This is an amazingly thought provoking book with the main premise being that modern technology is over-rated, under-criticized, and often creates unintended and unavoidable consequences that promote the need for a complex series of counter-technologies. It is well researched, packed full of supporting facts and references that convince the reader of the inherent flaws in a ‘technotopian’ worldview.
The adoption of any particular new technology is shown to be wildly unquestioned within the industrialized world, such as the popularization of the car and its effects on society. (Did you know that when miles driven, cost of operation, and time spent in a car are taken into account, the average speed of a car is only around 10 miles per hour? All that money spent to go slower than a bicycle.) The neutrality of technology – such as the discovery of nuclear energy – is disputed, and the existence of ‘democratic’ (ex. pre-industrialized agriculture) and ‘authoritarian’ (ex. television) technologies in the vein of Lewis Mumford is revealed.
Techno-optimism and the myth of progress are analyzed, showing that the economic motive drives most inventions and discoveries. (Scientific discoveries actually peaked in the 1990s! Anything new has been an increase in efficiency of consumer technology!) They highlight the reckless pace of the yearly approval of thousands of chemicals in the United States, and their unknown effects are examined. The authors also question the use of Gross Domestic Product to analyze a country’s well-being, leading to the same perspective endorsed by Ralph Nader:
“You contribute to the GNP when you run your car into someone else’s: your contribution is still greater if you hurt people inside.”
Similar to Noam Chomsky’s critique of mass media in “Manufacturing Consent”, the authoritarian, hegemony-maintaining power of technology is examined, and the idea that the supposed democracy of $1.00 equals one vote is shown to be a means of maintaining the status quo.
In the most eye-opening (and what many readers would find as the most subversive) chapter, the worth of modern medical technology and how the medical system works is examined with scrutiny. The authors discuss the process where by new medical procedures and drugs – whose efficacy may be worse than previous procedures and medicine – are rushed from trial to widespread usage, being capitalized on merely for their ‘newness’. Modern medicine is also shown to be a ‘counter-technology’ whose task is mainly to allow its patients to continue to mistreat their health – such as the concept of an anti-obesity pill.
All in all, the information within this is a powerful indictment against technological optimism and its effects on society. It is a near guarantee that this book will convince the reader that technology isn’t the solution to all of life’s problems, nor will it be the glowing messiah waiting for us in the emerging future.
For more information on ‘TECHNO-FIX : Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment’ by Michael Huesemann and Joyce Huesemann, visit http://www.technofix.org/.