Casey Walker, “Interview with Charlene Spretnak”
Wild Duck Review, Vol. IV, No. 1
We continue to take the “immense bribe” of the Megamachine,” as Lewis Mumford put it thirty years ago: the absorption of every human activity into the technological realm by seductive assurances of ever-increasing ease, power, and abundance. We seem oblivious to the dependence being created. Now that we have pocket calculators, few people master or remember basic arithmetic.
Now that we have “spell-check,” young people see no need to master spelling. Industrial arts classes, where boys and (at long last) girls learned the pride of accomplishment that comes from working with one’s hands and natural materials, have been replaced in most schools with computer labs. Many young people can push a button on a microwave oven but cannot cook at all.
Social skills and various subtle benefits of human interaction are also in decline, as growing numbers of us spend more time each day talking to machines than people— and as children who log a great deal of computer time exhibit shyness and withdrawn behavior.
My point about technology, in the book, is that it’s neither evil nor value-free. Rather, the design of every new technological device reflects our cultural history. An awareness of that history is essential if we are to recognize dangerous tendencies and chart an eco-socially wholesome future. Failing that, we’re vulnerable to all the Empower-the- Autonomous-Individual hype that basically lets everything else go to hell—and, in the bargain, diminishes to pathetic proportions the individual’s full experience of being.