of translating speech into graphic record not merely made it possible to transmit impulses and messages throughout the system, but to fix accountability when written orders were not carried out.
accountability and the written word both went along historically w the control of large numbers;.. and it is no accident that the earliest uses of writing were not to convey ideas religious or otherwise, but to keep temple records of grain, cattle, pottery, fabricated goods, stored and disbursed..t
interesting this is all people want to do w blockchain as well.. no?
whether the military or the labor machine came first, they had the same organization..
two devices were essential to make the machine work: a reliable organization of knowledge, natural and supernatural; and an elaborate structure for giving orders, carrying them out and following them thru.. the first was incorporate in the priesthood..
for the second.. a well organized bureaucracy is an integral part of the megamachine: a group of men, capable of transmitting and executing a command, w the ritualistic punctilio of a priest, the mindless obedience of a soldier.. and.. the king.. like the sun, exerted force at a distance.. no military weapon by itself sufficed to convey such power
utopia of rules et al
10 – the burden of ‘civilization’
11 – invention and the arts
12 – pioneers in mechanization
to sum up. the benedictine commitment to ‘labor and prayer’ had done more than take the ancient curse off of work..for the productivity of this system established, w likewise, the economic value of a methodically ordered life..
in sum, where capitalism prospered, it established three main canons for successful economic enterprise: the calculation of quantity (profit); the observation and regimentation of time (time is money)(efficiency); and the concentration on abstract pecuniary rewards (motivation)
money as main motivation.. replace the reciprocal obligation and duties of families, neighbors, citizens, friends.. t
the machine ‘advanced’ thinkers began to hold.. not merely served as the ideal model for explaining and eventually controlling all organic activities.. but its wholesale fabrication and its continued improvement were what alone could give meaning to human existence.. power, speed, motion, standardization, mass productivity, quantification , regimentation, precision, uniformity, astronomical regularity, control, above all control – these became the passwords of modern society in the new wester style.
only one thing was needed to assemble and polarize all the new components of the megamachine: the birth of the sun god. and in the 16th cent.. w kepler, brahe copernicus ..officiating as accoucheurs, the new sun god was born..
volume 2 – pentagon of power (politics; power – physical energy; productivity; profit; publicity)
i have taken life itself to be the primary phenom, and creativity, rather than ‘conquest of nature’ as the ultimate criterion of man’s biological and cultural success..
(in this volume).. i have been driven by the wholesale miscarriage of megatechnics to deal w the collective obsession and compulsions that have misdirected our energies and undermined our capacity to live full and spiritually satisfying lives.. john glenn: ‘let man take over’
finally the basic model of all 3 modes of regimentation, military, monastic, and bureaucratic, was intro’d into large scale industry by the factory system
when human functions (eating, sex, et al) are converted into abstract uniform units, ultimately units of energy or money, there are not limits to the amount of power that can be seized, converted and stored..
this historic process may be condensed in a brief formula: manual work into machine work: machine work into paper work: paper work into electronic simulation of work, divorced progressively form any organic functions of human purposed, except those that further the power system
the process of automation has produced imprisoned minds that have no capacity for appraising the results of their process, except by the archaic criteria of power and prestige, property , productivity and profit, segregated from any more vital human goals.. by its own logic automation is dedicated to the installation of a system of total control over every natural process, and ultimately over every organic function and human purpose..
organization man, maybe be defined briefly as that part of the human personality whose further potentialities for life and growth have been suppressed for the purpose of controlling the fractional energies that are left, and feeding them into a mechanically ordered collective system..
the more power entrusted to organization man, the fewer qualms he has against using it..t
for convenience one may talk about ‘man’ this is only a trick of speech: for except in a statistical sense no such uniform and universal creature exists. up to now, no single political structure, no single ideology, no single tech, no single type of personality has ever prevailed over the entire planet. man has never yet been homogenized.
modern man’s readiness to accept this external control.. has been facilitated by both external pressures and internal anxieties.. the mere growth of numbers – not only the total increase of population but the increase in the size of all social units form cities to armies and bureaucracies – has made the individual soul timid and self distrustful.. he feels incapable of coping w events that lie so far beyond his range of vision or his active muscular controls. ‘a stranger and afraid in a world i never made’
once his intimate, small scale modes of association are either eliminated or paralyzed, he seeks security in great impersonal organizations – not only the state, but his insurance societies or his trade unions..
