From the very beginnings of their existence, human beings have distinguished themselves from other animals by not taking immediate experience for granted. Everything was symbolized according to its meaning and value: a fallen branch from a tree became a lever; a tree trunk floating in the river became a canoe. Homo logos created communities based on cultures: humanity's first megaproject. Further symbolization of the human community and its relation to nature led to the possibility of creating societies and civilizations. Everything changed as these interposed themselves between the group and nature. Homo societas created ways of life able to give meaning, direction, and purpose to many groups by means of very different cultures: humanity's second megaproject. What Das Kapital did for the nineteenth century and La technique did for the twentieth, Willem H. Vanderburg's Living in the Labyrinth of Technology seeks to create for the twenty-first century: an attempt at understanding the world in a manner not shackled to overspecialized scientific knowing and technical doing.
Western civilization may well be creating humanity's third megaproject, based not on symbolization for making sense of and living in the world, but on highly specialized desymbolized knowing stripped of all peripheral understanding. Vanderburg focuses on two interdependent forces in his narrative, namely, people changing technology and technology changing people. The latter aspect, although rarely considered, turns out to be the more critical one for understanding the spectacular successes and failures of contemporary ways of life. As technology continues to change the social and physical world, the experiences of this world 'grow' people's minds and society's cultures, thereby re-creating human life in the image of technology. Living in the Labyrinth of Technology argues that the twenty-first century will be dominated by this pattern unless society intervenes on human (as opposed to technical) terms.
Willem H. Vanderburg is the founding director of the Centre for Technology and Social Development and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto.
Preface Introduction: Where Are We Going with Technology? Part One: Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to the Earth and the Gods I Industrialization as 'People Changing Technolo&: Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to the Earth 1.1 Revisiting the Process of Industrialization 1.2 The Technology-Based Connectedness of Society 1.3 Living with Materials 1.4 Living with the Economy 1.5 Living Together Socially 1.6 Living Together Politically 1.7 Living with the Law 1.8 Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to the Earth 1.9 Some Implications 2 Industrialization as Technology Changing People': Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to the Gods 2.1 Symbolization and Cultural Moorings 2.2 Symbolization and the Life-Milieu 2.3 Culture as the Symbolic Basis for Individual Life 2.4 Culture as the Symbolic Basis for Collective Life 2.5 Industrialization as Cultural Unfolding 2.6 New Cultural Moorings 2.7 Religion, Morality, and Art 2.8 The First Generation of Industrial Societies 3 Living with New Moorings to the Earth and the Gods 3.1 Serving Technology 3.2 On Becoming Human Resources 3.3 Technology and the Human Journey 3.4 No Detached Observers Part Two: Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to Experience and Culture 4 People Changing Technology: Severing the Cultural Moorings of Traditional Technological Knowing and Doing 4.1 Transcending the Limits of Technological Traditions 4.2 The Destruction of Technological Traditions 4.3 Parallel Modes of Knowing 4.4 The Technological Knowledge of a Society 4.5 A Discontinuous Change in Technological Knowing and Doing 5 Scientific and Technological Knowledge in Human Life 5.1 Scientific Education and Culture 5.2 Contemporary Technological Doing Embedded in Culture 5.3 Contemporary Technological Knowing and Doing in Relation to Culture 6 Adapting to the New Technological Knowing and Doing 6.1 The Emergence of Universal Technology 6.2 Living with a New Economy 6.3 Living in a Mass Society 6.4 Living with a Limitless Politics 6.5 The Intellectual and Professional Division of Labour and the Poverty of Nations Part Three: Our Third Megaproject? 7 Technique and Culture 7.1 The Disenchantment of the World Revisited 7.2 The Invention of Universal Knowledge 7.3 Rationality and Industrialization 7.4 Logic, Artificial Intelligence, and Culture 7.5 On Creating a New Concept 8 Human Life Out of Context 8.1 The Technical Approach to Life 8.2 Sport 8.3 Education 8.4 War 8.5 Commercial and Political Advertising 8.6 Organization 8.7 Agriculture 8.8 Living with the Technical Approach to Life 9 From Experience to Information 9.1 The Roots of the Information Explosion 9.2 Homo Znformaticus and the Information Society 9.3 Technique and Industry 9.4 The Price to Be Paid 9.5 Living with Information 10 Remaking Ourselves in the Image of Technique: Culture within Technique 10.1 Technique as Phenomenon 10.2 Technique as Life-Milieu 10.3 Technique as Consciousness 10.4 Possessed by Technique? 10.5 Technique as System of Non-sense 10.6 Technique as Collective Person 10.7 Living with Non-sense Epilogue Notes Index