Conclusion

 

MAN IN THE TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEM

 

 

FOR more than thirty years now, people have been wondering what man's place is going to be in regard to technology.  We can discern two currents in these reflections.

For some, the essence is the relationship between man and the machine.  This group is subdivided in two: those who feel that man and machine will combine and those who feel that man will simply be excluded by the machine.  And again, each of these two interpretations is further subdivided in two.  Some people speak of the "man/machine" coupling, which is the more reasonable conception (both man and machine perfectly adjusted to one another and functioning in terms of one another).  And then some people, in science fiction, speak of a mutation in man, who will turn purely into a brain and nervous system, while the machine will become man's body, the integration being thus whole, like a graft.

In the exclusion current, we find two views: an optimistic opinion (man excluded from all hard work and able to devote himself to spiritual elevations and the joys of creation); and a pessimistic opinion (man excluded from all activity, becoming parasitical and superfluous, or ultimately wiped out by the revolt of the robots).

All this is very shallow, because it sticks totally to the fragmentary and parcellary vision of machines, thousands of machines, regarded singly, with man also perceived as an individual.  There is no grasp here of the technological system or even the technological phenomenon.  We can leave all this aside.

The other great current (if we skip mystics like Teilhard de Chardin) attempts a more inclusive view and more or less accepts


 

 

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the idea of a technological society.  But these people remain far too vague and utterly hazy.  They talk about consumption, leisure, etc.  The point is no longer machines or mechanization but that we are living in a technological system.  And this makes it obvious that the problem of the relationship between man and technology can no longer be posed in a traditional way.  This conclusion will not try to sketch any solutions (to be saved for a later work).  Nor will it deal with disadvantages and dysfunctions of the system (to be studied in the book following this one), which can be envisaged as the starting point for feedback toward completing the system.  Simply, we have to ask ourselves what will actually become of man in this system and whether we can preserve the hope, so often formulated by idealists, that man will "take in hand," direct, organize, choose, and orient technology.

Seligman, in a striking formula, has emphasized the technological mutation in this area: Homo faber no longer exists; he has become a working animal.  And the man who used to be at the center of work, for whom (as Marx kept pointing out) work had a decisive meaning—that man is now gradually being evacuated from work.  He finds himself, as Seligman puts it "at the periphery of work.”  We must then ask the question: Who is the man to whom one attributes the power of choice, decision, initiative, orientation?  No longer a Greek in the time of Pericles, or a Hebrew prophet, or a twelfth-century monk.  He is a man who is entirely immersed in technology.  He is not autonomous in regard to these objects.  He is not sovereign, nor does he have an irreformable personality.

Man's situation in the system can be analyzed in five propositions.

First of all, man, achieving consciousness, finds technology already here.  For him, technology constitutes a milieu which he enters and in which he integrates.[1]  It is quite futile to say that technology is not a true environment.  Anything man lays eyes on or makes use of is a technological object.  He does not have to choose between alternatives.  He is instantly within this universe of machines and products.  And the most innocent items, the electric button or the water faucet, bear the most immediate witness to this technicity.  Now without our realizing it, this environment shapes us in the necessary forms of behavior, the ideological outlooks.  Who would contest this "already here"?  It is taken for granted and acquired.  It is taken for granted that rapid transportation and medicine are used.  They are not questioned.  Why shouldn't they be used?  Very quickly, man thinks in conformity with this environ-


 

 

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ment.  He is formed for comfort and efficiency.  If a person awakes to consciousness, he would no more dream of challenging or contesting the technological milieu in its perceptible aspects than a twelfth-century man would dream of objecting to trees, rain, a waterfall.  These are self-evident things that very swiftly adapt this man to the engulfing reality of the phenomenon.  Of course, he does not clearly see what it is all about, he does not discern the "technological system," the "laws" of technology.  But neither did the twelfth-century man know the physical, chemical, biological "laws" and the processes uniting into a whole the phenomena that he perceived as separate.  Being situated in this technological universe and yet not detecting the system is the best condition for being integrated into it, being part of it as a matter of course, without even realizing it.

This situation is complemented by the fact that all intellectual training prepares one for entering the technological world in a positive and efficacious way.  This world has so thoroughly become a milieu as to be the milieu to which the culture, methods, and knowledge of all young people are adapted.  Humanism is antiquated and has given way to scientific and technological training because the environment in which the student will be immersed is, first of all, no longer a human, but a technological environment.  He is being trained to perform his function[2] here, i.e., he is being prepared to exercise a profession; but the latter requires knowing certain technologies and using technological apparatuses.

