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technology is neutral

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redyred
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Mar 18 2005 12:06
Offcentre wrote:
Well, lets go beyond the 'neutral' tag - and talk about social consequences. Clearly some shifts in technology have virtually no consequences of this kind - for example the shift fountain pens to ball points. However some do - for example from handloom weaving to mass produced textiles. Clearly that has social consequences - speeding up the development of the prolertariat; establishing the rule of the clock; factory discipline systems; standardisation of product; standardisation of consumption patterns etc. Now, as has been said, the anarcho-factory could seek to mitigate forms of aliennation through workers control etc. - and I would even say that systmes of mass production would be necessary in some future society with a 60 million population.

However such a society would have to make choices - as to whether it wants smaller, more autonomous forms of craft production - or would seek growth, high living standards and the like (which would thus demand certain forms of social organisation). So, in as much as technology sits at the heart of particular modes of production, it does have consequences.

Balls. That's just in social context. Clearly something which allows people to produce necessary goods in a more efficient way is in itself beneficial.

Offcentre
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Mar 18 2005 13:46

Balls. That's just in social context. Clearly something which allows people to produce necessary goods in a more efficient way is in itself beneficial.

Efficiency isn't a necessary yardstick though, is it. Mcdonalds are highly efficient - with their rigid labour processs and limited range of products. Can't imagine many anarchists would want to work like that in some future society though.

well.. all I'm really arguing is that ppl and collectives should make some decisions about how they want to work and live - and that saying you always want to go for high tech, efficinet solutions under all circumstances closes some of those off. As with anything, it should be about making free choices and balancing costs and benefits.

Also, for what its worth, I suspect those saying 'all tech is neutral/good' are really using this as a stick to beat primitivists with..

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cantdocartwheels
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Mar 18 2005 16:15

Whats 'wrong' with Mcdonalds, like every other aspect of capital, is cripplingly long work hours, low wages and the prioritisation of profit over real effiency in meeting social demand.

The ''eficiency'' of mcdonalds, ie burgers being brought in in liquid form etc, is actually pretty impressive. Most people like fast food, me included, and i don't see anything particularly wrong with mcdonalds as opposed to any other company, so i fail to see whats wrong with mcdonalds in this sense. Even if some of its more unhealthy practices do need to be evened out, it will be the workers of mcdonalds who do this, because those unhealthy practices stem from the extraction of maximum profit by mcdonald's executives, so all you need is the actual workers controlling the stores and distribution processes.

And craft production isn't autonomous, thats pretty much a petit bourgeois myth, it depends on set hierarchies of skilled and non-skilled labour and to a lesser extent on family structures, far more so than a large industrial production unit would. I mean a tailor as an independent unit has far more power over other workers due to his skills, than someone working on a production line making shoes does.

Mike Harman
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Mar 18 2005 16:39

Shit doesn't taste any better if you call it the people's shit.

Offcentre
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Mar 18 2005 16:42
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Whats 'wrong' with Mcdonalds, like every other aspect of capital, is cripplingly long work hours, low wages and the prioritisation of profit over real effiency in meeting social demand.

The ''eficiency'' of mcdonalds, ie burgers being brought in in liquid form etc, is actually pretty impressive. Most people like fast food, me included, and i don't see anything particularly wrong with mcdonalds as opposed to any other company, so i fail to see whats wrong with mcdonalds in this sense. Even if some of its more unhealthy practices do need to be evened out, it will be the workers of mcdonalds who do this, because those unhealthy practices stem from the extraction of maximum profit by mcdonald's executives, so all you need is the actual workers controlling the stores and distribution processes.

And craft production isn't autonomous, thats pretty much a petit bourgeois myth, it depends on set hierarchies of skilled and non-skilled labour and to a lesser extent on family structures, far more so than a large industrial production unit would. I mean a tailor as an independent unit has far more power over other workers due to his skills, than someone working on a production line making shoes does.

Well, if you think thats all thats wrong with McDonalds, we'll just have to disagree.

And I ain't defending either craft or mass production under capitalism - I agree, small firms can be just as exploitative. However production lines are themselves forms of control as they regulate the pace of work. As does IT, in settings like call centres.

Mike Harman
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Mar 18 2005 16:49

Not necessarily, a production line could be fully automated and reduce the need for repetitive work altogether in that factory.

Tom A
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Mar 18 2005 18:30
Offcentre wrote:
Mcdonalds are highly efficient - with their rigid labour processs and limited range of products. Can't imagine many anarchists would want to work like that in some future society though.

Fast food chains like Maccy D's, Burger King, KFC, Subway et al are necessitated by the 24 hour, high speed, high flying captialist socitey we live under. If people didn't have to sell their labour for so many hours a day, they could utilitse the free time to cook proper food instead.

Quote:
The ''eficiency'' of mcdonalds, ie burgers being brought in in liquid form etc, is actually pretty impressive.

WTF? The burgers are liquid?!? I knew they were full of loads of crap but is this for real? eek

LiveFastDiarrea
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Mar 18 2005 19:05

so are the chicken nuggets, and subway is nice.

Tom A
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Mar 18 2005 19:47
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and subway is nice.

Ok, the few vegitarian options they have are quite nice (they are quite limited though), but they are expensive (cheapest is about £1.69), and at the end of the day it is still a major corporation like McShite and Starbucks, although it may have a slightly better reputation than them (however having said that about 99% of the stuff I buy will have probably involved some nasty company along the line roll eyes ). I'll happily eat there if I can't find an independent chippy or sandwich shop.

LiveFastDiarrea
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Mar 18 2005 20:27

and they dont offer foot long meatball subs. Terrible.

Tom A
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Mar 18 2005 20:50
Jack wrote:
Tom A wrote:
Quote:
and subway is nice.

I'll happily eat there if I can't find an independent chippy or sandwich shop.

That's good logic, too, because independent chippy's and sandwich shops aren't capitalist.

Neither are 99.99% of the shops, stores, and takeaways roll eyes

Now since we don't (and probably never will in our lifetimes) live in a socialist/anarchist/whateverist utopia, and since we all (grudgingly) contribute to captialism no matter what we beleive, where would you rather your money went to:

(1) a multi-national fast food chain where the staff are most likely paid minimum wage, and the food is most likely mass produced, processed crap, or

(2) a small local chippy where the food may (or may not) be of decent quality, the staff may (or may not) be paid minimum wage, and the owner of the shop is not a fat-cat multi-millionaire but a local person for whom the shop is his livelyhood?

While both (in Marxist terms) involve worker/boss class structure, the latter option is still the "less shitty" of the two IMO.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Mar 18 2005 21:14
cantdocartwheels wrote:
I think the world needs to produce two or three times as much electricty as it currently does, dom you ahve a problem with building large solar, natural gas and wind powered energy stations to accomadate this over a long slow period slowly phasing out the fossil fuel based power stations.

THe processes needed to make the solar panels, turbines, etc all depend on vast amounts of oil. It might be possible to build a self-fuleing alternative tech energy system if we diverted all fossil fuels to it now -- posibly -- but that isn't happening and the amounts of avaiable fossil energy are declining all the time.

Added to that -- a 'long slow period' of using oil and then coal and then tar or whatever would ensure the climate is properly screwed.

Cutting down energy use overall is the only solution that works.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Mar 18 2005 21:15

I see some of you are now throwing off your fake-ecological factory-felching commie masks and declaring technology to be 'positive'.

Bring it on Mr. T

:greenblackstar: :greenblackstar:

Mike Harman
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Mar 18 2005 22:22

You can cut energy use without a reduction in standards of living, just by making stuff more durable and energy efficient. And new solar technology is being made with non-oil based plastics - that can be sprayed onto walls instead of using centralised production for panels. Don't know that much about it, but it looks pretty good.

Jason Cortez
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Mar 19 2005 23:55

Cantdo if you would seriously want to work in a McDonald's style production process after the revolution, you should start reading old RCP stuff you would love it. wink

Harmonic_Distortion
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Mar 20 2005 02:27

Technology is simply a tool its how its used whether its good bad or neither. As an analogy with a hammer: it can be used for good- building a house (tree house?), bad - caving someones head in or simply l if its sat on my shelf then its neither good nor bad.

As for how factories will operate well I reckon we'll go back to small workshops where you get people who consider themselves as skilled trades. This would motivate the person to wiork because of pride in her product.

Even in something like electronics most of it can be done in small workshops - even surface mount chips can generally be mounted by a hobbyiest.

Production of chips is generally automated anyway - the skill is in designing them/designing test systems for them- again all skilled stuff so can make it interestign for someone.

Yep I reckon alot of technology in an anarchist society will be done in small workshops and there will definitely be tea breaks at 10am and 3pm

The biggest challenge for post revolutionary period will be ensuring that those who at present are technologically poor have the opportunity to gain from it.

HD

Caiman del Barrio
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Mar 20 2005 22:38
cantdocartwheels wrote:
sorry gav but the church analogy does seem to make anyone look like a lunatic when they use it, and will be really fucking annoying in about five posts time when lazlo says ''working (worshiping)'' again for the nth time. Plus you sound like a loopy maoist. wink

Bollocks, you're just jealous. wink

Jason Cortez
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Mar 23 2005 11:28

Harmonic wrote:

Quote:
Technology is simply a tool its how its used whether its good bad or neither. As an analogy with a hammer: it can be used for good- building a house (tree house?), bad - caving someones head in or simply l if its sat on my shelf then its neither good nor bad.

This is the classic example but it is flawed.

A hammer isn't just an artifact that is hanging around but the result of certain forms of social organisation including other technologies, specific divisions of labour, skills and available resources. In this instance iron ore, wood, probaly coal, water etc needing: mines, metal works,forests, forestry, capentry etc; miners , metal workers, carpenters etc etc etc. You get the picture, it is clear that a hammer is embedded in social structures and as such can never be simply neutral (whether it's desirable or not is a different but related question) but represents choices (that also constrain furthur choices as well as make other ones possible) that contain (but never simply resolve) tensions over how and what world we live in.

All technologies have costs as well as benefits(to put it into technological langague) and the cumulative web of interdependant technologies which we are emeshed within makes it hard to unravel or even to see these. Like fish we don't tend to see the water we swim in, but unlike fish we can if we try. Adopting the 'technology is neutral' position means we hamper our ability to unmask the meanings of power and privilege embedded in social relations.

Offcentre
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Mar 23 2005 11:58
Jason Cortez wrote:
Harmonic wrote:
Quote:
Technology is simply a tool its how its used whether its good bad or neither. As an analogy with a hammer: it can be used for good- building a house (tree house?), bad - caving someones head in or simply l if its sat on my shelf then its neither good nor bad.

This is the classic example but it is flawed.

A hammer isn't just an artifact that is hanging around but the result of certain forms of social organisation including other technologies, specific divisions of labour, skills and available resources. In this instance iron ore, wood, probaly coal, water etc needing: mines, metal works,forests, forestry, capentry etc; miners , metal workers, carpenters etc etc etc. You get the picture, it is clear that a hammer is embedded in social structures and as such can never be simply neutral (whether it's desirable or not is a different but related question) but represents choices (that also constrain furthur choices as well as make other ones possible) that contain (but never simply resolve) tensions over how and what world we live in.

All technologies have costs as well as benefits(to put it into technological langague) and the cumulative web of interdependant technologies which we are emeshed within makes it hard to unravel or even to see these. Like fish we don't tend to see the water we swim in, but unlike fish we can if we try. Adopting the 'technology is neutral' position means we hamper our ability to unmask the meanings of power and privilege embedded in social relations.

Nicely put. There are obvious and definite links between technologies, forms of social organisation, formsof consumption and levels of alienation. Recognising that isn't to take a stance on whether any future society should be low tech or high tech - or indeed whether it should be based around social factories or small workshops. However saying 'tech is neutral' is innevitably a way of ignoring the social implications of modes of production.

Harmonic_Distortion
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Mar 23 2005 16:32
Jason Cortez wrote:
Harmonic wrote:
Quote:
Technology is simply a tool its how its used whether its good bad or neither. As an analogy with a hammer: it can be used for good- building a house (tree house?), bad - caving someones head in or simply l if its sat on my shelf then its neither good nor bad.

This is the classic example but it is flawed.

A hammer isn't just an artifact that is hanging around but the result of certain forms of social organisation including other technologies, specific divisions of labour, skills and available resources. In this instance iron ore, wood, probaly coal, water etc needing: mines, metal works,forests, forestry, capentry etc; miners , metal workers, carpenters etc etc etc. You get the picture, it is clear that a hammer is embedded in social structures and as such can never be simply neutral (whether it's desirable or not is a different but related question) but represents choices (that also constrain furthur choices as well as make other ones possible) that contain (but never simply resolve) tensions over how and what world we live in.

All technologies have costs as well as benefits(to put it into technological langague) and the cumulative web of interdependant technologies which we are emeshed within makes it hard to unravel or even to see these. Like fish we don't tend to see the water we swim in, but unlike fish we can if we try. Adopting the 'technology is neutral' position means we hamper our ability to unmask the meanings of power and privilege embedded in social relations.

What this argument states is that the implementation of a technology has an effect on society and society has an effect on the technology it produces/develops. Well thats obvious.

The point is though that a society that is geared towards philanthropic means will produce technology that is philanthropic. Ofcourse there will be some bad effects but the overall effect will be a net "good". A society that is consumerist will produce technology that is designed for consumption there may be some good effects but the net effect will be bad.

Offcentre says:" stance on whether any future society should be low tech or high tech " ermmm what? even low tech is still technology and we are still developing low tech means to do things - so what does being low or high tech do for anyone? Low tech can be just as bad as high tech just as low tech can be as good as high tech. Will primitivists use a hammer? See Jason Cortez for the impacts of using one.

Technology is:the technical means people use to interact with/change their surroundings. It is also a knowledge of using tools and machines to do tasks.

In other words it is upto PEOPLE to do what they want with it, technology does nothing by itself - it is passive. So technology has to be neutral since it requires an active component (people) to actually do anything.

Technology as a whole is neutral. But specific technologies and the way they are used/developed may not be neutral.

For instance the knowledge to make a nucleur device is neutral. To actually make one isn't neutral. The way the knowledge is gained/disseminated will depend on the society that researches it as you said.

In effect we have the same middle position (knowledge of how to make a nucleur device) but thestart position (development) and end position (implementation) is dependant on society as you have said- it could be good ie making a power source that ends up on a space vehicle that enables us to explore the universe or bad in destroying a city. The actual technology is the same its how it is implemented that is different and determines whether it is bad or good. SO technology is neutral its how society uses/creates it that decides whether it will be overall "good" or "bad"

HD

Jason Cortez
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Mar 23 2005 20:56

Whilst knowlegde and technology is partly dependant on what a society 'thinks' valuable, once it is embraced it helps to determine what knowlegde and technology can be considered valuable.It defines the parameters of what is useful to know.

Knowlegde is not value free.

That should get them going. wink

Jason Cortez
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Mar 23 2005 21:00
Quote:
In other words it is upto PEOPLE to do what they want with it, technology does nothing by itself - it is passive. So technology has to be neutral since it requires an active component (people) to actually do anything.

In other words it is upto PEOPLE to do what they want with it,capital does nothing by itself - it is passive. So capital has to be neutral since it requires an active component (people) to actually do anything. mmnnn dosen't sound so convining after all.

Harmonic_Distortion
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Mar 23 2005 23:36
Jason Cortez wrote:

In other words it is upto PEOPLE to do what they want with it,capital does nothing by itself - it is passive. So capital has to be neutral since it requires an active component (people) to actually do anything. mmnnn dosen't sound so convining after all.

Is capital passive or is it a process? My definition of capital is that it is a process : Wealth employed to "create" more wealth. Wealth by itself is passive since it can be used in a variety of ways and requires a purpose. But capital is implementing that wealth in a certain way.

But the definition of capital is a thread in itself!

Quote:
Whilst knowlegde and technology is partly dependant on what a society 'thinks' valuable, once it is embraced it helps to determine what knowlegde and technology can be considered valuable.It defines the parameters of what is useful to know.

