Mander (1991). Seven Negative Points About Computers. (In the absence of the sacred.)

Mander, J. (1991). Seven Negative Points About Computers. In In the absence of the sacred: The failure of technology and the survival of the Indian Nations. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

[“1. Pollution and Health” …]

[“2. Employment” …]

[“3. Quantification and Conceptual Change” …]

“But as management goals changed from preservation to development, the tools changed as well, and with those tools changed the concepts and the job.” (p 58)

“… with nuances, moods, [page break] and personal observations subtracted from the information model — the very elements by which humans and nature have traditionally communicated with one another — the end result is passionlessness: a net loss in intimacy with, caring for, and love of nature.” (p 58-59)

“… the Canadian government announced a new initiative for bringing computers and computer training to native resource managers. The intention was ostensibly to be helpful, but the net result will be to destroy traditional resource management systems, and, perhaps along with that, native resistance to large-scale exploitation.” (p 59)

[H. A. Feit, 1986 …]

“‘The body of the animal a hunter receives nourishes him, but the soul returns to be reborn again, so that when men and animals are in balance, the animals are killed but not diminished, and both men and animals survive …. In return for the gifts, the hunter has obligations to the animals and the spirits to act responsibly, to use what is given completely, and to act respectfully towards the bodies and souls of the animals …. It is expected that men will kill animals swiftly, and avoid causing them undue suffering … not to kill more than he is given, not to kill animals for fun or self-aggrandizement.'” (p 60)

“Eventually, the Inuit, Indian, and other native groups who are given computers will begin to conceptualize nature in the objective terms used by Western development interests (‘sustainable yield,’ ‘animal units’), while the more powerful mythical, sensory, and spiritual outlook that has informed and sustained native cultures for millennia is sacrificed.” (p 61)

“Corporations already provide a vast amount of ‘educational materials’ to schools; when they also provide the computer programs that kids interact with, especially in the absence of a mitigating human presence, they pave the way to an officially sanctioned, unified field of knowledge. That field will be narrower than at present (though perhaps deeper in a few areas, such as science), and it will be consistent with corporate values.” (p 62)

[“4. Surveillance” …]

[“5. The Rate of Acceleration” …]

“It’s as if we were all caught at a socially approved video game, where the information on the screen comes faster and faster as we try earnestly to keep up.” (p 64)

“Computer video games _are_ good training for the faster world. When we play a video game, our goal is to merge with the computer program. The electronic symbols on the screen enter our brain, pass through our nervous system, and stimulate the fight-or-flight reaction that still lives within us and that expresses itself here through our hands. Very little thinking is needed or used. The object is to respond _without_ thought, instantly.” (p 65)

“They don’t believe in accomplishing more in less time, because there is sufficient time to accomplish what needs to be done.” (p 66)

[“6. Centralization” …]

“The issue is confused at the outset by the fact that computers have the look of a small-scale democratic technology. … [page break] … The real issue is not whether computers can benefit you or your group; the question is who benefits most from the existence of computers in society? The answer suggests that, for all of their small-scale benefits, the largest institutions have far more to gain, and they know it.” (p 67-68)

“The accelerated pace at which forests are felled in Indonesia and Borneo, oceans are mined in the Pacific, and dams are built throughout the world, reflects the increased ability of corporations to operate from a central management and still influence daily activities in all corners of the planet.” (p 69)

[“7. Worst-Case Scenario: Automatic Computer Warfare” …]

[“Can We Blame Computers?” …]

“Most technologies are actually deployed in the manner that is most useful to the institutions that gain from their use; this may have nothing to do with public or planetary good.” (p 74)

“… one could argue that the recent _consumerization_ of the computer is merely a glamorization, to help create public sympathy for its use as a panacea, when _military_ use of computers is really the point.” (p 74)

Selected References

  • Feit, H. A. “James Bay Cree Indian Management and Moral Consideration of Fur-Bearers.” In Native People and Renewable Resource Management, the 1986 Symposium of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists, pp. 49-62.
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