The above links demonstrate a basic navigational structure for this course.

The links below are the weekly focus topics of this class.





History of Technology

"Mindless" is a book to read and use analytically in writing for the History of Technology class.


"a surreal world of digital control in which the human element is in eclipse"


Précis: Because smarter electronic systems used in our contemporary automated machinery works so well, there is substantial evidence for a growing fear that people are both unaware and ignorant to the point of being deeply dumber about the forces of ubiquitous information technology altering work, income, the global economy, and society.

author | contents | themes | vocabulary | sources

Simon Head

The author "describes the insidious effects of combining scientific management with IT [information technology] systems and its propensity to create a world of top-down control . . . "

Lord Robert Sidelsky

Mercantile failure to recreate and distribute wealth fairly in a digitally automated economy.


Toward a New Industrial State.

      1. Inside the Belly of the Beast
      2. Walmart and Amazon
      3. A Future for the Middle Class?
      4. Managing the Human Resource
      5. The Case of Goldman Sachs
      6. Emotional Labor
      7. The Military Half
      8. The Nuclear Half
      9. The Chinese Model
      10. Any Way Out?


What Simon Head says:

"Both in the United States and in Britain a contrarian indicator of this growing industrialization of the service economy is the rapid growth of the concierge economy, in which very high-income consumers use their financial muscle to escape reliance on the defective, mass-produced services available to middle and lower-income consumers."

p. 122.

"In the new machine age, the working class can be all of us."

p. 5.

Far from being an extremist, Simon Head has some contemporary critics who share his fears. See for example:

"We can arrange our lives to stoke our curiosity or quash it." says Ian Leslie, author of Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends upon it.

"our privileged data exposes attitudes that most people would never cop to in public, . . . " Christian Rudder writes in Dataclysm: Who we are (When we think no one is looking).

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel J. Levitin a neuroscientist argues that "technology is changing many of out time-honored traditions for keeping an orderly mind," according to reviewer Clara Moskowitz.

Moskowitz writes in August, 2014, "how our increasing dependence on mobile devices, social media and the online world is changing the way we think and feel."

Scientific American, August 2014, p. 78.
author | contents | themes | vocabulary | sources


Does any of this remind you of Postman's story of Thamus or Pursell's arguments?


Toward a New Industrial State

"Although inequality of income and wealth in America has been growing steadily for the past forty years, it was with the Wall Street crash of 2007-2008 that this disparity took on lurid, visible form with the contrasting fortunes of winners and losers."

p. 1.

"unprecedented since the pre-1914 Gilded Age. . . ."

p. 2.

". . . the role of information technology (IT) as a driver of this inequality."

p. 3.

"By making us dumber, smart machines also diminish our earning power."

"There now exist in the US economy of the new century these very powerful agents of industrialization, known as Computer Business Systems (CBSs), that bring the disciplines of industrialism to an economic space that extends far beyond factories and construction sites of the industrial economy of the machine age: to wholesale and retail, financial services, secondary and higher education, health care,. . . corporate management at all levels save the highest, and even the fighting of America's wars."

p. 3.

"Typically the introduction of CBSs costs large corporations hundreds of millions of dollars, and their full implementation can take years to achieve. In the early 2000s, Cisco Systems budgeted $200 million to be spent over three years for its CBS upgrade."

p. 4.
author | contents | themes | vocabulary | sources


"In this chapter we will rely on the CBS product manuals to travel as far as we can into their esoteric world. The obscurity of CBSs their complexity, and their visual poverty elevate the importance of these manuals as sources about what they do and how they work."

"It comes from the texts of the IT corporations that make and market the systems themselves." [IBM, Oracle, SAP, Cheer AG] "written by engineers for engineers."

pp. 15-16.


"These primary sources describe a surreal world of digital control in which the human element is in eclipse as just another factor of production. There is a need now to drill down and to restore the human by looking at how systems work in the context of specific industries and workplaces."

p. 29.


