Technology the Devourer of Men – 1931 – Part 1 of 5

The unleashing of individualism and the perfecting of technology are two parallel phenomena. First sweetly, timidly, man raised – with disquieted conscience – the veil that covered secrets – and did not fall down dead. He discovered unexpected things. That which was mysterious became natural and explicable. He didn’t have respect for the unknown and he who lacked this respect bore its fruits. The success he won encouraged him to recommence. His scrutinizing view went to the depths of things. He did experimentation and research. But each new piece of knowledge acquired is a means to impose on nature a new servitude. The perfecting of technology increased the general yield. The augmentation of consumption, the lure of unlimited possibilities required a change in economic organization. At a certain stage of development, technology always corresponds to a particular form of economic structure. The individual crosses successive steps. The sentiment of his superiority and the consciousness of his force increase. He puts traditional social relations in question and concludes that by reason of his advanced knowledge, they can no longer be justified. He revolts, having finally won the cause and transforming in this fashion the social conditions. The tendency to push limits marks the whole of this evolution. Technology finally believes itself at the height of all tasks. Industrial production pushes an unfathomable growth. The individual feels liberated. In principle, he no longer recognizes any limit. Rules, order, and harmony of the whole do not result from things. Still yet, in the measure where we respect borders, we do it uniquely from an external point of view, that is to say from the point of view of profitability. Technology turns toward new tasks when investment is worth the pain. It needs capital to put at its disposal in the hope of fetching, one day, interest. The production of goods is regulated by the perspectives of profit. When there is a chance of profit, capital flows. The more capital works, the more the rule of man over these things widens. In general, the individual uses his liberty in the measure where it profits him. He is all the more “free” as he represents capital, as he is “rich.”

Ultimately, the intensity of the processes of economic and technical development seem like a simple function of the profitability of capital available to an investment. Even the social importance of an individual is only an indicator of the profit he earns, of his revenues. From there, money becomes the measure of everything. The modern reign of money is the constitutional form of the politics of force that correspond to the technical era. Its system of provisioning consumer goods to societies is based on the capitalist economy. Unleashed individualism is the expression of its moral and mental attitude.

Technology, by removing everywhere the barriers imposed on human expertise and by submitting all sources of natural energy to man, opens the way to transformations of a great span. It shortens the distances, bringing closer that which is far, and rendering the entire world understandable and accessible. In this atmosphere metropolises, empires, production on a grand scale, economic monopolies, and multinational trusts flourish. The individual who feels at home, between his formations and constructions, between his machines, his instruments, and invisible microwaves, begins to think in terms of continents and finally in terms of the universe.

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