revenge effect

From the conclusion section of Carabantes, M. (2021). “The Coronavirus as a Revenge Effect: The Pandemic from the Perspective of Philosophy of Technique”. Science, Technology, & Human Values.

The main goal of technique is freedom. We use it to free ourselves from the burdens imposed by nature, such as getting food and shelter. However, modern technique, because of its five essential characteristics of universalism, self-augmentation, automatism, autonomy, and monism, tends to extend its control over everything, including the human being, to ensure the optimal efficiency of the whole system that we demand. If this control condition is not satisfied, and human freedom is not limited in the way technique requires, then the result will be the loss of efficiency because we are interfering in its functioning; and this efficiency may be critical when technique is introduced in order to neutralize some of the worst unwanted consequences of technique itself, such as global environmental issues, enhanced terrorism, and fast worldwide pandemics. Therefore, modern technique calls, under threat, for the establishment of a centralized and authoritarian organization of humanity. Thus, the paradox arises: modern technique as a whole entails a revenge effect because the search for freedom results in the loss of it. Our ingenuity turns against us.

If we want the comfortable material life provided by industrialism but do not want severe environmental degradation, then we need this kind of organization. If we want the popularization of robotics to democratize technique and to empower the people but do not want devastating terrorist attacks, then we need this kind of organization. If we want goods and passengers to travel fast and cheap in airplanes all over the world but do not want pandemics like the current one, then we need this kind of organization. In sum, if we want the many benefits of modern technique but at the same time want to avoid its often-disastrous side effects, trade-offs, and revenge effects, then we need this kind of non-democratic organization. From these and many other cases, it follows that Ellul’s (1964) prediction seems correct: modern technique leads to a new kind of slavery.

Looks like I’ll be adding Ellul to the infrastructural-theoretical reading list; I think this author’s use of slavery is a little strong, but habituation—my preferred term—seems like it would swap in well.

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