This book is divided into two parts: first, a critique of modern high-tech, global consumer culture (the book was written in 1991); and second, an in-...moreThis book is divided into two parts: first, a critique of modern high-tech, global consumer culture (the book was written in 1991); and second, an in-depth look at the conflict between that culture and various traditional, indigenous ways of life around the globe.
The first part extends Mander's essential premise from Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television --- that all technological innovations have social and political implications which should be evaluated along with each invention's purely mechanical uses --- to other inventions --- the car, the telephone and the computer being some of his examples --- and to technology in general.
Probably the most astonishing revelation this part of the book held for me was that the ways in which a new invention will affect society are largely predictable, and that companies seeking to market a new product will often, if the product is revolutionary enough, commission reports on its likely social impacts! Mander quotes from such a report issued for the telephone, which turns out to be largely accurate. He then makes the argument that, since we already have reliable information (or the capacity to gather said information) on each innovation's potential impacts, what we ought to do is make such reports public and conduct public debates (actual, fully-accessible public debates, not just showpieces) on whether to adopt a given technology. Rather than restructuring our society around new inventions every ten years or so, we would pick and choose the inventions that would be adopted for widespread development and use based on how well they harmonized with our social values. (less)