Is technology ever truly “neutral”?


Repetition is how Corporate America programs us: the same messages pounded into our brains until we submit. That pounding is usually accomplished via technology and thus, it becomes extremely useful to deify the gizmos and gadgets utilized to keep the masses distracted and pacified.

That’s why we so often hear: Technology is neutral. It’s only as good or as bad as those using it.

Let’s discuss some of the ways technology is definitely not neutral.

*Technology = Toxic Waste. How about roughly three million tons of household electronics tossed by Americans each year? There are 300 million obsolete computers in the U.S. today and only 50 percent of a computer is recycled. The non-recyclable components of a single computer may contain almost 2 kilograms of lead. Seventy percent of the entire toxic waste stream of landfills is e-waste.

*Technology = Alienation. We have social media but we’re sacrificing social skills. “With the present means of long distance mass communication, sprawling isolation has proved an even more effective method of keeping a population under control, henceforth a one-way world,” wrote Lewis Mumford. To green anarchists, technology is “more than wires, silicon, plastic, and steel. It is a complex system involving division of labor, resource extraction, and exploitation for the benefit of those who implement its process. The interface with and result of technology is always an alienated, mediated, and distorted reality.”

*Technology is not available to everyone. According to some estimates: In Australia, 60.4 percent of the population has access to the Internet. In Asia, that number is 19.4 percent. Pretty stark difference, huh? Get ready for this one: In North America, 74.2 percent of the population has access to the Internet. In Africa, that number is 6.8 percent. If you think it can’t get worse than that, try this on for size: In six African nations—Burundi, Chad, Central African Republic, Liberia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone—only 3 to 5 percent of people can access electricity. In fact, 79 percent of the Third World (1.5 billion people) has no access to electricity.

*Technology results in environmental racism. While the developed world quenches its insatiable thirst for the newest and latest doohickey, much of the subsequent e-waste is exported to countries like India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ghana. “The pollution and related health problems in countries where e-waste is dumped will increase massively as the amount of electronics used worldwide is growing exponentially and the number of countries used as dump sites will grow,” says Kim Schoppink, Toxics Campaigner at Greenpeace.

*Technology devours nature. Thanks to the automobile culture, for example, in the 20th century, an area equal to all the arable land in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania was paved in the U.S. This means highways, off-ramps, parking lots, etc.—each replacing countless eco-systems. This is easily the most crucial issue of all because, unlike the others listed above, this one cannot be “fixed.” Rather, we need an entirely new perspective. We’re talking 180 degrees, comrades.

Wouldn’t it be a gigantic step in a dark green direction to stop viewing natural elements as “resources” that must be immediately extracted and sold? Imagine being part of the first human generation in centuries to work in harmony with the natural world.


Note: To continue conversations like this, come see Mickey Z. in person on Feb. 5 at Bluestockings Bookstore in NYC.

Order Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism here.


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