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TitleTechnology Matters: Questions to Live With
LanguageEnglish
File Size2.4 MB
Total Pages299
Table of Contents
                            Contents
Preface
Acknowledgements
1 Can We Define “Technology”?
2 Does Technology Control Us?
3 Is Technology Predictable?
4 How Do Historians Understand Technology?
5 Cultural Uniformity, or Diversity?
6 Sustainable Abundance, or Ecological Crisis?
7 Work: More, or Less? Better, or Worse?
8 Should “the Market” Select Technologies?
9 More Security, or Escalating Dangers?
10 Expanding Consciousness, or Encapsulation?
11 Not Just One Future
Notes
Bibliography
Index
                        
Document Text Contents
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Technology Matters

Page 149

any technology per se. Rather, it emerges in the context of a soci-

ety where unions are weak and minimum wages are one-third or

more lower that in Britain, France, Germany, Holland, and other

advanced Western economies.58 Technologies are embedded in

cultural systems, and wages are part of these systems. Wal-Mart

not only expresses the general Western preference for efficiency in

production over other values; it also expresses an American pref-

erence to pass on savings in efficiency to consumers and stock-

holders but not to workers. In making this choice, Wal-Mart also

forces suppliers to adopt and embody the same values. When it

demands lower wholesale prices in exchange for huge orders, sup-

pliers must either press their workers to be more productive or pay

them less. Wal-Mart embodies not only the economies of scale

possible in mass distribution, but also American resistance to high

minimum wages, unionized labor, and the welfare state. Thus, in

the “new economy” many workers have longer hours because

their jobs feel insecure, because wages are lower, and because

employers have discovered that it is cheaper to pay overtime than

it is to hire, train, and provide pension and health benefits to new

employees.59

A second group, however, wants the longer work week because

it gives them more money for consumer goods. Early in the nine-

teenth century, the average person had a modest wardrobe, often

no more than one set of clothing for daily wear and a Sunday suit.

The Western consumer today has a closet stuffed with clothing,

some little used. The European or American also wants more space

to live in than ever before, including not only a larger house or

apartment, but ideally a summer home as well. In the 1920s, one

car was enough for each American family. By the 1960s, each adult

“needed” a car. Today, every person in the United States over 16

“needs” a car. Overall, it costs the average American family over

$7,000 a year to own, insure, and operate automobiles, more than

132 Chapter 7

Page 150

it spends on food.60 Demand for more goods of all kinds has risen

so fast that even when real wages increase, savings may fall. Dur-

ing the boom of the 1990s, the median American family had less

than $10,000 in assets.61 Middle-class Americans worked longer

hours in order to possess more things, not least new laptop com-

puters, mobile phones, automobiles, and other technologies that

embody high mobility, interactivity, and success. Most of these

purchases lose value each year and become worthless within 10

years. Continually replacing and upgrading them has become an

incentive for overtime.

And there is a third group, made up of what Richard Reich calls

“symbolic analysts”—people “who solve, identify, and broker

new problems.”62 In the borderless world economy, they are in

great demand. Their work is not routine but varied and interest-

ing, which explains why many of them are “workaholics.” They

put in longer hours not due to economic necessity and not (only)

because of an insatiable desire for more consumer goods. These

are usually well-educated professionals who love their jobs, and

even when away from the office never really leave it behind. Their

mobile phone is always at hand; their portable computer is always

on. Their identity has become so entwined with the job that fam-

ily and friends often take a lesser place in their lives. Corporations

have found that such employees will work especially long hours

if food and coffee are freely available, and if they provide other

amenities such as small kitchens, exercise rooms, and jogging

paths. At Microsoft, refrigerators are perpetually stocked with free

soft drinks and sandwiches. Far from seeking a life of leisure, the

most highly educated often embrace an almost ascetic routine of

long work hours punctuated by physical workouts. Such habits are

widespread in Silicon Valley and in other high-tech communi-

ties.63 Technologies were often introduced in order to save labor.

