By Mac Thompson
Yeah, ‘technology.’ I can’t get away from the starry-eyed devotées of ‘technology.’ It’s become part of our ideological paradigm. ‘Technological progress’ is becoming, in capitalist societies, a history-ending Utopia, believed with the same blind faith as the Russian Revolutionaries believed that the dictatorship of the proletariat was forming itself. As it turns out, the term ‘technology’ itself has become a cliché, as Northrop Frye defines : an empty verbal formula substituting for thought.
The first thought that occurs to me is, well, what is ‘technology’? A tool. Chimpanzees use sticks or a piece of straw to dig termites out of a mound – and that is tool use : hence, technology. But wait! I hear some say, that is not advanced, human technology. OK, but a stick with a burnt, sharpened point is ; it took millennia to be able to sharpen wood and master fire. And heck, the invention of the flint-tipped spear brings us into the Stone Age – an advanced age of primate development. So obviously, when people throw around the word ‘technology,’ they don’t mean tool use. What do they mean then?
They commonly mean – and especially in pedagogical or teen circles – computer stuff. Consumer goods with transistors in ‘em. Why don’t they say ‘computers’, then? It’s because ‘technology’ is a better marketting choice, and the use – or mis-use – of the word comes from the marketting departments of the multi-national corporations making beaucoup bucks from the sale thereof (is that a dangling preposition?). The term is thought control from those who control the means of production, at work for their own profits. It’s advertising, which has worked itself into the consciousness of the consumer class as valid thought. Half-truths and lies, repeated enough times, to paraphrase Goebbels…. ‘Newspeak’, as Orwell defines.
Dr. Krull’s presentation on IDD Tuesday featured a slide which included ‘technology’ as an on-going major capital outlay for BCC. When she got to this particular point, Dr. Krull said something like “Well, technology is just going to be a major outlay that we can’t do without’, and then she continued on to her next point. Hang on – this is exactly where we should be thinking – but the use of the word ‘technology’, again, is that cliché which hides the lack of thought behind the proposition, and keeps us from thinking about its unconsciously assumed value. Before spending our money, shouldn’t we ask why are computers ‘just going to be a major capital outlay’? (note : right now the grammar checker is trying to convince me that I should reverse the subject and the helping verb in the preceding question, to give us ‘…shouldn’t we ask why computers are going to be an on-going…’. I’ll grant that the construction would be comprehensible, but I want to emphasise the question – why are computers just going to be…’, because I want the reader to think about the damn question – not just gloss over it with the semi-unconscious acceptance of a cliché as a substitute for thought. Semantically, computers can’t think ; they’re just tools. Grammar checkers can’t think at a clausal level. Never trust either the auto-correct, or the grammar checker in a computer. [Regrettably, many of our students would just hit ‘accept’, and thus does the tool control the man/woman. Indirectly, the software programmer – answering to corporate interests — does the thinking. Proof of this is just how many times my colleagues have seen the phrase ‘It’s defiantly true that…’ in papers.] The computer discourages thought. As well, the computer sub-consciously enforces the norms of the dominant corporate hierarchy – just spell the word ‘honour’ and see what it does ; it tries to imply that the spelling is ‘wrong’, which it defiantly isn’t ; just ask several hundreds of millions of native-English speakers from all over the world – ‘honour’ is a perfectly acceptable spelling. Again, the computer becomes a tool to control thought – brought to you by the friendly folks of the military-industrial complex.)
And we’re still left with the question : Why are computers ‘just going to be a major capital outlay’?