Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology is a book about how technology has affected society. Postman starts with a story written by Plato about how much Thamus thought that writing would cause humans to become forgetful and deceive them into thinking they are wise. The purpose of starting the book that way was to show how the worry of technology changing society for the bad has not changed. We can look back now and see that the invention of writing and the printing press have changed society for good, and yet we are still worried that computers and the Internet and iPads will negatively impact our society. His argument is that whenever a new technology is invented, it will change society. We can never tell if it changed it for the good or bad until another form of technology has been invented to replace the old. Only then can we look back and see how that technology has affected us.
“The discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it” (Postman 4). I find this quote interesting because it differentiates between those who create technology and the philosophers who understand how things impact universal virtues. I think Plato’s observation is still relevant today.
“Every culture must negotiate with technology, whether it does so intelligently or not. A bargain is struck in which technology giveth and technology taketh away” (Postman 6). This quote is important because technology is not neutral. The introduction of a new technology has an impact on every day life. For instance, the creation of the atomic bomb has impacted the lives of every single person on the planet. Therefore, society must negotiate what kinds of technology are appropriate and how those technologies should be used. I like this quote because it uses the word “negotiate” because I believe the process is important.
“Those who cultivate competence in the use of a new technology become an elite group that are granted undeserved authority and prestige by those who have no such competence” (Postman 9). We often hear the term “digital divide” used today. It refers to those who have access to technology and are able to use it. However many people in the worlds still are not able to effectively use technology. Those who are on the cutting edge of new technologies are from more developed societies. Therefore they can shape the attitudes and influence the trends around the world. For example, Google is using its technology to promote the acceptance of homosexuality in countries that restrict it.
“There is a calculus of technological change that requires a measure of even-handedness” (Postman 7). This quote is confusing because it is unclear what is meant by even-handedness. Nobody is completely neutral so those who use technology will use it not in an even-handed way, but to promote their own agenda.
“There is something perverse about schoolteachers’ being enthusiastic about what is happening” (Postman 10). This quote is confusing because it looks at teachers who embrace technology as doing something perverse. I am confused because a good teacher should be able to utilize all teaching mediums available to them to help prepare their students for the future. So instead of looking at technology as eliminating teachers’ jobs, it should actually create more jobs for teachers in the future.
Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print.