Education and instruction no longer have anything "gratuitous" about them; they must serve efficiently.  And criticism of education always boils down to this: "Students learn masses of useless stuff.  The important thing is to prepare them for a profession (i.e., the technologies of some branch).”  All present-day schooling tends to become technological, and it is justified in the eyes of the public only if it is rooted in that concrete situation.  How, then, could a young person trained in this way make any choices, any decisions about technology?  Not only is he born in the midst of technology, not only are his toys technological devices, not only does he use cars, cranes, electric motors from childhood on; but schools prepare him for technological functions; and, more and more, this is the only kind of knowledge he receives.

The celebrated "crisis" of the French university has no other deep source than the maladjustment of this system to technological training.  That is what we call "preparing students to enter society.”  We must not forget that education is getting more and more


 

 

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specialized, with unbelievable rigor.  The training of, say, a computer programmer involves six very distinct specializations (system programming, administrative programming, real time programming, etc.).  How can we expect a man thus trained to have even the slightest possibility of criticizing or taking over the technological system.  Furthermore, when he enters a profession, all he encounters is the exercise of technologies.  Whatever his job it is chiefly a participation in the technological system, either by what is produced or by what is diffused.  There again, how could he challenge what is ultimately the warp and woof of his life?

In short, technological man is divided into two modes of being.[3]  On the one hand, he is at close quarters with his technology, his specialty.  He is very competent in his domain, he knows and sees clearly what he has to do with increasingly greater efficiency.  But this remains within a narrowly limited sector.  On the other hand, he is on the same level as anyone else: he knows the world and the political and economic problems only through partial and partisan information, he has half an understanding of the issues, a quarter knowledge of the facts, and his competence in his own domain is useless for helping him to grasp or know the general phenomena on which, ultimately, everything depends.

This influence is a lot greater than that of school or work.  The technological system contains its own agents of adjustment.  Advertising, mass media entertainment, political propaganda, human and public relations—all these things, with superficial divergences, have one single function: to adapt man to technology; to furnish him with psychological satisfactions, motivations that will allow him to live and work efficiently in this universe.  The entire mental panorama in which man is situated is produced by technicians and shapes man to a technological universe, the only one reflected toward him by anything represented to him.  Not only does he live spontaneously in the technological environment, but advertising and entertainment offer the image, the reflection, the hypostasis of that environment.

This mode of conditioning has already created a new psychological type (see the detailed account in L.  Mumford's The Myth of the Machine): a type bearing, almost since birth, the imprint of the metatechnology in all its forms; a type incapable of reacting directly to visual or aural objects, to the forms of concrete things, incapable of functioning without anxiety in any domain, and even incapable of feeling alive unless authorized or commanded by a machine and with the aid of the extra-organic apparatus furnished


 

 

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by the machine deity.  In so many cases this conditioning has already reached a point of total dependence.  This state of conformity was hailed, by the most sinister prophets of the regime, as the supreme "liberation" of mankind.  Liberation from what?  Liberation from the conditions in which men prospered: namely, an active relationship, a relationship of mutually gratifying exchange with a human and natural environment that was "nonprogrammed," varied, responsive, an environment full of difficulties, temptations, hard choices, challenges, surprises, unexpected rewards.[4]

Here, once again, the first steps toward control seemed innocent enough.  Consider B.  F.  Skinner's teaching machine.  It is apparently and immediately legitimate!  And yet, it is a simple means of technological adaptation.  Admen and PR men do not, of course, have any deep, perverse intention.[5]  But the true and ultimate result of their work is to defuse the spontaneous reactions against the technological system, more completely integrate every spectator or consumer into it, and induce him to work toward technological growth.  Certain advertising technicians even have those express aims.  All who are preoccupied with the society of tomorrow assume that the only thing to do is deliberately prepare people for life in the technology of tomorrow.  Thus, since TV will progress in any event, since we roughly know what the strides will be like during the next twenty years, all we need do is prepare mankind in advance.  "We have to get organized today for tomorrow's TV" (Closets).

However, the future they envisage is one of culture and freedom.  It is therefore quite remarkable to note that when appearances lead us to think that the created image is nontechnological, we quickly perceive that it is actually even more integrating.  The media do not always reflect the technological universe directly and straightforwardly; they do not always present it as it is, cultivating its virtues.  Often, they give us seemingly reverse images of reality.  For instance, the idea of spare-time activity is propagated more and more.  Naturally, it is correct that our society has more means of distraction available and that we profit perhaps from more spare-time activities (a very moot point).  But this must instantly be corrected.  This image we receive is, first of all, the reverse of the true situation, for this world is one in which man works more than he has ever worked before.  This wishful image of spare time is meant to help us endure the excess and boredom of work.  The more burdensome our jobs, the more glorious and triumphant the propa-


 

 

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gated image of free time.  Work is not brought up, it is the grayness of everyday life.  Leisure is the "meaning" of life, it is the grace "given" to us—but there is no contradiction here; in reality, the image of leisure helps people adjust to the technological necessity.

This theme of spare time granted by technology must be viewed parallel with the praise of technology for increasing and improving culture.  I do not want to get into a discussion of whether this notion is accurate, if there is not, in fact, a deculturation caused by technology, if the very concept of culture is not ambiguous (B.  Charbonneau, Le Paradoxe de la culture).  I will simply take the fact of the encomium to and profound conviction of modern man's intellectual and artistic growth thanks to technology.  This widespread outlook only expresses man's gratitude to technology.  It expresses the profound conviction of validity, of authenticity, that all of us have.  We are spontaneously grateful to TV, the stereo, or the marvelous pictorial reproductions.  And we are utterly frustrated when deprived of such boons, which are part and parcel of our very lives.  This gratitude puts a nimbus around technology and reveals our thorough assimilation.

It is essential to realize that the man always spoken of is now a technicized man.[6]  And there can be no other orientation.  When we investigate a "culture" or a humanism for technological society, we always do so on the assumption that the human being in question is, above all, meant for technology, and that the sole great problem is adjustment.  And this state of affairs is even more striking when the people who do see the gravity of the issue and take fright at "technocracy" fail to perceive any other solution than permanent "continuous education," in the charge of those using it—but an education that is basically and ultimately technological.[7]

Are we to believe that the society of leisure or culture is not technological?  Far from it.  Obviously, we are shown an access to leisure or culture only in league with the development of technologies replacing human activity and making human labor superfluous.  And leisure?  All it ever consists of is using technological things, transportation, games, etc.  And very swiftly, as leisure becomes a "mass" thing (what else could it become), spare-time activities have to be organized.  Imagine allowing anyone to be completely independent and do whatever flashes into his mind!  The organization of spare-time activities is mainly a technological task, requiring a high degree of technicity to achieve satisfactory results, i.e., results giving a full impression of leisure and seem-


 

 

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ingly effacing the technological imperative.  For the apex of technological development is the disappearance of the apparatus, the ugly, cumbersome device that is too reminiscent of materiality.

Modern apartments no longer have any heating gadgets.  The electric wires have vanished.  All mechanical things disappear backstage, letting you live in a marvelously nonarduous universe, where every gesture brings satisfaction without revealing the technological intermediary, which remains imperceptible.  Thus, the technological system engulfs the individual, and he never even realizes it.  He only receives immense satisfactions from it.  But one of the specific features of this universe is its diffusion of images that are the reverse of reality: the maximum technological complexity produces the image of maximum simplicity.  The intense mobilization of man for work convinces him that he dwells in a society of leisure.  The decrease of means conjures up an appearance of immediacy.  The universality of the technological environment produces the image of a Nature.

And this leads us to a new proposition.  Everyone knows and takes for granted that technology responds to human needs, to permanent desires.  No use belaboring this point.  Man has always run after anything that would still his hunger; he has always sought more efficient means; he has always tried to spare himself drudgery; he has always wanted to ensure his safety.  He has tried to know and understand.  He has dreamt of walking on the moon and traveling through space.  He has dreamt of mastering the fire in the sky . . . Technology makes his oldest needs and his youngest strivings come true.  It gives body to his dreams.  It responds to his desires.

I cannot understand the people who exalt desire as the form of man's independence and liberation from the technological universe—as if desire could have any nontechnological object, any nontechnological means of realization today!  It is utterly childish to speak of unleashing desire as the final human expression against the environment of rigor organized by a technological society.  Desire is responded to in technologies.  And if people exalt the total liberation of sexual desire, they ought to ask what makes liberation possible.  The answer?  The pill—a technological product.  Technology is not only enshackling and rigorous in the simplistic way that is now pointed out: it is "liberating" by making us enter more deeply into the technological system.

Yet some observers try to oppose desire and technology, making desire the escape, the response, the opening of possibility; and


 

 

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they base their outlook on Freud's analyses.  This outlook is doubly fallacious, invisibly leading to a metaphysical position.  It is quite true that desire is fundamental, that it far exceeds any realizations, that it pushes man forward without respite, and that anything satisfying desire today is promptly obsolete.  But what eludes this beatific vision is that man in our society knows and is able to picture only one way to realize and satisfy his desires: the technological way.  Technology works so many unexpected wonders that when a desire crops up spontaneously, man automatically seeks the answer in some technological product or other.  Nor do the student revolts, the critics of the consumer society avoid this error.  Anything but!  Hence, the exaltation of desire plunges us all the more rapidly into technological growth.

