When the Problem is Technology, the Answer is More Technology

In 1954, Martin Heidegger published “The Question Concerning Technology” in which he observed,

“[T]he instrumental conception of technology conditions every attempt to bring man into the right relation to technology. Everything depends on our manipulating technology in the proper manner as a means. We will, as we say, ‘get’ technology ‘spiritually in hand’. We will master it. The will to mastery becomes all the more urgent the more technology threatens to slip from our control.”

Not sure what Heidegger meant? Josh Cohen provides a contemporary illustration:

“Wang is the co-founder of Lumo BodyTech, a company that produces pioneering devices designed to enhance a user’s posture. Their lead product is the LUMOBack Posture Sensor, which triggers warning vibrations the moment you slouch. Given that poor posture is a key symptom of compulsive absorption in our laptops and phones, this product is not merely a physical corrective, says Wang, but the harbinger of a new ‘mindfulness’, a means of awakening the self from its high-tech slumber.

So, our mortally anxious distraction by tracking devices is to be finally arrested by…a tracking device. You can only be struck at this point by Wang’s genial indifference to what he’s actually saying. Self-tracking, he declares at a conference promoting the practice, corrodes social and emotional ties, engenders helpless dependence on technology and endangers physical health. But thank goodness I’ve patented a new self-tracking device, he concludes, impervious to either the irony in his catastrophic diagnosis of collective technological alienation and his proposed remedy of a posture sensor.”


4 thoughts on “When the Problem is Technology, the Answer is More Technology

  1. I’ve been thinking lately about automotive advertising for ‘efficiency.’ The problem we face is that we spend too much money on gas and our cars don’t get enough miles per gallon. So instead of living closer to where we work and eat and shop we buy new cars that are more ‘efficient’ to ‘save money.’ We end up living further away and with higher car payments, but at least we’re saving a few bucks at the pump. No one ever questions ‘the car’ as the source of the problem, it’s always, “All we need are better cars.” More technology, right?

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