While reading Postman’s Technopoly, I found the following passage from the second chapter, “From Tools to Technocracy”, to resonant with me:
All of them, to the end, clung to the theology of their age. They would surely not have been indifferent to knowing when the Last Judgment would come, and they could not have imagined the world without God. Moreover, the science they created was almost wholly concerned with questions of truth, not power. Toward that end, there developed in the late sixteenth century what can only be described as a passion for exactitude: exact dates, quantities, distances, rates. It was even thought possible to determine the exact moment of the Creation, which, as it turned out, commenced at 9:00 a.m., October 23, 4004 B.C. These were men who thought of philosophy (which is what they called science) as the Greeks did, believing that the true object of investigating nature is speculative satisfaction. They were not concerned with the idea of progress, and did not believe that their speculations held the promise of any important improvements in the conditions of life. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton laid the foundation for the emergence of technocracies, but they themselves were men of tool-using cultures. (Postman 35)
I believe Postman is stating Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton were all pious individuals who kept resolutely to the theological canons of the time. In that regards, they were ordinary men, but they were motivated by a voracious curiosity into the mechanics of nature. Furthermore, they used the tools available to find answers to certain theological questions; i.e., the moment of creation. They believed their work was nothing more than “speculative satisfaction” (Postman 35). They didn’t think their work had meaning outside the arcane-arena of a select few; also, they didn’t care about social progress or standing of the ordinary people they lived amongst. They were too busy being “sleepwalkers” (Postman 34), and as such they performed the ground work for technology to challenge accepted dogma and theories, regardless of its theological or cultural basis.
I cannot help but remember my previous academic life, where I tried to understand, in a small way, why I was studying the material before me. I remember reading a calculus book by G.H Hardy, where he says “I am interested in mathematics only as a creative art.” I believe there are two types of scientific minds; those who like solving present problems of society, and those who like to solve problems of nature. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton were all men who wanted to understand nature and in so doing contributed significantly to all human knowledge.
I still believe to believe today the purest of human pursuits is satiating intellectually curiosity. I feel, especially in the U.S., the arts are continually ignored for the pursuit of technological knowledge; however, I believe without the simultaneous pursuits of art and science our societal progress will stagnate. Intellectually curiosity should be encouraged in all areas where human ingenuity can thrive and not be limited to science, technology, engineer, and math programs (STEM). Art and science have historically pushed each other’s development, for example video games and graphic card development. The need for faster imagery processing has pushed engineers and scientist to create faster processors to handle the calculation load. This is art and artists pushing the engineers to innovate. The engineers don’t need these processors.