"Technological Autonomy," by Daniel Chandler (from Technological or Media Determinism):  Review Questions

[1.  Discuss the terms technological determinism, technological imperative,
faith in technology.]

2.  What, according to Chandler, is meant by technological autonomy?

3.  How does Chandler characterize the work of Jacques Ellul?

4.  What does autonomy mean when applied to human beings?  According to Ellul, can human autonomy exist in the face of the technical autonomy?

5.  What does Neil Postman mean by the "Frankenstein Syndrome"?

6.   What is meant by anthropomorphism or technological animism?

7.  Describe the "tongue-in-cheek" philosophy called "resistentialism."  Discuss the humorous notice on the photocopier.

8.  How can the assumption of autonomous technology disempower us [whether autonomous technology is seen as either "good or bad"]?


"Defining Technique," by Jacques Ellul (Thompson, pp. 56 - 64): Review Questions

1.  According to Ellul, Marcel Mauss (a sociobiologist) defines technique in this way:  "Technique is a group of movements, of actions generally and mostly manual, organized, and traditional, all of which unite to reach a known end, for example, physical, chemical, or organic."  How does Ellul criticize each part of this definition?  Which parts of the definition are too limited?  Which parts seem even to conflict with modern technique?

2.  What is the relation of modern technique with tradition?

3.  What does Ellul mean by "autonomous" in the in the term "autonomous technique"?
4.  Which word in Mauss' definition is agreeable to Ellul?

5.  How does he criticize the notion that techniques aim at a "known end"?

6.  How does the technique of propaganda show the limitations of Mauss' definition?

7.  How does Ellul criticize Fourastie's definition of technical progress as "the growth of the volume of production obtained through a fixed quantity of raw material or human labor" or that which produces an increase in yield, including yield in kind (products), financial yield (capital investment), and human yield (productivity of labor)?

8.  According to Ellul, is economic yield the only kind of yield?  Explain.

9.  Are all techniques of production?  Explain.

10.  What techniques even seem to oppose productivity?

11. Why, according to Ellul, have these definitions reduced technique to the technique of production?

12.  Might part of this be attributable to a faith in technical progress?  Explain.

13.  How is the limitation of technique to technique of production based to some extent on the approach of the scientific mentality?

14.  Why is the relation between the automobile and human beings usually left out of account?

15.  How do scientists treat those effects of technique which are not reducible to numbers?  Why?

16.  How does Ellul view H. D. Lasswell's definition of technique as "the ensemble of practices by which one uses available resources in order to achieve certain valued ends"?  What is right and wrong about this definition?

17.  How does Ellul finally define technique (p. 61)?  What is the relative importance of means versus ends in modern life?

18.  How does Ellul differentiate between the technical operation and the technical phenomenon?

19.  What element characterizes technical action within a particular activity?  What happens to natural and spontaneous effort within action?

20.  What two intervening factors in technical operation produce the technical phenomenon?  What happens to unconscious, spontaneous, and even irrational (or emotional elements)?

21.  In what ways does intervention of rational judgment lead to the proliferation of means and, at the same time, a narrowing of the field of choice of means?

22.  How is the intervention of consciousness involved in the technical phenomenon?

23.  What is the technical phenomenon a quest for?  What does he mean by saying that the aggregate of technical means (bringing together the "one best means" in every field) produces technical civilization?

24.  In addition to mechanical technique and intellectual technique, what are the three main subdivisions of modern technique?

25.  What does he mean by the technique of organization?  What might this have to do with books such as Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley's Brave New World?]

26.  What does he mean by human technique?  How might this be problematic?


"The Autonomy of Technique," by Jacques Ellul (Thompson, pp. 85 - 97): Review Questions

1.  How does Ellul compare the autonomy of technique with the autonomy of police?

2.  Is technique conditioned by economics, politics, or the social situation?  What. in fact, is the real relation between technique and these areas?

3.  Would Ellul agree that "necessity is the mother of invention" when it comes to new techniques?

4.  How is technique related to moral and spiritual values?  How would external moral concerns inhibit technique?  In what sense does technique lord it over traditional morality?

5.  Is technique either good or bad?  How does this free technique?

6.  What does the mechanization of bakeries show about what happens when technique meets natural or biological entities?

7.  What happens to the role of human beings in the face of autonomous techniques?  Why are they gradually edged out and made into mere catalysts or subordinates?  Give some examples.

8.  How does the intervention of human beings interfere with the progress of technique [as efficiency]?  Why is human error a problem?

9.  What does Robert Jungk mean when he says, "The individual is a brake on progress?"

10.  How does replacing human beings with techniques promote war?

11.  According to Ellul, what must technique obey even if it does not obey human beings?  Explain.

12.  What does Ellul mean when he says, "It is not a question of causing the human being to disappear, but of making him capitulate, of inducing him to accommodate himself to techniques and not to experience personal feelings and reactions?"

13.  What does he mean when he says, "No technique is possible when men are free?"  How is human freedom bound up with unpredictability, and why is this a problem?

14.  What kind of temperament must people have in order to accommodate technique?  Describe the required "virtues."  How are emotions problematic?

15.  How must the physical condition of humans be altered to adapt to technical functions (such as space travel)?

16.  How do all social forces work together to produce this technically perfect civilization [a well running machine]?  How are illusions of liberty, choice, and individuality maintained?

17.  Why is it impossible for individuals not to participate in this process?

18.  Why can modern man not choose his own means or ends?

19.  Why does he characterize technique as a "power endowed with its own peculiar force"?  [Is this bordering on animism?]  Why is use of technique "all or nothing"?

20.  How does technique offend the human sense of mystery [and the irrational]?

21.  Why does natural necessity no longer exist?  What has replaced it?

22. What price do human beings pay for their apparent victories?

23.  Describe the vision of the year 2000 elaborated by American and Russian scientists in 1960.

24.  How, according to this scheme, will education be affected?

25.  How will reproduction be affected?

26.  How will nutrition, health, and work be affected?

27.  According to Ellul, what means will have to be employed to bring about this "utopia"?

28.  What in general does Ellul say about the critical thinking of scientists, including Einstein?

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