Field Note #144. On "Postman Five, or Five Elements of Tech Change"

Source: Neil Postman, "Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change," Denver Talk (March 28, 1998); transcript available online.

The Context.

If you take Neil Postman's quote (below) from 1998 seriously, at least 90% of venture capitalists, supposed tech investors, self-acclaimed technologists, and ostensible entrepreneurs would be dead silent.

"[A] sophisticated perspective on technological change includes one's being skeptical of Utopian and Messianic visions drawn by those who have no sense of history or of the precarious balances on which culture depends.

In fact, if it were up to me, I would forbid anyone from talking about the new information technologies unless the person can demonstrate that he or she knows something about the social and psychic effects of the alphabet, the mechanical clock, the printing press, and telegraphy.

In other words, knows something about the costs of great technologies." (Id.)

The Map.

With the above backdrop, Postman surfaces 5 enduring elements of technological change (of any kind, throughout history), which are mapped to the following single words:

  1. Externalities
  2. Uneven
  3. Non-Neutral
  4. Ecological
  5. Mythic

Visual extrapolation is here.

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