Richard B. Wilcox, Ph.D.
Submitted: October, 2005
Updated Preface: November, 2010 Executive Summary
1.1 Foundations Of Power
1.2 The Dragon Eating Its Tail
1.3 Stressing The Immune System 1.4 Pandora’s Box
2. Critical Perspectives On Science And Technology 2.1 The Scientific Mission: Order And Power
2.2 The Market Mechanism
2.3 Urbanized Humans And Loss Of Nature
2.4 The Devalorized World And Return To Sumud
3. The Expanding Technosphere: Uses And Abuses 3.1 Power And Control
3.2 The World Expo
3.3 Emerging Technologies
3.6 The Weapons Industry And The Science Of Killing
4. Consequences For Cultural And Biological Diversity 4.1 Where Are We Coming From?
4.2 Bulldozing Biodiversity
4.3 Where Are We Going?
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As a university level teacher of English and other subjects in Japan, I stress to my colleagues and students that there is no politically neutral pedagogy. Educators must be aware (although a majority are not) of how the
mechanics and methods of a curriculum are not value-free but part of a long
term political and ideological plan/trend.
I was recently reading about the ideas of the philosopher Arthur
Schopenhauer, who according to Tom Sunic writing in the Occidental Observer, “is a crucial source in understanding the psychopathological impact of religions, myths and systems of beliefs.” I am especially interested in Schopenhauer’s “denunciation of the will to political power” and how it relates to issues of science and technology.
According to Sunic (2010):
We all live the hyperreal, as the French philosopher Rosset writes; we all crave for the Double—be it in its negative or the positive form. We all wish to be something we are not; the duplicate of ourselves. “In place of the world as it is, we invent a ‘duplicate’ or a ‘double,’ a parallel universe which functions as a phantom rival to the existing world.”
The disadvantage of living in the real world is that life in it is drab,
frightening, or boring; the advantage of the “doubled” life lies not only in the fact that such life does not exist, but that such life doesn’t even have to exist in order for us to believe it to be true and real! In other words, this desire for a spectral world is not so much a desire for something different, as it is a desire to get rid of the real world.
I think this is a profound point that goes unquestioned 99 percent of the
time. There is an overall tendency to assent to the inevitability and goodness of scientific progress. But one can definitely see a trend toward our unconscious “getting rid of the real“ in favor of a virtual, “hyperreality” in modern society. For example, you don’t have to look hard to see people on the street absorbed in their cell phone, iPod or other electro-gizmo. How has this affected social relations?
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While digital and computer technologies offer many advantages, it is very rare that we question what we lose in the tradeoff (which are inevitably presented, and sold to us as a fait accompli, in other words, without meaningful democratic debate on the topic).
Ironically, as the world becomes more technologically advanced, the destruction of the natural world is occurring at a parallel pace. Are we getting rid of the real and replacing it with a virtual, hyper-reality? The answer seems to be, “yes.” Is this a wise path? In my opinion, the answer is “no.”
I am not arguing against the use of science and technology, but for democratic decision making and ethical choices. For example, whatever happened to the “Hemp Car” that Henry Ford created in 1941, that was ten times stronger than a car made of metal? Modern automobiles from cradle to grave are some of the most environmentally destructive technologies (as most of them are are now produced) ever invented. There are endless examples of this misapplication of technology for cynical ends (Schopenhauer’s mischievous “will to power”) at the expense of the overall health and sustainability of the world.
As technology progresses, we also endure the inhumane use of technology resulting in loss of human dignity and
freedom. Do more surveillance cameras really reduce crime? Will a day come when we are monitored/manipulated/controlled 24/7/365 through various intrusive means as with Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel 1984? Some folks say that
day is already here.
Many people who trumpet the wonders of innovative technology are often in
favor of greater political control over society (politicians, technocrats), while others (the person on the street) are simply looking at the short term benefits regardless of the long term consequences.
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Juxtapose our technological utopia with this brilliant and frightening article by Tom Termotto (2010), a researcher on energy issues:
“Why is the world rushing headlong into Environmental Armageddon?”
The title says it all.
~ Richard B. Wilcox, Ph.D., November 2010 firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper investigates some aspects of the coming global technological totalitarianism and the expanding technosphere. I argue that this is both a conscious and coincidental agenda of powerful individuals and institutions carried out through the process of reification of ideological beliefs which are transformed into institutions, facilities, technologies policies and ultimately, culture. I believe that by ignoring the costs of new technologies, what we lose in the bargain is immeasurable and potentially catastrophic. History was not or is not entirely inevitable, but it is also a question of human values in relation to natural changes. While there have often been positive effects for large numbers of people from technological development, in fact, the creation and use of technology has largely been abused to further ruling class interests.