I agree that society/technology/knowledge have an effect on each other (if by valuable you mean worthwhile) - then society and the situation you are in probably does determine what is useful to know. Depending on how tech/knowledge are implemented will determine on how they feedback -its the implementation that is good /bad not the technology itself.(Fuck I sound like a broken record!)

Quote:
Knowlegde is not value free.

I'm gonna be thick here. I'm not quite sure what you are saying. Am confuddled! value as in morals? Value as in useful?

HD

Mike Harman
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Mar 24 2005 00:40

Capital as a thing is just dead labour, it only becomes capital when it enters the social relationship of capitalism. It's the social relationship that makes it capital, not the building/materials/tools.

Harmonic Distortion's line seems fair enough - technology is neutral, technologies aren't.

Your hammer could be made out of stone and wood, antler, bone - it serves much the same purpose. The concept of the hammer as tool - extension of the human body which allows humans to shape their own environment is quite different to the social processes which lead to the manufacture of a particular hammer.

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Volin
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Mar 24 2005 17:37
Quote:
technology is neutral, technologies aren't.

No I dont accept that. What is technology?

n 1: the practical application of science to commerce or industry 2: the discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems...in OUR interests.

Generally, wherever technology is used it is in the interests of that user and is necessarily not neutral, it is biased and used specifically for the purposes it has been made. It could indeed be said to be dominating. That doesn't mean we should just get rid of technology because it can be beneficial and used not to dominate. The problem is who decides what is dominating, how does humanity reconcile its technological power with the Earth that supports us?

Mike Harman
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Mar 25 2005 10:35
Quote:
Generally, wherever technology is used it is in the interests of that user and is necessarily not neutral, it is biased and used specifically for the purposes it has been made. It could indeed be said to be dominating. That doesn't mean we should just get rid of technology because it can be beneficial and used not to dominate. The problem is who decides what is dominating, how does humanity reconcile its technological power with the Earth that supports us?

The problem is the social relationships that determine that technology.

I if you change your definition to this:

Quote:

n 1: the practical application of science to distribution and production 2: the discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems

I have no problem with it as all. Just depends what your producing and who it's being distributed to and how.

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Volin
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Mar 25 2005 23:44
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The problem is the social relationships that determine that technology.

Certainly, and if we revolutionise the social milieu then technology necessarily can be used for positive and libertarian means. But technology as stated by someone esle is tied up with this social situation and therefore for the express purpose and interests of the wielders of the technology. It cannot be neutral.

Poolie
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Mar 26 2005 06:37

i am weighing in too late to say anything of value except that Andrew Feenberg's 'Critical Theory of Technology' has a good Marxist, non-luddite critique of technology. written 15 years ago tho, so some of it might be a bit dated.

quick question for the primmos: if the past was so great how come we ended up in the present then?

crwst
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Apr 19 2005 16:45

If the past was so great how come we ended up in the present? I'd suggest checking out Fredy Perlmans essay Against Leviathan, Against His-story, an interesting look at the history of civilization with a prose style that is entertaining(a rare thing for an anarcho book). I personaly class myself as a Green Anarchist/Primitivist yet I have no desire to return to the stone age but a wish to move forward out of this fucked up world whilst taking inspiration from people who live with little to no more impact on their surroundings than any other creature. The Human species has come a long way in our abilities to communicate with one another yet at the same time we have become reliant on those things that are artificial ( like this fucking computer for example). We have a wealth of combined experience and knowledge and potential what the fuck do we need life like graphics, cgi movies that distract us even further from what is real, living human experience? Oh and technology isn't neutral (well except spell checker smile ) star green black

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Apr 19 2005 17:32
crwst wrote:
I'd suggest checking out Fredy Perlmans essay Against Leviathan, Against His-story, an interesting look at the history of civilization with a prose style that is entertaining(a rare thing for an anarcho book)

I have to say the prose style got right up my nose. From his earlier writing on commodity fetishsm I thought perlman would be the primmo for me sad

So far Derek Jensen is the only anti-civ writer I know who's any good.