4.0361 Technology (3/95)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 6 Aug 90 22:01:35 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0361. Monday, 6 Aug 1990.

(1) Date: Mon 06 Aug 90 08:34:12 (51 lines)
From: dusknox@skipspc.idbsu.edu (Skip_Knox)
Subject: Technology

(2) Date: Mon, 06 Aug 90 10:27:11 CDT (13 lines)
From: Norman Hinton <SSUBIT12@UIUCVMD>
Subject: Evolution and technology

(3) Date: Sat, 04 Aug 90 18:41 PDT (31 lines)
Subject: Re: 4.0356 The Real World of Technology? (1/66)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon 06 Aug 90 08:34:12
From: dusknox@skipspc.idbsu.edu (Skip_Knox)
Subject: Technology (eds)

I don't like Willard's dichotomy, splitting work into holistic and
prescriptive, and I especially object to his historical references.
There never was an age of the Craftsman, the careful and painstaking
expert lovingly turning out objects both beautiful and functional.
Equally, the advent of the machine age did not do away with the
possibility of making such works.

In the alleged Golden Age -- when did Willard have in mind? -- work was
controlled by guilds, are far stricter and more oppressive force than any
20th century funding agency. (apologies for the typing errors; I'm
going to fix this editor, just as soon as I can find some plastique)
Within that milieu were many instances of craftsman using inferior
goods, copying the work of more famous cities or craftsmen (copyright
violation), and generally trying to clip the customer for a few extra
ducats. If anything, the evidence suggests that the guilds as
organizations fought a continuous battle over quality against their
individual members who were always trying to cut corners (according to
the guilds, the corner-cutters were always foreigners).

Moreover, in modern times, we have many, many craftsmen, nor are these
all only Bohemian-types off making stained glass and Boston rockers. I
would argue that modern craftsmen include even such folks as computer

It seems to me that the threat to craftsmanship comes from units of
economic organization; that the guild as much as the international
corporation, by setting "standards" creates an environment that
discourages excellence. And yet, the modern corporation, unlike the
guild, has the flexibility at least to allow craftsmanship, albeit only
in corners rather than across the whole organization.

Finally, I'd like to suggest that craftsmanship and innovation may not be
compatible. The former suggests adherence to a kind of Platonic ideal
form, while the latter is pragmatic and experimental. Modern, if you

I do agree that the desire for "productivity", and especially the rather
foolish notion that it can be measured -- and the pernicious notion that
a worker's measurable productivity is an accurate indication of the
individual's worth to the organization and to society -- is unfortunate
and actually dangerous. But computers have not made university
administrators foolish; they'll be fools regardless of the technology.

Skip Knox
Boise State University

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------22----
Date: Mon, 06 Aug 90 10:27:11 CDT
From: Norman Hinton <SSUBIT12@UIUCVMD>
Subject: Evolution and technology

After 6 weeks away from HUMANIST, I'm glad to see that Willard is still
proposing vital and difficult questions for us. I have one suggestion,
triggered by his reference to a mythic history of mankind's "up from the
slime", evolution-based version of technological progress: take a look
at Stephen Jay Gould's latest book, _Wonderful Life_ in which, among
many other things, he complains about a "progress" notion of evolution,
and includes a number of wonderfuly wrong icon- nologies of evolution,
which he rather easily demolishes. It's in an early chapter, but don't
stop there: the whole book should be read by humanists....
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------197---
Date: Sat, 04 Aug 90 18:41 PDT
Subject: Re: 4.0356 The Real World of Technology? (1/66)

Dear Willard, et al., I would recommend highly a sociological work,
rather stilted and ponderous, but also organized, serious, and clear in
its thought, entitled THE TECHNOLOGICAL CONSCIENCE, by Manfred Stanley.
Available in Uni of Chicago paperback, and originally published in 1978.
Its prspective is learned, and it doesnt stay at the level of emotional
myth. What Willard is worried about is the leveling of the Humanist in
terms of "output." Output has to do with measurement, and tchnology is
almost all to do with measurement, as it comes from science and
engineering. Until things were measured, more and more accurately, one
could do with vague and mythological thinking. It is no accident that
Marx was interested in economy, which is essentially measurement. I
dont myself equate mythology, edenic nonsense or otherwise, with the
thought poetry. Poetry is something quite other, and other than this
newfangled jargonical word Holistic, which too many granola eaters and
birkenstock-wearing hikers use freely to cover a multitude of unexamined
lives and notions. I am simply musing, but as a generally unrational,
poetic thinker of analogies, I shrink from the invasion of poetry or the
misuse of it by all sorts of writers, religious and otherwise, who
wouldnt know how to read a poem or a sacred text, but sure know how to
complain about the tight shoes, the iron shoes of Zeus' law: the iron
law of causality, from which technology is mistakenly thought to have
descended, when it came from the forethinker, Prometheus, who was our
helper in the world after Eden, if you are Greekified, and who never was
imagined b y the Semites, I mean the Hebrews. Moses by the way allied
himself as soon as he could with the Midianites (ironworkers). All
vagaries, but nothing holistic here. Your friendly muser, and amuser, I
hope, Kessler here at UCLA, Willard.