“Today, I am sad to say that every single new discovery is studied in order to kill people. The most important study is on killing people. That is what is happening now. [Africans had once invented the gunpowder to perform funeral rituals for the “Coming Forth by Day.”]  The Chinese had once invented firecrackers with the purpose of chasing away devils using loud noises. But in the hands of the Europeans, they saw the potential to kill people. Today, we see explosives being used as weapons to kill people. Even when they discovered explosives, the first thing they think about is how to kill people. We are making use of our power in the wrong way. We should not be making such weapons.”

~ Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (Malaysia).

Many times, in many essays, I have argued that investment in advanced technologies—in the name of making labor/work easier and life more comfortable for the plenty—does not improve life, nor does it improve civilization. More technology is the principal way by which the few, i.e. the powerful (those who own the means of violence) are able to amass more wealth even more violently. Technological advancement embedded in the prevailing belief (because Weber and his fellow idiots opined it) that more of it is necessary for social advancement, does not paint or, in this case point to, more or better civilization.

Rather, what more technology does, is help the already powerful and violent, the capitalist (for short), amass ever more wealth by reducing costs (especially of labor) and increasing efficiency in the production of useless consumables. None of which is necessary for a society that is actually fixed on remaining sustainable. That is, if a society opts for the aim to remain a sustainable economy, more technology, more robots, and more machines and increasing efficiency in the production of clothes, toothbrushes, shoes, leggings, condoms, this or that, are not necessary! Indeed, what more and more technology accomplishes is exactly the concentration of power, and absolute power over the vast masses by the few.

This is why Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2017), is misunderstood. The industrial revolution which established the European elite as a global elite was not an exercise in enlightenment. It was backwards. Nor was it an exercise in how new technologies helped Europe establish great factories. No. This is what Piketty has come to the painful realization of, that his fancy France did not rise to riches through their own humane methods.

Rather it was an exercise in barbarism in which new technology became available to the European elite and with which they were able to violently command the cost of labor to drastically reduce to zero within their mass production processes. Not by the improvement of methods, but by the violent summary entrapment, kidnapping, enslavement of African expertise and labor. Western European, and North American wealth was built upwards from the bloody, disfigured bodies of enslaved African laborers and their experts. Further, more technological weapons of mass destruction, the Bomb, is the only reason why Shell can still fly into the Deltas in Nigeria and siphon natural resources of untold proportions. More technology, the Bomb, is the only reason why Europe and the entire western world continues to loot African resources.

Europe is rich and powerful because it innovates. Perhaps. Yes, it innovates new ways to commit genocides! It innovates new ways of violence on those they enslave to do their work for free. Thus, more technology breeds more violence. Not more civilization. More technology breeds more consumption. Not more civilization. More technology breeds a more powerful white supremacist elite. That is the spread of barbarism. Not more civilization. What I agree with is simply that more technology is (perhaps) better in the hands of Africans than in European hands! The evidence is historical. The evidence is clear as water.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Even though you, Narmer Amenuti, myself, Nii Amu and not applicable (n.a.)share the same initials, I must admit you have a good point there!

  2. Narmer Amenuti you seem to suggest that technology is some how the preserve of the west. But even the Fufu pestle and the mortar are part of technology. So is the bow and arrow etc.

    I’m not sure I follow your point

    • I mean, the quest for more and more technology as to make the idea of robots a thing of the future.

      Also, the mortar and pestle is not technology in the sense that we know what technology entails. Technology is the required application of what is “Scientific discovery.” For instance, I argue that the Bomb is technology because it is borne out of scientific theory. The mortar and pestle is not technology exactly for this reason. One does not need a published “scientific theory” in order to invent a mortar and pestle.

      More, the term technology itself is anachronistic if it must be used to describe ancient tools like the cutlass. There’s some virtue, I think in calling ancient tools pieces of technology, but the various contexts must be appreciated.

    • Narmer Amenuti a pestle and mortar is technology in every sense of the word. Technology is simply the application of scientific knowledge in tools making, industry or systems. Using a pestle and mortar is far more efficient than using one’s leg to pound fufu. Using a bow and arrow is far more effective than using stones or face to face combat. That’s why I stated that you seem to suggest that technology is some western invention when in fact its part of EVERY society and has existed long before capitalism.

    • Narner will glide on the Atlantic Ocean on a piece of log back to Ghana because the technologies invented for flying in aircraft or sailing on a ship across the Atlantic ocean are bad for humanity.

