Humanism Amidst Our Machines   /   Summer 2011   /    Humanism Amidst Our Machines

On Technology and Humanity

A Bibliographic Essay

Daniel Doneson

Illustration by Alan E. Cober/Corbis/

It would be hard to exaggerate the aggregate significance of technology for human life. Few today are so naïve as to hope for a technological solution to all of life’s woes, let alone a technological solution to human life altogether, although there are some. Yet fewer still can imagine modern life without it.

A small sign of the emergence of technology as not only a problem but the organizing principle of our times lies even in the popular belief that the weightiest question is not whether we will be saved, or whether there will be a transfiguring political revolution, but whether we will destroy ourselves, or the planet. Already in 1949 Winston churchill observed:

Science bestowed immense new powers on man and, at the same time, created conditions which were largely beyond his comprehension and still more beyond his control. While he nursed the illusion of growing mastery and exulted in his new trappings he became the sport and pres- ently the victim of tides and currents, whirlpools and tornadoes, amid which he was far more helpless than he had been for a long time.11xWinston Churchill, “The Twentieth Century–Its Promise and Its Realization,” speech at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (31 March 1949) in Winston Churchill, His Complete Speeches 1897–1963, ed. Robert Rhodes James (New York, NY: Chelsea House, 1983) 7: 344.

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