READ THE PASSAGE | The ideology of machines: computer technology


That America’s technopolis has now embraced the computer in the same hasty and thoughtless way it embraced medical technology is undeniable, was perhaps inevitable, and is certainly very unfortunate.

This does not mean that the computer is a scourge on the symbolic landscape; only that, like medical technology, it has usurped powers and imposed mindsets that a fully attentive culture might have wished to deny it.

Thus, a review of the ideas embedded in computer technology is worth attempting. Others, of course, have, especially Joseph Weizenbaum in his great and indispensable book Computer Power and Human Reason.

Weizenbaum, however, ran into some difficulties, like everyone else, because of the “universality” of computers, which means (a) their uses are infinitely diverse and (b) computers are generally integrated in the structure of other machines.

It is therefore difficult to isolate specific ideas promoted by computer technology. The computer, for example, is quite different from the stethoscope, which has a limited function in a limited context.

With the exception of safe-crackers, who I’m told use stethoscopes to hear the tumblers of locks click into place, stethoscopes are only used by doctors. But everyone uses or is used by computers, and for purposes that seem to know no boundaries.


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