Incomprehensible Technologisms

t-roszak-cover1‘We are no longer in an age when the amateurish citizen, knowing a little ordinary seamanship can adjust the rigging, read the sextant and compass and take over the helm. Instead the quarter deck begins to look like the cockpit of a spaceship, what do all these dials and gauges mean? what untutored, passenger can make sense of the strange charts, computer printouts and implements that fill the navigators cabin? Who can understand the working of the mysterious engines down below? It is precisely to deal with this esoteric apparatus that we have experts onboard, hired to serve by the government, the corporation, the party. They understand the mechanisms of the ship, and we do not. If we ask for explanations they answer us in incomprehensible technologisms. Even when we talk social policy with them, they speak of impenetrable procedures, methodologies and statistical factors, when people arguing politics used to talk of Justice, Freedom and Moral Rights and Wrongs, the new expertise talks of ‘parameters’ ‘tradeoffs’ ’interfaces’ ’inputs’ ‘optimisations’ ‘cross benefits’ and ‘cross matrix impact analysis’ Nothing is anymore simply and straightforwardly accessible to the layman. Everything – economics, foreign policy, war and peace, city planning, education, environmental design, business administration, human psychology – now requires the benefits of professional training to be comprehensible, or so the technocrats insist ; and often enough – given our condition of life – they are right.’

p.50  Where the Wasteland Ends – Politics and Transcendence in Post Industrial Society (1989)

Thedore Roszak

Celestial Arts. Berkeley, California.


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