"These Amazon and Walmart histories are prime examples of how in the early twenty-first century, state-of-the-art information technologies can be used to recreate the harsh, driven capitalism of the pre-New Deal era. With their reliance on tens of thousands of workers to shift goods to stores and warehouses, the two corporations depend heavily on a steady supply of unskilled labor very much in the manner of early-twentieth-century industrial sweatshops."

p. 47.


"Whatever stresses CBSs may inflict upon the workforces subject to their disciplines . . . CBSs have a natural habitat within which they can often be relied upon to yield strong productivity."

p. 63.


"In the financial crisis of 2007-2008, CBSs performed on a much bigger scale than any we have encountered so far. The scope and impact of the systems extended beyond the corporate and national to the global, and the damage inflicted was correspondingly great."

"Highly complex IT systems."

"The Wall Street machine relied on information technologies to create a virtual assembly line on which something as a single subprime mortgage at the start of the line could become by the time it reached the end a molecule within a financial derivative so complex that it was beyond the powers of the IT systems themselves to manage or keep track of."

p. 79.
author | contents | themes | vocabulary | sources


Emotional Labor

"All the Variants of Computer Business Systems [CBSs] looked at so far have had information technology as their component: IT fused with machines and manufacturing, IT fused with computers as machines in services."

p. 103.

"This is the commercialization of feeling that Hochschild refers to in her book title."

". . .customer relations in its entirety. Hochschild defines their labor as one that 'requires [the employee] to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain an outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others.' . . . employees subject to emotional labor must promote the feel-good factor among their customers."

p. 104.

"It is a war of smiles."

p. 106.

"Here the Scandinavian economies demonstrate the practical value in a service economy. Equality has an economic and social dimension, providing employees with the dignity, confidence and skill to provide good service for all, irrespective of income and rank."

p. 126.


"Computer Business Systems [CBSs] have a history going back at least seventy years to the Second World War, and the length and depth of this history have been powerful forces in shaping today's systems."

1958 – "Leavitt and Whisler are credited with the first ever use of the term information technology, and this alone give their piece remarkable status."

p. 129.
author | contents | themes | vocabulary | sources


"The two problematic histories are included because the civilian CBS project itself, conceived as a ninth case history of management giantism, contains strong elements of folly and error, threatening our economic and social well-being. It might therefore be wise to review at least one of these dysfunctional histories so as to fortify ourselves against allowing the civilian designers of CBS to commit similar errors now."

p. 147.

"How could this have happened – how could theories that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe described as 'crazy' have become by the end of the 197os the received wisdom of much of the US civilian and military leadership and a dominant influence on their polict making?"

"the closed world system of thought" Paul Edwards

p. 152.

"a reliance on advanced information systems to simulate the consequences of a nuclear exchange"

"second a reliance on game theory"

"third, the evoking of a continuing fear . . ."

"fourth, the avoidance of any detailed discussion of the real-world effects of large-scale nuclear exchanges"

p. 153.

"no match for the proaganda and pseudoscientism of the ultras" [advocates of nuclear war gaming and "preparedness."]



". . . OECD forecast that before the end of 2016, China would overtake the United States as the world's largest economy. This would perhaps be the most significant reshaping of the global balance of power since the eclipse of Europe . . .in the aftermath of World War II."

p. 165.


""The 'closed world' is a state of mind and a way of thinking that straddles the military and civilian worlds of CBSs, bringing a dehumanized rationality to the workings of the civilian economy."

"This is what 'dumbing-down' means in the early twenty-first century."

p. 185.

"The central principle of Scientific Management has been and remains the separation of the detailed planning of work from its execution – the definition of the practice . . . "

p. 186.

"With the assembly line, the machine shop, and the Amazon fulfillment center, the disciplines of Scientific Management link two parties –on one side the expert engineers who as scientific managers determine exactly ho shop floor routines should be performed and on the other front-line work shop floor follow orders."

". . . the infinite richness and diversity of human life itself."

p. 187.

