Your contributions enable us to offer in-depth courses on Objectivism and its application to life and freedom. If you value the knowledge gained here, consider reciprocating with a donation. Every amount supports our mission.
Technology is an applied science, i.e., it translates the discoveries of theoretical science into practical application to man’s life. As such, technology is not the first step in the development of a given body of knowledge, but the last; it is not the most difficult step, but it is the ultimate step, the implicit purpose, of man’s quest for knowledge.
Nothing can raise a country’s productivity except technology, and technology is the final product of a complex of sciences (including philosophy), each of them kept alive and moving by the achievements of a few independent minds.
The enemies of the Industrial Revolution — its displaced persons — were of the kind that had fought human progress for centuries, by every means available. In the Middle Ages, their weapon was the fear of God. In the nineteenth century, they still invoked the fear of God — for instance, they opposed the use of anesthesia on the grounds that it defies God’s will, since God intended men to suffer. When this weapon wore out, they invoked the will of the collective, the group, the tribe. But since this weapon has collapsed in their hands, they are now reduced, like cornered animals, to baring their teeth and their souls, and to proclaiming that man has no right to exist — by the divine will of inanimate matter.
The demand to “restrict” technology is the demand to restrict man’s mind. It is nature — i.e., reality — that makes both these goals impossible to achieve. Technology can be destroyed, and the mind can be paralyzed, but neither can be restricted. Whenever and wherever such restrictions are attempted, it is the mind — not the state — that withers away.
If you consider, not merely the length, but the kind of life men have to lead in the undeveloped parts of the world — “the quality of life,” to borrow, with full meaning, the ecologists’ meaningless catch phrase — if you consider the squalor, the misery, the helplessness, the fear, the unspeakably hard labor, the festering diseases, the plagues, the starvation, you will begin to appreciate the role of technology in man’s existence.
Make no mistake about it: it is technology and progress that the nature-lovers are out to destroy. To quote again from the Newsweek survey: “What worries ecologists is that people now upset about the environment may ultimately look to technology to solve everything . . . .” This is repeated over and over again; technological solutions, they claim, will merely create new problems.
Whom and what are [the ecological crusaders] attacking? It is not the luxuries of the “idle rich,” but the availability of “luxuries” to the broad masses of people. They are denouncing the fact that automobiles, air conditioners and television sets are no longer toys of the rich, but are within the means of an average American worker — a beneficence that does not exist and is not fully believed anywhere else on earth.
What do they regard as the proper life for working people? A life of unrelieved drudgery, of endless, gray toil, with no rest, no travel, no pleasure — above all, no pleasure. Those drugged, fornicating hedonists do not know that man cannot live by toil alone, that pleasure is a necessity, and that television has brought more enjoyment into more lives than all the public parks and settlement houses combined.
What do they regard as luxury? Anything above the “bare necessities” of physical survival — with the explanation that men would not have to labor so hard if it were not for the “artificial needs” created by “commercialism” and “materialism.” In reality, the opposite is true: the less the return on your labor, the harder the labor. It is much easier to acquire an automobile in New York City than a meal in the jungle. Without machines and technology, the task of mere survival is a terrible, mind-and-body-wrecking ordeal. In “nature,” the struggle for food, clothing and shelter consumes all of a man’s energy and spirit; it is a losing struggle — the winner is any flood, earthquake or swarm of locusts. (Consider the 500,000 bodies left in the wake of a single flood in Pakistan; they had been men who lived without technology.) To work only for bare necessities is a luxury that mankind cannot afford.