Neil Postman on technological change


8 April 2009


Neil Postman was Professor of Communication at New York University until his death in 2003. He wrote many wonderfully insightful and thought-provoking articles and books about television, education, technology and childhood. I recently came across a speech he gave in 1998 on “Five things we need to know about technological change”. Here is an online transcript. The five things are:

  1. That we always pay a price for technology; the greater the technology, the greater the price.

  2. That there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners.

  3. That there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not.

  4. That technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which means, it changes everything and is, therefore, too important to be left entirely in the hands of Bill Gates.

  5. That technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us.