the escape from freedom as erich fromm pointed out .. produces a new form of liberation – permanent liberation from responsibility and active choice
the only effective approach to this problem is that long ago taken by nature: to provide the possibility of an endless variety of biological and cultural types, since no single one, however rich and rewarding, is capable of encompassing all the latent potentialities of man.. no one culture, no one race, no one period can do more than produce fresh variations on this inexhaustible theme..t
in this new scientific hierarchy only one-way communication is observed..t: those o\who speak w the highest authority upon some minute section of exact knowledge too often unblushingly claim the right to speak for mankind upon matters of general human experience upon which they can testify only on the same lowly basis as other human beings.. in many discussions of the science governed future, the right of popular resistance is not even mentioned.. by one measure or another, often under the guise of public good, that precious right – the right of non conformity and counter action – is now covertly being denied..
begs we let go.. and get to a non hierarchical listening.. ie: tech as it could be..
what is most suspicious in all these discussions of possible technological futures.. is the ingrained fatalism they display: they refuse to allow the possibility of a complete reversal of existing trends..t
perhaps another fate is actually in store for mankind.. perhaps homo sapiens will come to a quicker end by a shorter route.. already indicated/expressed w psychedelic extravagance by marshall mcluhan and his followers.. the seemingly solid older megamachine w its rigid limitations and predictable performance might give rise to he exact antithesis: an electronic anti megamachine programmed to accelerate disorder, ignorance and entropy.. .. souls seek total ‘liberation’ for organization, continuity and purpose of any sort, in systematic de building, dissolution, and de creation.. ironically, such a return to randomness would, according to probability theory, produce the most static and predictable state possible: that of unorganized ‘matter’
mcluhan appears to believe this has already happened, ..mankind as a whole will return to the pre primitive level, sharing mindless sensations and pre linguistic communion.. in the electronic phantasmagoria that he conjures up, not alone will old fashioned machines be permanently outmoded but nature itself will be replaced:
psychiatry reveals he true nature of this promised state. what is it but the electronic equivalent of the dissociation and subjective inflation that takes place under lysergic acid and similar drugs? in so far as mcluhan’s conception correspond s to any existential reality, it is that of an electronically induced mass psychosis.. not surprisingly, perhaps, now that the facilities for instantaneous communication have planetary outlets, symptoms of this psychosis are already detectable in every part of the planet. in mcluhan’s case, *the disease poses as the diagnosis..
as it happens, the proposal to confine man to a present time cage that cuts him off from both past/future did not originate in the present age, nor is it dependent upon an exclusive commitment to electronic communication.. the ancient name for this form of exerting centralized control is ‘the burning of the books’.. in china 213 bc has been repeated at intervals as the ‘final solution’ when censorship and legal prohibition such as still prevail in totalitarian countries fail..
but it remained for mcluhan to picture as tech’s ultimate gift a more absolute mode of control: *one that will achieve total illiteracy, w no permanent record except that officially committed to the computer, and open only to hose permitted access to this facility.. this repudiation of an independent written and printed record means nothing less than the erasure of man’s diffused, multi brained collective memory: it reduces all human experience into that of the present generation and the passing moment.. the instant record is self effacing.. in effect, if not in intention, this would **carry mankind back to a far more primitive state than any tribal one: for pre literate peoples conserved a large part of their past by cultivating extraordinary memories and maintaining by constant repetition – even at the cost of creativity and invention – the essential links to their own past..
on the cancerous ness of *literacy
**thinking more in terms of getting back to the not yet scrambled ness of a child.. so deeper to our essence.. rather than to some time period.. no cost to creativity.. actually led/induced by daily curiosity ie: cure ios city
for this *‘instant revolution’ to be successful, the **burning of the books must take place on a ***worldwide scale and include every form of permanent record open to public view
by concentrating upon mcluhan’s errors one can clear the board of a large mass of similar mis statements
(talked about his focus on burning books and student protests.. and his denigration of printed word and his hostility to typographical man)
by turns the steamboat/railroad/postal-system/telegraph/airplane.. have been described as instruments that would transcend local weaknesses, redress ineq’s of natural and cultural resources and lead to a worldwide political unity ‘the parliament of man, the federation of the world’.. once tech unification was established, human solidarity, progressive’ minds believed, would follow.. in the course of 2 centuries, these hopes have been discredited.. there is no reason whatever to think that radio and tv will enable us to fare better, until they themselves become the instruments of wiser human decisions and embrace every aspect of life.. not limiting themselves to those that conform to the pentagon of power
ie: tech as it could be..
for this problem mcluhan and his technocratic contemporaries have a simple solution. it is to replace human autonomy in every form by an up-to-date electronic model of the megamachine
mcluhan: ‘once we have surrendered our sense/nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease of our eyes/ears/nerves, we don’t really have an rights (read autonomy) left’.. this latter point might well be taken as a warning to disengage ourselves as soon as possible.. for mcluhan it leads, rather to a demand for unconditional surrender.. mcluhan: ‘under electric technology the entire business of man becomes learning and knowing’ .. apart from the fact that this is apathetically academic picture of the potentialities of man,the kind of learning and knowing that mcluhan becomes enraptured over is precisely that which can be programmed on a computer:..t ‘we are not in a position to transfer the entire show to the memory of a computer’.. no better formula could be found for arresting and ultimately suppressing human development..t
audio visual tribalism (mcluhan’s ‘global village’) is a humbug.. real communication, whether oral or written, ephemeral or permanent, is possible only between people who share a *common culture – and **speak the same language..
