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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 36, No 11 May 30th, 1973

Taming Technology

Taming Technology

Toffler's bias makes his proposals to tame technology sound a bit like the familiar 'the way to end war is to prepare for war' theory of enlightened politicians. To get around econocentrism, or judging by economic criteria only, a 'Council of Social Advisers' to be modelled after the already existing 'Council of Economic Advisers' will do the trick, because they will judge 'noneconomics' by a set of statistical social indicators. Which is reminiscent of our own National Development Council's Social Committee establishing our national values for us by a set of questionnaires issued to member organisations. Modern technologists consider things too much in the short term, i.e., they suffer from time-myopia, but future technologists will get together in Future Insitutes, to see how they can do better what they do already. Technology has the nasty tendency to be undemocratic, see, no regular-as-clockwork plebiscites and 'social future assemblies' which will 'wire into the system' anybody not yet covered will make technology democratic see?

What is this but the technological slogan, 'something's wrong, let's have more of the same'? Do we feel happier knowing we've now got a National Development Conference looking after our future for us, and that if our ideas have been lost in the files there's a great network we can be 'wired into' that will bank us in its memory cells?

Toffler's technological bias, so marked in his definitions and proposals, leads me to one of the major weaknesses of the book his abject failure to relate to his subject any of the major social, political or moral problems attending accelerating technological change. In the second half of the book Toffler attempts to do this, but his sphere of interest is limited to biology and psychology, so he misses the woods for the leaves on the trees.

Problems not caused by accelerating change aren't exactly solved by it either, and among these let's just point out exploitation; competitive pluralism; the increasingly wide affluence-poverty gap between races, classes and nations; pollution; urban and rural community decay; the dehumanised conditions in which humans are expected to live. Scant is the reference Toffler pays any of them. Pollution, e.g., merits one paragraph as an interesting side-issue of the 'throw-away society' and another as a sub-point for a technological ombudsman.