And this brings up the other error.  Since technology is rational, it seems to contradict the fundamental impulse of being.  But this is a misassumption about technology, which is far more deeply an utterance of hubris.  At this point, I can only call attention to J.  Brun's remarkable study Le Retour de Dionysos (1969).  Brun shows quite cogently that technology is not a cold, blind machine, but an exalting dance of Dionysus.  Hence, technology and desire are perfectly matched.  In our society, the exaltation of desire can only advance via technology.  To reveal this deep kinship between human needs and their technological satisfaction, we do not have to add long discussions on the subject of what some people call the "new or artificial needs" created by technology and advertising, while others hold that there is nothing new and that we cannot distinguish between natural and artificial needs.  Let us merely say that basic needs (food, protection against bad weather and danger) are met, on the one hand, and turned into an infinity of secondary needs, on the other hand, thanks to modern products and processes.  These secondary needs are tacked on to older and essential desires, dreams, tendencies, but they swiftly become "natural" and necessary.[8]  Now they all have a technological origin, since the means available to satisfy them are what makes them urgent.[9]

Man "dreamt" of flying to the moon.  Technology makes it possible.  More and more people are going to develop a need to stroll about on the moon.  Such needs have a technological origin, and only technology allows them to be fulfilled.

The Wiener/Kahn characterization is the most striking: "These technological developments produce needs beyond the demands of the environment in order to satisfy technological capacities. . . .  Every new technology triggers a marginal effect, and each of these


 

 

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changes will generally be considered desirable and beneficent.”  Technological growth is based on an a priori consent by man, who views the gift of each technology as a response to a need, which, however, really exists only to utilize the technological capacity.  Under these circumstances, how can we believe that man would care to contest, impugn, challenge what strikes him (not clearly but through obvious experience) as the only source of his satisfactions, gratifications, and what, moreover, assures him of a livable future, i.e., the future in which his needs and desires will be fully met.

And here is the final proposition.  Man in our society has no intellectual, moral, or spiritual reference point for judging and criticizing technology.[10]

Illich very accurately observes that the technological instruments tend to create "radical monopolies, a monopoly of consumption by advertising, of circulation by the existence of transports, of health by the existence of official medicine, of knowledge by schools, etc.  This domination by the tool causes an obligatory consumption and hence restrains the autonomy of the individual. . . .  Once the role is accepted, the simplest needs can no longer be satisfied except by facilities that are, by professional definition, subject to scarcity."

Likewise, interestingly, as E.  A.  Willener acknowledges,[11] it is by technology that man gets to know himself better, to realize better who he should become, and finds a way of identifying.  In other words, technological experience teaches man who he is (in place of the old critical rhetorical experience!); and we end up with a kind of technomorphism and technocentrism of man—rather amazing since Willener's book is supposed to demonstrate that TV brings choice, freedom, autonomy!  These two observations, which could be followed by so many similar ones, merely attest that man is entirely "on this side" (diesseits) of the system and has no more "beyondness" to "see" and criticize the system.

The sociology of the death of ideologies (D.  Bell) and the theology of the death of God bear witness, accidentally, to the disappearance of this reference point.

The process of technological growth causes, by itself, either the destruction or the assimilation of the alien universe.  The nontechnological sacred, the nontechnological religious are eliminated.  Thus, man has no place from which to evaluate this process.  He has no possible "point of view.”  If he thinks dialectically, technology is not one of the terms of this dialectics: it is the universe in which the dialectics operates.  If he thinks religiously, he seeks primarily to make the new form of religion chime with this universe.  (This


 

 

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seems clear to me in structuralism and the efforts of modern hermeneutics.)

 

* * *

 

Such is the human being who is made to live, think, and act in our society.  That is why we turn in a vicious circle when the lauders of technology explain that technology compels man to assume responsibilities, make up his own mind, and exercise choice.  Closets develops this at length in regard to the politics of health, the moral problems posed by technology, the choice of allowing some people to live and others to die, of directing the technologies of health.  By all means.  I have never said that man would be mechanized or rendered servile by technology.  But the man exercising this choice and this responsibility can only be the man who is first technicized, who will reach his decisions in terms of technology and toward the greatest technology.  The central problem here is that of "technology and freedom," and it expresses itself in choices.

The partisans of technology try to rationalize by explaining that technology frees man from age-old constraints (which is true), that it allows man to do so many things that he could not do before (walk on the moon, fly, speak long-distance, etc.), and permits him to make countless choices.[12]  When Toffler declares that technological society opens the way to greater liberty, he is talking exclusively about possibilities of change, possibilities of choosing among "different styles" (?), of shedding our habits and consuming a wide diversity of products.

Everyone sees that, thanks to technology, man can choose and, moreover, that his modes of behavior are liberated; he can go anywhere, grasp any culture.  Thanks to technological resources, the pill or abortion, man (woman) is set free.  Free to have children or not.  But is this not a vast illusion?  In writing about the film Histoire d'A, the Le Monde reviewer said: "By presenting the images of an interrupted pregnancy as a normal phenomenon, normal because it is clearly explained, approached without fear, in full liberty of individual choice and under medical supervision, this film removes the drama, the guilt from abortion."

