Theodore Roszak, Digital Humanist


theodore roszak criticizes “the electronic stitchery of a cultural crazy quilt,” 1972.

Objective knowing gives a new assembly line system of knowledge, one which relieves us of the necessity to integrate what we study into a moral or metaphysical context which will contribute existential value. We no longer waste valuable research time and energy seeking for wisdom or depth, since these are qualities of the person. We are free to become specialists, and then, as impersonal researchers, we need only worry about being well informed (in our field), well bibliographied (in our field), and correct (in our field). By way of such microscopic professionalism, knowledge is indeed heaped up enormously on all sides, until at last we begin to worry that there will not be libraries or data-retrieval systems capacious enough to contain the abundance.

…Finally, we begin to resemble the sad hero in Ionesco’s play The New Tenant, overwhelmed and immobilized by a mountainous conglomeration of intellectual furniture. So it becomes our desperate project to program this slag heap of data points into the computers. The machines will know it all! The idea that culture is an adventure of the human spirit, to be carried out in fellowship for the good of our souls, vanishes from sight. “Thinking machines” (or at least “memory tapes”) which merely counterfeit the formal surface of a real idea (but never feel its depth or rich ambiguity, never sense its personal resonance) become the electronic stitchery of a cultural crazy quilt. And the thinking machines, of course, will be owned, programmed, and employed by the technocracy. They will not be our servants.

— Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society, 1972

Bugs Roszak

Theodore Roszak, Bugs: A Novel of Terror in the Computer Age (1981)

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