“In his book, The Technological Society, Jacques Ellul makes the great insight that technological societies tend to produce people who are fascinated with means and forget the ends. We are more interested in the capacities of technologies we have to do certain things. Rather than saying, ‘Here are the ends we want to pursue, now what tools do we need to achieve those ends?’ Rather, we get the tools—the technologies—and we ask, ‘What can we do with these?’”
Good warning from a nice conversation between Ken Myers and Bruce Little.
PS: If you are thinking of buying Ellul’s book–I wouldn’t. Ellul is never easy but this one is an especially hard read. And it’s now published in small print mass paperback. It’s like reading a book printed on grocery bag with 6 point bled-out font. You can have my copy.
PPS: Here’s a moving picture version of the conversation between Myers and Little:
4 thoughts on “On Technology”
Here’s a link to a 1992 film interview of Ellul on the Internet Archive:
For your reformed blog readers unfamiliar with Ellul, our life here is short. Most christians would better spend their time reading solid classic Reformed authors. If you have a keen interest in sociology, Roman law, or technique (as Ellul defines it), you may want to examine his thoughts.
I think what Ellul has to say about technology (rather, efficiency), is very important.
The uncritical exaltation of efficiency plagues our society.
Just think about how uncritically North American Evangelicalism has embraced the vasectomy, because it is so easy and efficient an operation. Its popularity nearly enshrines it as sacred ritual amongst our ranks. But little thought, little reflection, is given to what it means for our society to so hunger after and champion infertility. We simply act, as Ellul says, by reflex. For technology, as Ellul says, requires us to no longer think about things.
Whenever I ask someone if they’ve considered the ethics of such an operation, I am met with looks of wild incredulity.
I think there are many more applications of Ellul’s thought to our present world. I am certain that technology is making us less and less reflective.
“Perhaps through my words or my writing, someone met this Saviour, the only one, the unique one, beside whom all human projects are childishness; then, if this has happened, I will be fulfilled, and for that, glory to God alone.” Jacques Ellul
With due respect for both Peter and Ken, being the “contrarian” that I am, I would highly recommend reading Jaques Ellul. Personally, I think he was one of God’s prophets of the twentieth century. He fought with the French-underground in WW2. He was a brilliant layman in the French Reformed Church and Reformed people really need to know first-hand what he said.
My first choice to begin with is his little book, “The Presence of the Kingdom” (1948). But another one that is on-line which every Reformed pastor should read is “the Humiliation of the Word” (1984).
Tom, those are both good choices for Reformed readers interested in Ellul.