In his introduction, Neil Postman claims that “the uncontrolled growth of technology destroys the vital sources of our humanity. It creates a culture without a moral foundation. It undermines certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living.” The eleven chapters that follow contain similarly extreme statements about the state of American society under “Technopoly.” In these brief chapters, Postman covers everything from a history of technological development to suggestions for school curriculum reforms to train “resistance fighters” against the capitulation of culture to technology.
It is difficult to know how to respond to assertions that technological growth “destroys the vital sources of our humanity” and creates a culture “without a moral foundation.” These statements of opinion are such huge generalizations about values and culture as to be virtually meaningless. Unfortunately, Postman never attempts to explicate or substantiate such assertions with careful sustained argument and documentation. There is a large body of serious scholarship on the complex relationship between technological development and culture, some of which Postman cites in his bibliography, but which he essentially ignores in developing his own arguments.
Perhaps it is wrong-headed to be irritated by the book’s simplistic and reductive arguments about “Technology” and “Culture.” Rather, one should read the text as another symptom of our continuing fears and anxieties about our awesome technological power over the world and ourselves. TERMINATOR 2 and TECHNOPOLY both tell the story of our destruction by the technological monsters we have created. But Mary Shelley told it better.