4.0342 Technology (3/104)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 31 Jul 90 23:27:40 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0342. Tuesday, 31 Jul 1990.

(1) Date: Mon, 30 Jul 90 21:56:35 EDT (21 lines)
From: "L. Dale Patterson" <LDPATT01@ULKYVM>
Subject: 4.0332 The Real World of Technology

(2) Date: Tue, 31 Jul 90 00:04:01 EDT (47 lines)
From: matsuba@writer
Subject: Technology and ethics

(3) Date: Tue, 31 Jul 90 13:06:28 EDT (36 lines)
Subject: Franklin, holistic -- prescriptive

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 90 21:56:35 EDT
From: "L. Dale Patterson" <LDPATT01@ULKYVM>
Subject: 4.0332 The Real World of Technology (1/102)

I was reminded when I read McCarty's note on the realities of technology
of another author who has also dealt with the problem of technology in
society. Jacques Ellul, who was professor of law at Bordeaux and lay
French Reformed theologian worte a lot on this subject. HIs best know
is Technological Society which argues that technology is seductive and
we can quickly begin to produce for the sake of producing, just because
we can make it, not out of any need. The end result is Technique, the
manipulation of materiel, and it is then applied not just to goods, but
to politics, religion, thought, life. He continues this concern through
several other books, including one of his last Humiliation of the Word,
where he voices concerns over the possibility of having faceless
discussions!! His concern is for us to remtain our humanity in the face
of technology.

-- Dale Patterson
University of Louisville
BITNET: ldpatt01 @ ulkyvm
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------62----
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 90 00:04:01 EDT
From: matsuba@writer
Subject: Technology and ethics

In Willard McCarty's note on the ethics of using the machine, he asks
whether we as humanists have a response to the ideas and dilemmas put
forward by Professor Franklin.

The simple answer is yes. We must consider what the impact of out use
of the technology has on our discipline and, and it sounds a bit
grandiose but is still true, on society. As humanists working with
technology, we have to consider what the end result might be. Is the
cost worth what may result. The computer has made the generating of a
concordance an invalid topic for a Ph.D, or even a Master's thesis.
Such work was once the domain of the scholar; now any undergraduate with
OCP and a machine readable text can do one.

My own project does make me stop and think about what I am doing. If I
can get a computer to search for allusions, does that mean I have
allowed the machine to make decisions for me? The danger is always
there. If I go further and say that my work might lead to the creation
of a truly intelligent machine, should I consider finding something else
to do? Some of my peers have said so much.

My feeling is that one must push the technology to its limits--to
discover what you can get it to do. I am interested in genre and
canonical studies, and the computer allows me to digest a vast amount of
material--material that one could not read in several lifetimes. But it
is only a tool. I must make the critical decisions. If I let the
machine do it for me, then the machine becomes the critic, and so I
deserve to be replaced. This is no different than someone who adheres
to a particular theory and allows the theory to dictate what his or her
response will be rather than using the theory to help reveal some aspect
of the work being examined.

I saw an interview a long while back in which Arthur C. Clarke,
commenting on intelligent machines, said that if we let the computer
supplant us, it will serve us right. I believe that the same principle
can be applied to us. We should develop the technology as far as
possible, for we cannot deny ourselves the possible benefits that may
result. But we must hold the final authority. If we lose it, it is our
own fault.

Stephen Matsuba
York University

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------45----
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 90 13:06:28 EDT
Subject: Franklin, holistic -- prescriptive


Lovely poem, thanks. Franklin's 'holistic' vs. 'prescriptive'
classification sounds much like Shoshana Zuboff's 'automating' vs.
'informating' modes of using computers. "In the Age of the Smart
Machine: The Future of Power and Work", New York: Basic Books, (1988).

Two observations: (1) The challenge, of course, is in better
understanding both the tasks and the technology. (2) One danger is in
reifying 'the technology'. It's all really in the uses (read: users,
policy, ideology). Not in the machinery alone. Of course, we need to
spend mental effort on understanding the potentials and perils, to make
a more holistic use (policy, ideology) of the machines. But watch out
before you place the responsibility at the doorstep of technology.
Laborers in sweat shops were (are) enslaved by people or social systems.
Not by sewing machines.

Daniel Boorstin suggests an interesting contrast between technology and
political systems. One of the dimensions is cyclicality. Political
systems, he claims, have a limited range of variance. Not so with
technology. Hence, politics (and history) are doomed to repeat
themselves. Not so with technology. His claim may be too optimistic
for my tastes. But worth thinking about whenever determinism rears its

What is it about Toronto or Canada that have produced by now a fourth
(McLuhan, McCarty, Franklin, Potrobenko) sage telling us it is all in
the medium?

Sheizaf Rafaeli Sheizaf@UMichUB