It is no use dwelling on this issue.  Plainly, modern man can move around, choose consumptions, etc.  (I am disregarding political restrictions).  But does this imply a growth of freedom?  We have to ask a number of questions: Who is this man who is to choose?  Is the choice autonomous?  What does it bear upon?  What is the influence of the technicians?


 

 

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Mumford writes: "Even though every new technical invention can widen the field of human activity, it can do so only if the human beneficiaries are free to accept it, modify it or reject it, utilize it when and how it suits their own intentions, in quantities consistent with these intentions.”  But this is never so in the technological universe.

And Toffler announces: "For there comes a time when choice, rather than freeing the individual, becomes so complex, difficult and costly, that it turns into its opposite.  There comes a time, in short, when choice turns into overchoice and freedom into unfreedom."

Let us start with the easiest problems.  First of all, freedom is not necessarily having lots of consumer goods to choose from.

A person can be utterly free and yet never have anything to eat but rice.  And he can be utterly alienated in a restaurant where he has his pick of a thousand different dishes.  In reality, all that exists is kinds of choices, which are not of the same nature (choosing the man or woman to build one's life with is different from choosing an electric coffee grinder), and zones of choices.

In regard to the latter, the zone of my choices is completely delimited by the technological system.  All my choices are made within the system, and nothing goes beyond it.  Hence, the ingenuous protest for free love and against long-term coupling.  These poor young people, who think they are thereby affirming their liberty, fail to realize that they are only expressing their integration in the system.  They reduce the partner to an object giving satisfaction, like any technological product, and the fickleness of choice is merely part of the kaleidoscope of consumption.  They make no other choice than what the technological system proposes.

In the area of consumption, Baudrillard has made what I feel is a startling demonstration.  But one that must be developed.  Everyone is caught between two poles.  "The individual is free as a consumer, but he is free only as such.”  First point.  "The ultimate end of the consumer society is the functionalization of the consumer himself, the monopolization of his needs, a unanimity of consumption that corresponds to the concentration and absolute planning of production.”  Hence, "censorship is exercised through free behavior (buying, choosing, consuming); through spontaneous investment, it is somewhat internalized in jouissance itself.”  Second point, and the matter is clinched.

But here, once again, we cannot help citing Closets's book, which bristles with contradictions.  In one stroke of the pen he can admit


 

 

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that technological progress brings growing regimentation, prohibitions, stricter surveillances, incessant numberings, collectivization of private behavior, and sweeps out the "old liberal ideal.”  But at the same time, full of hope, Closets announces that "the individual aspirations impose themselves, that the collective demands recede, that the authoritarian regimes, the dogmatic morals, the imposed behaviors decline as the technologies advance," and there is "an increase in freedom brought by technological progress.”  This obvious, this flagrant contradiction is far more frequent than we think, and it is easily explained.  In the first case, Closets is speaking as a technician, on the level of facts, of concrete statements.  In the second case, he formulates (without noticing the change in register) his wishes, hopes, beliefs: It just can't be, it would be too sad if man were no longer free. . . .  But he thinks it has already come; and what he wishes qua humanist moralist is of the same order as what he notes qua technician.  Alas![13]

We have to do away with the myth that technology increases the possibilities of choice.  Naturally, modern man can choose from a hundred automobile makes and a thousand kinds of cloth—i.e., he can choose products.  On the level of consuming, the range of choice is vaster.  But on the level of the role in the body social, on the level of functions and behaviors, there is a considerable reduction.  The choice among technological objects is not of the same nature as the choice of a human conduct.  There is no theoretical category of "choice" that would express freedom.  The word "choice" has no ethical content per se, and freedom is not expressed in choices of objects.  What we are offered is the choice between two objects, whereby we can take one and leave the other.  But never do we have the more fundamental choice between, say, what is to be produced and what is to be eliminated by the growth process of the system, between one possibility and the suppression of the other.  The "either/or" refers to "either the car or the TV.”  Never, for instance to either more electricity or fewer atomic risks.  The proposed choice is always false, because the normal technological discourse consists precisely in affirming that it is not necessary to make a choice, but that it is possible to accumulate everything, i.e., become wealthier and more spiritual, more powerful and more solidary, and so forth.

On a different level, we may say that the choices in the technological society are exercised next to the reality of the chooser.  The consumer can pick among vast numbers of diverse objects to consume.  But he never makes a choice in regard to investments;


 

 

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and yet investments are what dictate and decide consumption.  Thus, the countless choices proposed (among voyages and cruises, among spectacles and machines, and what not) are always on the level of the ultimate consequences of the system, never at the origin.  They are always in the margin of indifference (being for or against the pill is a matter of indifference); we even apply bright colors, which is basically a matter of indifference, to make our choices look more valuable.  You can choose from huge numbers of professions, but extremely rigorous mechanisms decide this choice, which is never open anywhere.  For the technological system reduces all choices to one: "the choice of faster or slower growth.  The social changes intervene only as useful factors and necessary consequences of this growth" (Jouvenel).  Our present-day method as Jouvenel so well puts it, is to "take without grasping [i.e., understanding], which is what a barbarian does.  To grasp merely in order to take is the rationalization of barbarism, and that is the spirit of our civilization.  We have a mind for snatching, but not for fellow feeling."

