Relief or enslavement?

Concerning Educational Technology FAQ's

Marx was optimistic about the possibilities of technology to relieve the position of the working classes. This was a possibility which has been realized in a sense, in that the use of the spade and pitchfork are no longer the daily lives of millions of people – at least not in the ‘developed’ world. But, because the problem may differ in some characteristics does not mean it has gone away. In terms of the use of shovel and cart, the working classes (at least in the developed world) have been relieved of much drudgery, no question, but because of the political context of the technology involved their position is in many ways a little better.

Moreover, as a result of the impoverishment of these workers it becomes ever more difficult to find markets for the goods thus more cheaply produced, so the imperative to find cheaper means of production, either by using slave labour or machines becomes intensified, in perpetuity.

To this picture Jacques Ellul adds the question of advertising: choice is illusory because advertising, as a concomitant of material technology has reshaped human desires and ambitions, reshaped our ways of being. The sophisticated psychological techniques of advertising in close co-operation with material techniques, have at last succeeded in creating unity, all possible diversity will have disappeared and the human race will have become a bloc of complete and irrational solidarity. (Ellul, The Technological Society)

To add Ellul’s picture to mine then is to achieve a very gloomy image: technology has not freed but enslaved, not physically but psychically.