"the vandalism of the CBS worl knows no limits, and thereis no corner of our lives that is beyond the reach of the process."

p. 189.

where does the locus of wisdom & experience reside?

. . . "ignoring the wisdom of Henry Ford when he introduced the five-dollar day at his Detroit plants in 1914."

p. 190.

"The role of the products of these hipsters created was to repress the very qualities that underwrote their own success."

p. 191.

"Yet it would be delusional to think that in the United States, the domain of these alternative work cultures will expand spontaneously by virtue of their ethical strengths and their proven record. . . . They come up against the hard armor of corporate power . . . .

p. 192.

"Yet it would be delusional to think that in the United States, the domain of these alternative work cultures will expand spontaneously by virtue of their ethical strengths and their proven record of success in the market place. They come up against the hard armor of corporate power. . . ."


" a clear majority of Americans are losing out in today's economy,"

"CBSs are by comparison invisible, and they benefit from this obscurity. This needs to end . . . "

p. 193

"settling once and for all who the American worker's chief enemies really are."

p. 194.

"With its failure to reward a majority of Americans, the economy's present course is unsustainable, and as this becomes more and more apparent, volatility will spill over to the public debate and open it up."

p. 193.

"the . . . False consciousness of modern times."

p. 194.
author | contents | themes | vocabulary | sources


The Words to know and use.

information the sequence and arrangement of facts or data as conveyed.

technology the principle focus of this history course as a study of systems and systemic applications of tools to achieve some desired purpose.

techniques accepted ways of performing, effective behavior when using tools.

Technopoly the title of Neil Postman's book , a portmanteau word created by fusing the words: technology + monopoly, to get technopoly.

See – an historical outline of information technology.

CBSs, computer business systems, "being pushed by business academics, especially the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT], management consultants, . . . and IT companies. . . for their efficiency"

"the semidiscovered black holes of the contemporary economy." p. 3.
"But they have also been known as enterprise systems and by several other names. . . " p. 4.

précis is a summary or abstract of a text or speech. A rhetorical device to make a briefer statement about a longer subject. See: Oregon State University.

primary sources, Terms taken from the study of history these refer to any documents that were original to the period and or persons about whom a study or analysis is being conducted. Primary in the sense as produced by the "first person" concerning the material used as evidence.


information technology coined in 1958, the phrase refers to computer assisted or computer infused and often networked electronic systems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines these occupations as ubiquitous in business because "Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization." The "ABOUT.COM site" defines the term as: "In actuality, information technology is the use of computers and software to manage information."


scientific management, A phrase initially taken by Frederick Winslow Taylor for the title of his influential book and founder of "Taylorism" an approach to management that spread due to the book's widespread adoption from 1890 through 1929, until Alfred Sloan argued for a divergent approach based on social psychology and case studies of how an authentic business operates. The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911.


emotions defined in Philosophy 101 at Sonoma State University as "An affective state of consciousness, often accompanied by physiological changes, " such as stress hormone release, or suppression of dopamine in the brain. Emotions are usually distinguished from cognitive and behavioral states of conscious reactions to or response to stimuli.
In 1983, social psychologist A. R. Hochschild studied flight attendants' and bill collectors' behaviors when engaging in salaried work. She wrote "In private life, we try to induce or suppress love, envy, and anger through deep acting or "emotion work," just as we manage our outer expressions of feeling through surface acting." See: The Managed Heart.

author | contents | themes | vocabulary | sources



Head, Simon. Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans. New York: Basic Books, 2014.
Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, 1983.
Taylor, Frederick Winslow. The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911.
Scientific American, August 2014, p. 78.

Best information @ the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or the BLS:


Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper Bros., 1911. pp. 5-29.
The Two Cultures
Pursell | Pacey–World | Postman | Tenner |Pacey–meaning| Eberhart | Snow | Kaku | Boulding | Delillo | Kranzberg
Pacey on Meaning | Pursell | Head | Technology defined | Dimensions of Technology | Chronology