Is there any possibility left to make any other choice and, as he asks, to pit the social components that are factors of growth, with only instrumental value, against those that we find desirable and that have a value as finalities?  The integration of the technological system tends to negate that alternative.

The possible choices are delimited by the system, and proposed to a human being who is haunted by technological values.  These choices cannot be offered in all their dimensions; hence, they are induced and provoked by technicians.  Let us take up these various points.  Freedom of choice operates in a situation, a situation in which "one" places man.  It is not the movement of conquering liberty.  Moreover, one set of constraints is replaced by another.  And the system particularly suppresses the possibility of being "disengaged."

"The man in the productivist city cannot in any way be disengaged: he is engaged in the numerous, changing, and pressing social relations" (Jouvenel), which others call alienation.  The rapid changing of these social relations gives an illusion of freedom.  But it is not man who causes these changes.  It is they, stemming from the progression of the system, that determine man, and it is their "pressing" character that restrains his liberty.  He is constantly more and more defined by his situation in the system.  He has less and less chance of defining it—which would be his freedom vis-à-vis the system.  It is impossible for just "any" man to correctly pose


 

 

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the problems and the very terms of choice: because he is incapable of doing so (which is maintained too frequently); above all, because the mentality of magic still persists; and even more, because we are unable to see the negative aspects of the means that we risk employing.  We are obsessed with power and happiness, and we are incapable of posing the problem of choice correctly, because that would presume the clear-sightedness of realizing that "accepting X automatically entails Y.”  That is where the problem lies, and not in the choice between having product X or product Y at my immediate disposal.

Reckoning the consequences is infinitely complex.  Our choices are therefore never real, they bear solely on what the technological society makes available to us.  The optimization of choices, the rationalization of budgetary choices, reveals even more pointedly that the choices are not up to the citizen!  For every combination of variables or decisions, there is a corresponding possible solution to the problem, and we have to examine the technological and economic makeup of every decision with its consequences.  But that is out of the question.  Even at the highest technological summit, making decisions is aleatory, and so is making choices.  One may say that on all levels, the greater the means of power, the more irrational the decisions and choices.  And this seems even more serious when the demand is made for a certain quality of life, which eludes present-day technology.  (For Jouvenel the problem is that the choice is not between building or not building housing, for instance, but either to build as fast as possible and cheaply, or much more slowly, more expensively, and more attractively.  With the present choices, the French standard of living will double by 1985, but half of France will be living in new housing that is actually a slum).  Ultimately, the choices we are offered are foisted upon us by the technological means and the technological mentality.

And what about the problem of an existential choice, like having a child or an abortion?  How can we fail to see that we are dealing with means that theoretically, metaphysically allow man an existential choice but that, being within the technological system, are in themselves a negation of any possibility of that choice.  The woman who chooses abortion is rigorously moved to that choice by the entire system.  How could there be any individual choice if all this is dictated by a set of beliefs in naturalness, in the objectivity of science and technology?  How could there be freedom with scientists and technicians whose entire thrust is in a determined direction?  Does clear explanation suffice?  We are going back to the


 

 

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scientistic illusions of 1900.  Removing guilt when we terminate a potential life?  Is this not the prodigious growth of irresponsibility that characterizes the technological system?  Far from being an act of freedom, abortion is a chance to wipe out the consequences of one's doings, and, therefore, it increases irresponsibility.  (I treated this problem very thoroughly in volume 2 of L'Éthique de la liberté.  I will merely recall that here.)

And this brings us to the complementary problem of the choice of death.  Technological control allows us to prolong life artificially, to bring people back to life; but also to keep alive people who would "normally" be dead.  Does that increase freedom?  And, as a corollary, what about the technological means of letting someone die totally unconscious, whereas, at the cost of sure suffering, he could have "naturally" remained conscious, thereby taking death upon himself?  Does that increase freedom?  Is this not, as has been said, robbing a man of the most important moment in his life, his death!  Is it, as in the foregoing case, diminishing responsibility and the capacity of choice before life and death?  The problem is simply: Do the technologies increase freedom here?

I do not deny that the technologies allow us to ease suffering and lengthen our life spans.  But that is not the issue here.  The real point of this discussion was admirably articulated at the Colloquium on the New Powers and New Duties of Science (September 20-24, 1974, at the Sorbonne).  And what was seen chiefly was the mastery of technology over the issue.  Despite good intentions, a decision is always left to "conscious, competent persons" who "evaluate" the necessity of experiences, the chances of survival, the quality of the life being prolonged, and so on.  In other words, it is practically never the patient himself who is asked to decide.  Only the technician.

