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IN BRIEF

Non Fiction

February 16, 1992|CHRIS GOODRICH

TECHNOPOLY by Neil Postman (Alfred A. Knopf: $21; 202 pp.). In G. B. Shaw's "The Doctor's Dilemma," one character remarks that "All professions are conspiracies against the laity." Social critic Neil Postman quotes that line in this book, but his evaluation is broader and deeper: "In 'Technopoly,' " he writes, "all experts are invested with the charisma of priestliness, but they worship not a moral god but one who values 'efficiency, precision, objectivity.' " Postman finds in modern culture a blind acceptance of the social changes brought about by technological advances, and though his analysis is on the mark, it suffers from a severe case of the rambles. Postman divides cultures into three types--tool-using cultures, technocracies and technopolies--with the last so dominated by the technological outlook that it "eliminates alternatives to itself," not through force or censure but by making them "invisible and therefore irrelevant." This "totalitarian technocracy" simply redefines reality--or at least our perception of reality--to suit the requirements of technology. Although Postman's ideas are interesting, they seem awfully familiar, especially since his analysis contains no significant new evidence: political polling, IQ tests, seas of data, over-reliance on machines and techniques. We've heard most of this before. "Technopoly" works better as a synthesis of recent thoughts on technology, but Postman is worth reading mostly for his easy, accessible style--one admirably suited, notably, for the sound-bite age.

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