Posted on Dec 26, 2023

If Marx’s all-important quote is the one on the opium of the people, Ellul’s comes from the The Technological Society and is:

Technique has penetrated the deepest recesses of the human being. The machine tends not only to create a new human environment, but also to modify man’s very essence. The milieu in which he lives is no longer his. He must adapt himself, as though the world were new, to a universe for which he was not created. He was made to go six kilometers an hour, and he goes a thousand. He was made to eat when he was hungry and to sleep when he was sleepy; instead, he obeys a clock. He was made to have contact with living things, and he lives in a world of stone. He was created with a certain essential unity, and he is fragmented by all the forces of the modern world.

But why? Why would we reconfigure the environment around us to such an extent so to make life unbearable? I do not think the answer is that hard – it’s because it was not that good to begin with. Anti-tech proponents often portray the pre-enlightenment world as a lost paradise; man knew his place in nature, laws were given by the Gods. I am not sure how they come to this conclusion, every religion seems to point to a deeply flawed creation -to the extent that world religions do express some kind gestalt about humanity, I would guess this is how humanity has always felt.

But I am not sure, however, this was Ellul’s message. We yearn for technologies that can be autonomous outside the Anthropocene, where one can manipulate nature without destroying it; i.e. producing without factories, travelling without roads, eating easily accessible food without industrial agriculture. Keep the world the same, complete the human.