From a review of “The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit” by Sherry Turkle, in The New Republic (May 8).
Apologies for the computer and for intensified computer instruction in the schools rest on the familiar claim that technological innovations will create an abundance of skilled jobs, eliminate disagreeable jobs, and make life easy for everyone. Everything we know about technological “progress” indicates, on the contrary, that it promotes inequality and political centralization. It commends itself to the masters of American industry for that very reason. Whenever we hear that some new technology is “inevitable” we should consult the historical record, which shows that technical innovations usually appeal to industrialists not because they are inevitable or even because they make for greater productive efficiency, but because they consolidate the industrialist’s power over the work force. The triumph of industrial technology testifies not to the inexorable march of science, but to the defeat of working-class resistance….
The computer has weakened the old Faustian “concern with depth” and encouraged a concern with surfaces. It has devalued emotional intensity; but if the computer age does not produce a Michelangelo and a Goethe, it is perhaps less likely to produce a Hitler or even a Napoleon….
Technology is a mirror of society…not a revolutionary force in its own right. It shows us ourselves as we are and as we would like to be; and what [the computer] reveals is an unflattering image of the American at his most incorrigibly escapist, hoping to lose himself – in every sense of the term – in the cool precision of machines that know everything except everything pertaining to that “bloody mess of organic matter.”