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Doug Hill: The Question Concerning Technology | In Defense of Disengagement July 2013
An intriguing essay appeared on Atlantic.com last week. It ran under the headline, "'Camp Grounded,' 'Digital Detox,' and the Age of Techno-Anxiety." The subhead was "What to Make of the New Naturalism."The piece was a reflection by the Atlantic's technology editor, Alexis Madrigal, on Camp Grounded, a three-day retreat that offered 300 or so people in California an opportunity to disconnect completely from their technologies.

Techno anxiety has been a fixture of the American experience from the beginning. To be sure, the shouts of the enthusiasts have always been louder, but they've always been accompanied by an undercurrent of doubt. As Harvard historian Perry Miller put it some fifty years ago, as a nation we leapt eagerly into the technological torrent, only to find ourselves "bobbing like corks in the flood, unable to get our heads high enough above the waves to tell whether there any longer solid banks on either side or whether we have been carried irretrievably into a pitiless sea, there to be swamped and drowned."

By ending his essay with a series of questions Madrigal implies that if we just get serious and put our heads together, answers will be found. It's possible to endorse the effort while pointing out that it's easier said than done. I've studied the history and philosophy of technology for more than twenty years, and every one of the thinkers in those fields I admire most—Jacques Ellul, Marshall McLuhan, Lewis Mumford, Neal Postman, Stephen Talbott—at one time or another explicitly declined to offer prescriptions for taming technology's excesses. They recognized that the scope and depth of the problems don't lend themselves to programmatic solutions, and also that any proposal radical enough to make a substantial difference doesn’t stand the slightest chance of being adopted.
20thC  21stC  US_history  1960s  intellectual_history  cultural_history  technology  Internet  media  social_media  EF-add 
august 2013 by dunnettreader

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