Essay about Technological Pessimism

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Are we living in an age of technological optimism or technological pessimism? In The Idea of Technology and Postmodern Pessimism Leo Marx, a leading historian of technology and American culture, argues that while technological optimism had been the default mode of American culture throughout most of its history, technological pessimism asserted itself to an unprecedented degree in the second half of the twentieth century. His essay traces the roots of what he terms “postmodern pessimism” in the earlier, dominant technological optimism and the evolution of our terminology for what comes to be known as “technology.” This latter semantic history, not unlike that which undergirds his more recent Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous …show more content…
In Marx’s view, it would not be until the 1930′s that the term would achieve “truly wide currency.” By mid-century it was used more or less as we use it today, to denote a remarkably wide array of tools and techniques, singularly and in complex combination.
The term’s elasticity, according to Marx, fit the new reality “in which the boundary between the intricately interlinked artifactual and other components — conceptual, institutional, human — is blurred and often invisible.” Marx goes on to add, “by virtue of its abstractness and inclusiveness, and its capacity to evoke the inextricable interpenetration of (for example) the powers of the computer witht eh bureaucratic practices of large modern institutions, ‘technology’ (with no specifying adjective) invites endless reification.”
The consequence is a “common tendency” to “invest ‘technology’ with a host of metaphysical properties and potencies, thereby making it seem to be a determinate entity, a disembodied autonomous causal agent of social change.”
Recalling the second, ideological development, the semantic evolution just describe took place alongside of related evolution in the concept of “progress.” The development of technology had been previously understood to be a means to the end of constructing a “just, republican society.” By the late nineteenth century the advance of technology was synonymous