a l a m u t

Today the promises of the old society of production are raining down on our heads in an avalanche of consumer goods that nobody is likely to call manna from heaven. You can hardly believe in the magical power of gadgets in the same way as people used to believe in productive forces. There is a certain hagiographic literature on the steam hammer. One cannot imagine much on the electric toothbrush. The mass production of instruments of comfort -- all equally revolutionary, according to the publicity handouts -- has given the most unsophisticated of people the right to express an opinion on the marvels of technological innovation in a tone as blase as the hand they stick in their pants. The first landing on Mars will pass unnoticed at Disneyland.

Admittedly the yoke and harness, the steam engine, electricity and the rise of nuclear energy, all disturbed and altered the infrastructure of society (even if they were discovered, when all is said and done, almost by chance). But today it would be foolish to expect new productive forces to upset modes of production. The blossoming of technology has given rise to a supertechnology of synthesis, one which could prove as important as the social community -- that first technical synthesis of all, founded at the dawn of time. Perhaps more important still; for if cybernetics was taken from its masters, it might be able to free human groups from labour and from social alienation. This was precisely the point of Charles Fourier in an age when utopia was still possible.

But the distance between Fourier and the cyberneticians who control the operational organization of technology is the distance between freedom and slavery. Of course, the cybernetic project claims that it is already sufficiently developed to be able to solve all the problems raised by the appearance of any new technique. But don't you believe it.

from The Revolution of Everyday Life