What it comes to is that technology increases the technician's freedom, i.e., his power, his control.  And the so-called freedom due to technology always boils down to that growth of power.  It always leads to further growth of the technician's role.  The technician, legitimized by his competence, feels that in his domain, he has all rights, including, under the circumstances, the right of life and death.  And we must realize that this is strictly consistent with the character of technology as a milieu and a system.  So far as technology allows us to modify, interfere with, and turn back the natural process (which, for instance, might lead to death), it is obvious that human decisions replace "nature's decisions.”  But human decisions are not made by men affected by the phenome-


 

 

MAN IN THE TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEM                              325

 

non; they are made by men as operators of technology—the power of man over man.  The full-scale illusion of those who wish to "let the user or the bottom man speak"!

That is why the "humanist" problems are false problems.  How could this human being, who is the real one and not the one imagined by Sartre or Heidegger—how could he sovereignly perform what is expected of him: i.e., make choices, judgments, rejections in regard to technology as a whole or individual technologies?  How and in terms of what could he give a different direction to technology than the one that technology gives itself in its self-augmentation?  What initiative could he take that would not be primarily technological?

Once again, we should by no means conclude that man is mechanized and conditioned, that he is a robot.  I have never said that.  Man is still perfectly capable of choosing, deciding, altering, directing . . . But always within the technological framework and toward the progression of technology.

Man can choose.  But his choices will always bear upon secondary elements and never on the overall phenomenon.  His judgments will always be ultimately defined by the technological criteria (even those that seem humanist: the debate on self-administration is typical in this respect).  Man can choose, but in a system of options established by the technological process.  He can direct, but in terms of the technological given.  He can never get out of it at any time, and the intellectual systems he constructs are ultimately expressions or justifications of technology—for instance, structuralism or Foucault's epistemological research.

Of course, as we have seen, man is not perfectly integrated in or adjusted to the system.  But it suffices to note that it is not the human presence that hinders technology from being established as a system.  The human being who acts and thinks today is not situated as an independent subject with respect to a technological object.  He is inside the technological system, he is himself modified by the technological factor.  The human being who uses technology today is by that very fact the human being who serves it.  And conversely, only the human being who serves technology is truly able to use it.[14]




[1] On the transformation of man by the technological environment, see the excellent study by G.  Friedman, Sept études sur l'homme et la technique (1966).

[2] An utterly characteristic book on this topic (and on the confusion between technology and neo-humanism) is Canonge and Ducel, La Pédagogie devant le progrès technique (1969).  The authors study the intellectual and practical education needed to adapt the child to technological changes and bring him to contributing to technological progress.  They show how manual training yields to technological efficiency based on technological thought and made up of logical activity, methodical reflection, and technological research.  The child is being schooled to imagine forms, encode all data, while being furnished with the motives necessary for entering the system.  This remarkable book demonstrates (involuntarily) that men, thus trained, will never control technology, because they are educated for technology, are perfectly adapted to it, and remain incapable of any critical attitude.  Now this is far more decisive than investigations trying to prove that the goal of education is to continue the dominant culture!

[3] Richta feels that every man is bound to take part in scientific and technological development as soon as his time is liberated.  Against this optimistic outlook, a hard, partisan book by P.  Roqueplo (Le Partage du savoir, science, culture et vulgarisation, 1974) is far more realistic.  There is no truly popular science.  What is propagated as knowledge by TV, books, and magazines, has no cultural value.  There is no sharing of knowledge.  True learning is always above and beyond the parcellary "knowledge" distributed.  There is a qualitative difference between this episodic knowledge and scientific learning or critical intellectual training.

All this is fine.  But I do not fully agree when the author says that popularization is an "ideological manipulation that serves the ruling class.”  If we are dealing with a spontaneous function for integrating people into the technological society, then yes.  But if it is a somber Machiavellianism, a deliberate calculation to make the oppressed classes conform, then this is pulp fiction.  Nor do I have Roqueplo's slightly simplistic faith that a political change (socialism!) will make a both genuine and generalized sharing of knowledge possible.  The problem is, alas, far more complex, Unless-and we keep coming back to this-the new regime is also a government of virtue!