People are so transfixed by the scientific marvels that parade before them, that they are frozen in the act of spectating.
— Michael Hoffman (2001, p. 11)
People are becoming more and more like their machines. — Edward T. Hall (1976, p. 39)
First I can give you cancer, then I can profit from your cure. — sign on giant mad-scientist Glaxo/Bayer puppet in anti-biotechnology
rally (“Biodevastation,” 2005)
This paper investigates some aspects of the coming global technological
totalitarianism and the expanding technosphere. I argue that this is both a Wilcox – Technology 4
conscious and coincidental agenda of powerful individuals and institutions carried out through the process of reification of ideological beliefs which are transformed into institutions, facilities, technologies policies and ultimately culture. I suggest readers consider these open-ended questions while reading this paper:
1. Is science and technology inherently destructive, or can it be harnessed to do good depending on whose interests are involved?
2. Historically, who has benefited most often from the exploitation of science and technology, elites or the general public (and non-human species)?
3. Are advanced forms of technology (so-called “high technology”) including computers, cellular phones, videos and televisions etc., helpful or harmful toward creating an ecologically sustainable society? Can we distinguish between one form of technology and another in order to determine whether it is “good” or “bad”?
4. What, for example, are the potential human health/environmental dangers of increased amounts of electro-magnetic radiation that exceed amounts humans were exposed to during most of natural history? What may be the possible benefits or harms caused by new technologies such as high-speed computer and internet transmission, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology or genetic engineering?
As an environmental social scientist, I believe that by ignoring the costs of new technologies, what we lose in the bargain: culturally, socially, politically, ecologically, and as a species, is immeasurable and potentially catastrophic. History was not or is not entirely inevitable (i.e., determinism), it is also a question of human values in relation to natural changes (i.e., dialectical materialism; the reification of ruling class imperatives into cultural norms). While there have often been positive effects for large numbers of people from technological development
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(e.g., extended life spans through improved public sanitation and medical treatments), in fact, the creation and use of technology has largely been abused to further ruling class interests (Fotopoulis, 1998; Noble, 2001; Jensen & Draffan, 2004).
1.1 Foundations Of Power
In order to maintain their power, the wealthier among us depend on robbing people of their lands, waters, dreams and aspirations. To the extent that we have wealth or status within the economic system, we all share some blame. Nevertheless, control through technology is one means whereby the ruling classes maintain power.
The ruling class is crucial to the maintenance and development of technological totalitarianism. It consists of the United States at the hub of military and economic power. The G8 nations are the first tier countries supported by the lesser rich OECD countries at the second tier. Ruling class mechanisms include: the Bretton Woods institutions including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization; the Trilateral Commission; the Business Roundtable; and the World Economic Forum. In order to serve their broader economic agenda, foundations such as the Ford Foundation and financial speculators such as George Soros fund social programs around the world (Cottin, 2003; Roelofs, 2003). Elite lobbying groups (e.g., AIPAC, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee), both domestic and foreign, play a powerful role in influencing the U.S. congress while the average citizen who is over-worked, confused by media misinformation, disaffected from the political process, absorbed by lifestyle consumerism, or for other cultural reasons, has largely vanquished her/his role as a participant in the political
process. The array of mega-corporations, whose assets tower over the collected wealth of most of the world’s countries, have designated themselves as the prime architects of U.S. (and increasingly global) laws and policies. Some observers have
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noted that this “global monetocracy” persists in its merciless path toward planetary destruction due to the complex nature of our economic system (Madron & Jopling, 2003).
This is a happy convenience for a system which benefits from increased social and environmental disruption (e.g., increased health problems benefit the pharmaceutical and medical industries; increased pollution benefits the pollution abatement industry, etc.). The standard economic measurement of gross domestic product that the United States and other industrial countries use does not make qualitative judgments about economic activity (e.g., human and environmental welfare), it only measures growth (i.e., accumulation of monetary wealth) for its own sake. In line with the theories of neo-classical, free-market and neo-liberal economics, the Limited Liability Corporation operates by externalizing costs and accumulating profits. Today, corporations have evolved to the point where they are virtually exempt from social and environmental responsibility (Korten, 1995; Keen, 2001; Madron & Jopling, 2003).
Continue reading at: Technology And The Coming Global Totalitarianism