rather who share a *common daily curiosity
and **not true.. today we can facil ie: 7b daily idio-jargons
and though this area can and should be enlarged by personally acquiring more language and extending one’s cultural horizon thru travel and active person intercourse, the notion that it is possible to throw off all these limits is an electronic illusions.. this illusion ignores the most characteristic feature of all organic forms, biological or cultural – their acceptance of limitations for the sake of ensuring the best life possible
i think we just haven’t ever gone deep enough.. it’s not about tech taking us there.. (which it can now – tech as it could be).. it’s about knowing where the deep est there is.. ie: the essence of us (ie: almaas holes law; maté basic needs).. deep enough to resonate with all of us today
what is needed is a technology so varied, so many sided, so flexible, so responsive to human need, that it can serve every valid human purpose.. the only true multi medium remains the human organism itself..t
right.. so let’s use tech to listen to and facil that.. everyone.. everyday..
it is only at a high stage of individuation, made possible at first by he pained or carved image, the written symbol and the printed book, that true freedom – the *freedom to escape from the passing moment and the present visible place, to challenge past experience or modify future action – can be achieved. to be aware only of immediate stimuli and immediate sensation is a **medical indication of brain injury
and the need to *escape.. is an **indication of social injury/ill (krishnamurti measure law et al) .. we weren’t made to want to escape.. we just need to get our environ back to where we see/hear each other and ourselves.. ie: hari rat park law; holmgren indigenous law; et al
mcluhan’s ideas about the role of electronic tech have been widely accepted, i suggest, because they magnify and vulgarize the dominant components of the power system in the very act of seeming to revolt against its regimentation.. in treating the planet as a ‘tribal village’ by instant electronic communication, he has, in fact, united the crippling limitation of a pre lit culture, which made the scattered, farming population of the world and easy prey to military conquest and exploitation, w the characteristic historic mischief of ‘civilization’: the subjugation of a large population for the exclusive benefit of ruling minority
? mcluhan was for this..? i’m so confused..
so far from there being any spontaneous communication under this regime, these electronic media are already carefully controlled to make sure that ‘dangerous’ that si unorthodox views do not slip thru. such a system permits neither colloquy nor dialogue, as in genuine oral intercourse: what takes place is forth greater part only a meticulously arranged monologue, even if more than one person is present on the screen. a population entirely dependent upon such controlled oral communication, even though it reached every human soul on the planet, would not merely be at the mercy of the dominant minority but would become increasingly illiterate and soon mutually unintelligible.. thus once again the parallel between the pyramid aged and our own forces itself upon the observer: here in prospect is actually the electronic tower of babel.. instant planetary communication, conducted on these principles, would bring about eventual excommunication from an identifiable community
begs a diff sort of instant planetary communication.. tower of babel in the idio-jargon sense.. excommunication from identifiable community.. in the sense that no community would/could be identifiable (marsh label law et al).. all would be morphing/accepting of whoever/whenever.. et al.. ongoingly changing
11 – the megatechnic wasteland 1\ air conditioned pyramids
the modernized megamachine has reproduced all the early features of the ancient form by pyramid building on an even larger scale.. pyramids to pharaoh as megamachine to new religion.. no other religion has ever produced so man manifestations of power.. has brought about such a complete system of control, has unified so many separate institutions, has suppressed so many independent ways of life, or for that matters has ever claimed so many worshippers, who by word and deed have testified to the kingdom, the power, and the glory of its nuclear and electronic gods..
in the end, the most disastrous consequence of the building of the nuclear pyramid may turn out to be not nuclear weapons themselves or some irretrievable act of extermination that they may bring about. something even worse may be in store and should it go far enough, be equally irretrievable: namely, the universal imposition of the megamachine, in a perfected form, as the ultimate instrument of pure ‘intelligence’ whereby every other manifestation of human potentialities will be suppressed or completely eliminated.
the megamachine emerges w a single all dominating purpose – its replacement of natural and human potentialities by its own under dimensioned and strictly programmed system..
minds content to exploit the medium and ignore the message are the irrational end products of what has been uncritically called ‘rationalization’
though nuclear bombs are of course the ultimate symbols of the megamachine’s powers of destruction, the manned interplanetary space rocket is perhaps an even more exemplary demo of the principles underlying the whole system, for the space rocket makes the greatest demands for energy, is the most delicately complex in design, and is the most costly to fabricate and service – and likewise the most futile in tangible and beneficial human results.. a part from the prestige and publicity that the astronaut’s feat bestows on the pentagonal national establishment.. with the aid of the high powered rocket modern man is indeed conquering space. but in the very act of making this achievement possible, the megamachine is carrying further its conquest of man..
mufleh humanity law et al
like the supersonic plane and the intercontinental ballistic rocket, both designed to carry nuclear warhead, the space rocket is primarily a feat of imaginative ‘military’ strategy..
to have a life that is in any way detached from the megatechnic complex, t say nothing of being cockily independent of it, or recalcitrant to its demands, is regarded as nothing less than a form of sabotage. hence the fury evoked by the hippies – quite apart from any objectionable behavior. on megatechnic terms complete withdrawal is heresy and treason , if not evidence of unsound mind. the arch enemy of the affluent econ would not be karl marx but henry thoreau
me.. et al.. and costello screen service law et al
for many members of the american community, which has been hastily subscribing to this system under the specious title of the ‘great society’ or the ‘economy of megalopolis’.. the fourth development of this process centered tech seems not merely inevitable but desirable.. the next step in ‘progress’ and who dares resist progress?
those already conditioned form infancy by school training and tv tutelage to regard megatechnics as the highest point in man’s ‘conquest of nature’.. will accept this totalitarian control of their own development .. not as a horrid sacrifice but as a highly desirable fulfillment looking forward to being constantly attached to the big brain.. as they are now attached to radio stations by probable transistor sets even while walking the streets.. by accepting these means they expect that every human problem will be solved for them, and the only human sin will be that of failing to obey instructions.. t
it is not the mechanical or electronic products as such that intelligent minds question, but the system that produces w/o constant reference to human needs and w/o sensitive rectification when these needs are not satisfied.. t
the present tensions all over the world reveal the inability of the military, bureaucratic and educational ‘elite’ to understand the human reactions that the smooth success of their system has already brought about.. still less are they able to cope w them, except by bringing to bear a larger measure of the dehumanized processes that are not producing these hostile responses.. though desertions and dropouts are still insignificant in quantity, something like a large scale withdrawal and reversal may actually be in the offing..
we now come back to the basic idea that underlies this book. if we are to prevent megatechnics form further controlling and deforming every aspect of human culture, we shall be able to do so only w the aid of a radically diff model derived directly not form machines, but from living organisms and organic complexes (ecosystems)..t
one of the most favorable outcomes of plenitude, possible only because of a potential surplus of energy and goods, is the abandonment of a lifetime concentration upon a single occupation or task, for such confinement is in fact a a slave’s existence, not worthy of fully developed human being..t
the realization that the entire system is now breaking down might have come about more swiftly if the professional bodies that should have been monitoring our tech – engineers, biologists, physicians – had not so completely identified themselves w the power system’s objectives..
the situation that mankind now faces collectively shows a certain resemblance to that confronted by the individual in the midst of a neurosis.. as long as able to conceal it..unwilling to consult a physician or re examine his life.. t
by brining traumas into consciousness..patient may better understand his own nature and acquire insight into conditions under which he can.. make most of potentialities.. the unbaring of man’s historic past during the last two centuries may well prove a more important contribution to man’s survival than all his other scientific knowledge..
rather.. let’s just do a reset.. w a detox embed
half a century ago hg wells observed, correctly enough, that mankind faced a race between education and catastrophe
see.. w a reset and detox embed.. no need for ed.. 1\ it doesn’t work 2\ we don’t have time – for (blank)’s sake…
for its effective salvation mankind will need to undergo something like a spontaneous religious conversion: one that will *replace the mechanical world picture w an organic world picture and give to the human personality as the highest known manifestation of life, the precedence it now gives to it s machines and computers
if mankind is to escape its programmed self extinction the god who saves us will not descend form the machine: he will rise up again in the human soul
yeah.. that.. let’s facil that..
an organic world picture cannot, however, deny entropy. it must accept as given the breaking down processes that accompany all vital activities: indeed, they are not less an integral part of life, no less a contrapuntal contribution to its creativity than the orderly, constructive, upbuilding functions; for the two processes can no more be separate than body and soul, brain and mind, ..t.. until they are arrested in death..
on the terms imposed by technocratic society, there is no hope for mankind except by ‘going with’ its plans for accelerated tech progress, even though man’s vital organs will all be cannibalized in order to prolong the megamachine’s meaningless existence..t
but for those who have thrown off the myth of the machine.. the next move is ours: for the gates of the technocratic prison will open automatically, despite their rusty ancient hinges, as soon as we choose to walk out.. t