myth of machine

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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

schumacher, fromm, bookchin, mcluhan, ward


intro’d to books here (thanks library – prospectored from colorado college):

@monk51295 Have you ever read Munford’s “The Myth of the Machine”?
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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

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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.
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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

whales in sea world.. supposed to’s.. of school/ al

our predecessor mistakenly coupled their particular mode of *mechanical progress w an unjustifiable sense of increasing moral superiority

*sounds like David Graeber and David Wengrow‘s insight on human history – wasn’t that ie: hunter gatherers weren’t doing/making intense things.. it was just seasonal

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

imagining the possibilities with a mech/infra to facil *iterations of that cycling (as limit approaches both ends of infinity – ginorm/small). .everyday

*ie: art/ists vs bot/ists ness

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..


mumford non-specialized law:

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..

*not yet scrambled et al.. we need 1 yr to be 5 again

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..

embodiment ness

mumford non-specialized law:

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

human history

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..

bravery to change mind everyday

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

*hari present in society law

**human nature

***wilde not us law


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..

of math and men.. measuring things

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

ie: supposed to’s.. of school/work

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..

order, power, predict\able, 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

civilization ness

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?

norton productivity law.. as al

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


volume 2 – pentagon of power (politics; power – physical energy; productivity; profit; publicity)



the energy of 7bn alive people

undisturbed ecosystem

in the city.. as the day..

gershenfeld something else law


everyone in sync

ie: supposed to’s.. of school/work

let’s just facil daily curiosity  ie: cure ios city

2 convers as infra

as it could be..