Yet the more skilled people are, the more likely it is that they will

Work: More, or Less? Better, or Worse? 133

Page 298

SCOT, 43, 44, 47, 49, 61–65, 105–
107, 185–207

Scranton, Philip, 75, 76, 126
Sibley, Mulford Q., 139, 146, 147
Simulations, 201–207, 222
Slavery, 114
Smith, Cyril Stanley, 9, 10
Smith, Merritt Roe, 112
Sobchak, Vivian, 205
Social construction of technol-

ogy, 43, 44, 47, 49, 61–65,
105–107, 185–207

Socialism, evolutionary, 25, 91
Sombart, Werner, 12, 25, 26,

91, 92
Space program, 94
SST, 153
Standardization, 70–78, 81
Steam engine, 10, 25, 166
Steamboat, 163, 164, 170
Steinmetz, Charles, 11, 25
Stonehenge, 2, 6, 7
Strange Days, 206
Strauss, Leo, 7, 8
Strauss, Lewis, 37
Supermarkets, 82, 83, 131, 132
Surveillance, 77, 183, 188, 193
Sustainability, 100, 101, 104–108,

213–215
Symbolic analysts, 133, 134
Symbolism, of technology, 46,

47, 161, 162
Synesthesia, 201

Taylor, Frederick Winslow, 114,
115

Techne, 7

Technocratic state, 28–30, 161,
162

Technological choice, 17, 18, 41–
44, 171, 172, 213, 214, 226

Technological determinism,
15–31, 47, 64

Technological fix, 142, 143
Technological liberals, 88, 95,

96, 215
Technological momentum, 52–

56, 60, 176, 211
Technological pessimism, 98–

100, 118, 119, 196–199, 224,
225

Technological prognostication,
33–38

Technological unemployment,
118–122, 128

‘Technology’ (term), 11–15
Telegraph, 40, 41, 101, 102
Telepathy, 223, 224
Telephone, 33, 39–42, 73–76,

186, 193, 213
Television, 19, 33, 65, 81, 149–

153, 197
Tenner, Edward, 21
Terrorism, 183, 184
Tesla, Nicola, 175
Text, technology as, 4–6
Thoreau, Henry David, 101–103
Thurston, Robert, 91
Tocqueville, Alexis de, 68, 114
Toffler, Alvin, 27, 38
Tolerance, repressive, 151, 155,

156
Tools, 1–6, 87, 101, 110, 115, 209,

210

Index 281

Page 299

Tradition(s), invention of, 85, 86,
213

Transportation, 20, 37, 50–56,
86, 141, 142, 153, 162, 163,
219, 220

Trolley car, 37, 55
Turkle, Sherry, 188, 202, 203
Turner, B. A., 164

Unintended consequences, 21,
44, 45, 159, 154–167, 174, 175,
184, 211, 226

Unions, 123, 124, 131–134
Urban design, 55, 56
Utopias, 35, 100, 101
Utterbeck, James, 33, 39

Veblen, Thorstein, 12, 68, 116
Viagra, 39
Video cassette recorder, 43
Vioxx, 135
Voice recognition, 35
Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr., 121

Wages, 111, 112, 126, 129–134,
216

Wag the Dog, 218
Wallace, Anthony F. C., 50
Wal-Mart, 131, 132
War(s), 126, 168–176, 184, 221,

222
casualties of, 168, 173–176, 180,

221
Cold, 175–179, 182, 183
Iraq (2003), 176, 180, 181, 222

Vietnam, 179, 180
World, 171–174, 184

Watt, James, 11
Weapons, 10, 17, 18, 53, 54, 167–

184, 221
Weber, Max, 12
Wells, H. G., 134, 209
Westinghouse Electric Corpora-

tion, 153, 164
Wheel, 19, 20
Whitney, Eli, 112
Whole Earth Catalogue, 104
Winner, Langdon, 30, 31
Wise, George, 26
Wordsworth, William, 98
Work, 93, 94, 109–134

artisan, 109, 110
factory, 111–118, 122–126
hours, 118–121, 128, 129
music and, 110
routinized, 130, 131
subdivision of, 23, 111–117
women and, 126–128

Workers, 91, 92, 109–116, 121–
134

World Bank, 144
World Trade Organization, 144
World’s Fairs, 14, 93, 120
Wright Brothers, 11, 174
Writing, invention of, 5

Zuider Zee, 106, 107

282 Index

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