    • Atiga. You are not wrong. Although what I am critiquing is a special case of scientific discovery and knowledge. I am critiquing (western) academic science as a paradigm. There’s no doubt that an Ibo man who has never stepped foot in an English Anglican Boarding School class can invent many things. He is not perhaps guided by such “scientific paradigms” that I critique. Perhaps I should properly refer to the now prevalent paradigm in science as scientism, rather than science. But then we lose the fact that what people now consider to be science (for example, ideas that there’s no biological difference between Blacks and whites and that race is only a social construction) should be critiqued accordingly. We will lose the ability to properly critique some of the ideas that certain paradigms in science, particularly western paradigms, assert.

      For instance, technology, is not the idea I am critiquing here. I am critiquing the ensuing paradigm that more and more technology is going to uplift everyone. That more and more technology will save the world. I think not. I think more and more technology will destroy the world. I bend on the historical evidence that more and more technology, especially machine and digital tenchology, unleashes more and more violence. Of course, one can disagree. It is a point of immense debate current in our world today. I don’t mean to debate whether a cutlass is technology or not.

  3. And Yaw Amponsah, how then is that “piece of log” upon which I could possibly glide back to Ghana, not technology?

    • Namer, do you consider logs advanced technology? Aircrafts and ships are advanced technologies for transportation.

    • No, I do not consider a piece of log an advanced “anything” in fact. All I am trying to show is that if a cutlass, if a bow and arrow, if mortar and pestle are all technologies, where would that definition end? How about buttons on the shirt? How about beads around the waist? How about sandals? How about chewing stick? How about spoons? How about panties? Are all these things to be regarded as technologies? This is why I bend towards specificity, as much as I can. I know one cannot adequately define every thing, but that does not mean we cannot try.

      The prevailing definition of technology, at least in academia, is that which is borne out of scientific theory. Theory making then is central to what one may refer to as technology. Of course, this doesn’t mean anything, except when we deal with the realities of today’s scientific discoveries and inventions. Anything else is outside the scope of this discussion. Let’s not encode and decode things that existed before the word “technology” was invented, or before it acquired a concrete sense even in academia.

      Hence, my point remains that one scientific paradigm (or group of western-styled theories) today is that more and more of this technology (that is borne out of theory making) will save the planet. I argue that it won’t. Rather, and this is my point, this technological ‘thing” has been destroying the planet ever since it was created during the industrial revolution! My evidence? The history of this thing called technology itself, i.e. from the industrial revolution till now. I make no assumptions about what was before, nor do I intend to call the mortar and pestle a piece of technology or not. I feel that discussion is anachronistic. It is outside the scope of definition. That’s all.

      Although I also understand the need to do it: to go backwards and label our inventions even in Africa as technologies as well. We can. Sure. I do not argue against that. Labeling old things a such renders my critique inadequate. I get it. Although what I am specifically attacking is a period in science, and a set of theories (a paradigm) set within that specific period. Nothing else. That’s all.

  4. Indeed there are two aspects to this; the process of technological discovery and application is scientific but it’s distribution and access occurs within and is dependent upon the socioeconomic context. Technology improvement of systems and processes for every day uses but its material and economic impact depends on the social heirarchies (and legal) norms established.

    From the onset of the industrial age to the present, in Western society (being a feudal society) the socioeconomic gains emanating from technological improvements in production processes have necessarily favored the feudal elites because the cultural norms and legal inhibitions of ownership of property and produce are greatly skewed in their favor.

    In the West it’s literally the feudal elites that became the banking elite and by controlling access to credit capital they are able to control ownership of all assets and by extension control technologies through legal instruments such as patents; and using patent claims they can inhibit the technological progress of other societies by claiming their technological advancement efforts “infringe” on their patents and as a result they have a right to claim economic benefits from third party technology breakthroughs or ultimately stop scientific discovery outside of their control.

    In short the Western feudal system has inevitably turned technology into just another form of capital renteering with Western elite trying to become the landlord over global technological processes consequently limiting the benefits of technological progress and access to the masses.

    Yet in China, which has witnessed a phenomenal rise in technological breakthroughs and rising standards of living, the socioeconomic structure is not fuedal but state oriented; and perhaps this to a significant extent explains its success in breaking through partly Western imposed technological barriers to chart a technological path of it’s own and reach hitherto unclaimed frontiers. Indeed the ensuing debacle around Huawei is a symptom of Western frustrations in the face of its failure to control and own Chinese technological progress…

    • Which is exactly the point. You raise interesting issues about the effects of cultural/social structures on the impact and even use of new technology. There’s indeed plenty to be said about the social structures of European cultural and political economies that have led to the wicked impact of technology on mankind and the planet. Thanks for sharing.

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