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“Technopoly is a state of culture. It is also a state of mind. It consists in the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology.”

“Technopoly is to say that its information immune system is inoperable. Technopoly is a form of cultural AIDS, which I here use as an acronym for Anti-Information Deficiency Syndrome. This is why it is possible to say almost anything without contradiction provided you begin your utterance with the words “A study has shown …” or “Scientists now tell us that …” More important, it is why in a Technopoly there can be no transcendent sense of purpose or meaning, no cultural coherence. Information is dangerous when it has no place to go, when there is no theory to which it applies, no pattern in which it fits, when there is no higher purpose that it serves. Alfred North Whitehead called such information “inert,” but that metaphor is too passive. Information without regulation can be lethal.”

― Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

https://www.amazon.com/Technopoly-Surrender-Technology-Neil-...




> This is why it is possible to say almost anything without contradiction provided you begin your utterance with the words “A study has shown …” or “Scientists now tell us that …” More important, it is why in a Technopoly there can be no transcendent sense of purpose or meaning, no cultural coherence.

I don't think this is really related to the proliferation of internet connected technology, or even technology in general. People have always been using bad sources of information to justify false beliefs.

Before Facebook, people cited the crap they read in tabloid magazines.

Before that people cited untested (or poorly tested) theories like phrenology.

Before that people cited philosophers like Aristotle who claimed that all matter could be infinitely subdivided.

And before that people cited whatever their local priest or shaman told them.

Information may have less regulation but it's erroneous to assume, as this excerpt seems to be doing, that regulation of information makes for better information. There is no shortage of instances in which those in charge of regulating information degraded the quality of information, often to suit their own interest. I'm still willing to defend the claim that in aggregate freer flow and production of information improves the average person's understanding of the world .

Do we really think that people living in regimes with more tightly regulated flows of information have better understanding of the universe than people with freer access to information?

Do we really think that people with lesser access to technology have better understanding of the world than those that have no internet access?


His broader point is that the medium melds the form of the message. In ancient times we'd have "Old Wive's Tales" that pass the good information around. In a Technopoly you have the same information taking the form of scientific papers. Even for things which may not be science.

The secondary point is when you divorce these pieces of information from their culture they become something else.

> Do we really think that people with lesser access to technology have better understanding of the world than those that have no internet access?

This seems related to what Nassim Taleb would say, "It's easier to macro bullshit than to micro bullshit." IE. Your barber/chef cannot bullshit you, but your economist/software engineer can. Over time the good information gets processed via something like natural selection and you end up with good ideas persisting. So it's not clear to me that a society with the level of information and no clear anchors is full of more understanding than those in the past. See: Lindy Effect

It's a very convincing argument. See Twitter, Facebook (/r/insancepeoplefacebook) et all.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindy_effect


> Your barber/chef cannot bullshit you, but your economist/software engineer can.

I strongly disagree. Nearly all of the serious misunderstandings of the world I have harbored in the past I believed because I trusted the words of key individuals I held in high regard.

Your reference to r/insanepeoplefacebook actually demonstrates that many people are able to recognize false information online.


Eh, so if you get a dinner that taste like shit or a haircut that looks lumpy and terrible you can't tell?

Held in high regard isn't the point, it's that you know what bad food tastes like. It's nearly impossible to tell whether an economist on television making market predictions has done due diligence or is just talking out of his ass.


Perhaps I misunderstood your comparison. I thought your comment was saying that interpersonal interactions in general (like a conversation with your barber) don't spread BS as well as internet apps. It seems like you were referring to the barber's ability to convince you that his skills are up to par?


You're entirely missing the point; which is blind faith in technology and scientific authorities, and humiliation and public shaming of anyone who dares to step out of line.

Same, same but different. At least you can hold your local shaman responsible when you learn that he took money to feed you lies.

Are you saying that matter can't be infinitely subdivided? Because I'm pretty sure the jury is still out on that one.


Blind faith in anything is wrong. The difference is scientific process invites peer review, reproduction, and alternative theories.

> At least you can hold your local shaman responsible when you learn that he took money to feed you lies.

Gods work in mysterious ways. The good shaman give advice that is always right no matter what happens, and fault you for misinterpreting the good word.


I feel like the word ‘shaman’ is being thrown around pretty lightly in this thread with some implicit derision. This is curious to me.


> Technopoly is a form of cultural AIDS, which I here use as an acronym for Anti-Information Deficiency Syndrome.

It's interesting how the moral panics of a time find their way into unrelated literature, and how jarring they can seem with a little distance (1993)


Woo, giving your random thought the acronym AIDS isn't going to create an immediate bias or anything - it's what I like to see in a neutral unopinionated highly scientific paper.


Cultural coherence sounds like newspeak for tribalism.


Yes, and that's actually something I do see imprinted on the Internet, all the time. If culture, on global terms, is defined by something right now, that thing is coherence, or homogeneity [0]. Almost everybody shares the same cultural referents and uses the same means of communication and entertainment. Cultural diversity has been (and is being) reduced, not enriched.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_homogenization


Thanks for the link, very interesting! I've always used the term McDonaldization.

If you look at % of people who trend towards similar culture affects, I think you're probably right (but would love to know how/where people are tracking this!) But, if you look at absolute numbers of people who are into something non-mainstream (e.g. not the primary culture), I bet we're way ahead of where we used to be. Also, I bet there are more subcultures flourishing out there -- bronies probably weren't a thing 500 years ago. Finally, I also think we have more acceptance for not being of the primary culture than years ago.

That isn't to invalidate your point, I just have questions about statements that claim something about long term trends.


It's definitely something tangential to McDonaldization. It's kind of Instagramization. IE. When cold brew coffee or whatever new trend gets popular then it's in every metro instantly. It's rare to go to a place that has it's truly unique thing--using the coffee example, Greek or Turkish coffee.

Bronies sounds more like a marketing demo than a subculture.


i believe the more commonly used term is technocracy


Postman defines societies as having three distinct stages:

1) Tool-using: where tools are just something humans use to further their basic needs.

2) Technocracy: Where inventing for the sake of inventing starts to happen for the sake of "progress" and the tools start to attack the culture.

3) Technopoly: culture becomes subservient to technology. At this point the reason for technology is to serve technology and not people or culture anymore.




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