The Technological Society

Category: Social Sciences
Author: Jacques Ellul
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by pmoriarty   2017-09-04
"an interview on the Sam Harris podcast about all the different ways technology is persuading millions of people in ways they don’t see"

Tristan Harris is only mentioning some very recent manifestations and variations of a critique that has been around for a very long time.

The history of this critique is a complex and not easily summarized one,[1] but, to take just one example, in The Technological Society[2] Jacques Ellul[3] argued that it was the efficiency improvements in what Ellul called "technique" (which can be thought of as technology in a broader sense) were effectively irresistible and inevitable to society as a whole, as the adopters of less efficient techniques were inevitably out-competed by users of more efficient ones. For Ellul this was important because it meant the loss of humanity's freedom, as they are inevitably following where efficient technique leads them.

This was presaged by Heidegger[4] most famously in The Question Concerning Technology[5], and a whole field of Philosophy of Technology followed.[6]

A more recent and popular exploration of technology's influence can be found in the documentaries of Adam Curtis.[7]

[1] - For one easily accessible but analytically-flavored attempt at a summary, see:

[3] -

[6] -

[7] -