[4] We should not, of course, neglect the powers of the concrete and voluntary integration of man into technology.  For instance, the great fear aroused by a detailed record of each individual's entire background.  This problem is correctly stated and analyzed by Messadié, La Fin de la vie privée, 1974.  The author shows the vast scope of increasing surveillances, the multiplication of files, the "electronic epidemic," all causing both a decline in traditional judicial standards, e.g., professional secrecy, and a growing loss, from a psychological viewpoint, of the sense of privacy.  Although this is due not just to technologies, but also to mass society, the "cheek by jowl" society.  Young people who "want" to live in communes, who do "everything" in public and lose their sense of privacy, are neither innovators nor revolutionaries.  Morally and psychologically, they are simply reflecting the living conditions imposed by technological society.  At any rate, the multiplication of computerized files is frightening.  But once again, the responses and proposals are feeble.  Messadié resorts to judicial measures: setting hard and fast limits, controlling centralization, outlawing advertising (in which case, the government would be doubly privileged!), protecting secrecy and privacy.  But who will be able to apply such roles?  Who will be able to limit uses?  The problem is not a good use of technology!  We would have to challenge technology from top to bottom, for the system itself is total!  Law has lost its grip!

[5] And advertising reveals itself as a technology not only in its practical objectives, but also in the very attitude of the advertising men.  We need only recall the proadvertising ads: "The man who does not believe in advertising is the same man who, in 1900, did not believe in the automobile (or the movies, or the airplane).”  The point of comparison is always a technological object.  Which implies that the man who does not believe in the advertising technology did not believe in the machine technology in 1900.

[6] The enormous change that technology is causing in man has been scientifically studied by P.  R.  Hofstätter: "Das Stereotyp der Technik" in the collective volume Technik im technischen Zeitalter (1965).  The author employs the method of connotations revealed by sounding out scales of words, polarizations and oppositions, a method offering a remarkable profile of technological man and his values.

[7] Kaufmann and Cathelin, Le Gaspillage de la liberté (1964); or Closets, En danger de progrés.

[8] We must however underscore an essential remark by Jouvenel: Production in earlier centuries had a vital character, hence it was scorned.  "Pardoxically, production has acquired an unprecedented moral status in the era in which it increases to fulfill needs that are less and less vital."

[9] As for the study of the correlation between need and technology, I must cite an excellent article by E.  Leitherer, "Technik and Konsum," in the collective volume Die Technik im technischen Zeitalter (1965).  The author very judiciously distinguishes between, on the one side, the emergence of new needs by the mere fact of technology, the modification of the "consumer environment" by technology, and, on the other side, the artificial creation of needs through a voluntary influence by the sellers, the latter circumstance being obviously far less significant than the former.  Leitherer is correct in emphasizing that many needs produced by technology (in both cases) are not "antinatural," but seem to announce a different "nature."

[10] I will not refer here to Marcuse's theory of one-dimensional man, for it is not new, many others before him have said exactly the same thing (the first, perhaps, being Arnaud Dandieu in 1929).  Marcuse merely adds a bogus Marxism/Freudianism, which only complicates matters uselessly without contributing anything.  He seduces readers with his philosophical parlance-which makes him sound deep, whereas he is really intellectually confused-and by a verbal extremism which makes readers believe in his revolutionary commitment.  Luckily, the illusions about him are starting to dissipate.

[11] It is obvious that the TV system-E.  A.  Willener, Videology and Utopia (1972)-may look like a means of freedom through technology.  But from a different viewpoint, it produces the greatest integration of the participants.  It manages to transform spectators into "livers," i.e., while people still have the possibility of distance at a spectacle, they know that the spectacle is not "true.”  Hence, they remain free.  TV makes us enter the thing experienced.  It is the process in action that is important, and not the "spectacle product.”  Hence, by living this work, one coincides precisely with the society suggesting it, and the possibility of reacting and criticizing is accordingly reduced.

[12] See A.  Tofller, Future Shock, chap.  12, and Finzi, Il potere tecnocratico (1977).

[13] See the fine study by Dennis Gabor, "La Liberté dans une société industrielle advancée," Analyse et prévision (1966).  With great precision, Gabor shows the possibilities and limitations of choices as well as man's aptitude for judging his present contentment, his very restricted right to determine his desires (in regard to the technological society), and his total absence of a "right" to judge the means and long-term orientations.  And of course, two essential authors to consult on this theme are: Raymond Aron, Progress of Disillusion; and John Kenneth Galbraith The Affluent Society.

[14] To grasp how greatly modern man is "manipulated" toward technology, how greatly he approves of it, one must read books like A.  Touraine, Les Travailleurs et les changements techniques (1965); or A.  Touraine et al., Les Ouvriers et le progrès technique, Étude de cas (1966).  Workers react less and less to progress, they mention an increase of their responsibilities, they feel they have a superior qualification; technological innovation is interpreted by them in terms of technological progress.  They see this progress positively as opening new possibilities, even though these same workers have a rather pessimistic outlook on their standard of living and their future.  This is very revelatory of the way people are made to conform to technology.

Even more remarkably, we note that the East German trade unions in 1975 envisaged the "solution" to the workers' problem only in technological growth and in the computer, and not through a political transformation or a transformation of economic structures.