Building on the previous post and how we do violence to ourselves through “well-intentioned” over-commitment, this is a brief consideration of the violent consequences of technological approaches driven solely by expediency and efficiency.
When measuring human success, we use terms borrowed from technology, words and phrases like, outputs, operational objectives and capabilities, hitting benchmarks etc. but treating workers (people!) like cogs in a wheel is so far below the astonishing array of human capabilities. Since the Industrial Revolution, efficiency has become the standard against which we measure success, eschewing creativity, intuition, feelings, nurturing–all those soft, unquantifiable attributes that mark us as human. Humans do not thrive in soul-numbing, repetitive work unless perhaps money is the only need, but if one works at a minimum wage job (where such jobs are abundant) even that need will not be met.
However, productive efficiencies will churn out billions of hamburgers, tacos, french fries and processed foods–all of which are slowly killing us. (In 2050, 1 in 3 Americans will have Type 2 diabetes if present trends continue.) Human needs ignored in the drive to make hamburgers. Who thinks this makes sense?
This poignant quote by Thomas Merton articulates not only the consequences of a mindless adherence to measuring success solely by technological standards, but also, how the ever insistent cacophony of technology mirrors our agitated minds. More agitation, less reflection, more violence.
“Technology has its own ethic of expediency and efficiency. What can be done efficiently must be done in the most efficient way—even if what is done happens, for example, to be genocide or the devastation of a country by total war. Even the long-term interests of society, or the basic needs of man himself, are not considered when they get in the way of technology. We waste natural resources, as well as those of undeveloped countries, iron, oil, etc., in order to fill our cities and roads with a congestion of traffic that is in fact largely useless, and is a symptom of the meaningless and futile agitation of our own minds.”
~Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander