03 Aug

Question Concerning Technology

In Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology, he makes the distinction between instrumental technology and techne.  The current concept of technology is anthropological or instrumental, in that it is a means to an end, it accomplishes something.  That, according to Heidegger, will get us nowhere. 

So long as we represent technology as an instrument, we remain transfixed in the will to master it (337).

This will to master technology is specific to previous forms of technology wherein there was more of a relationship between the technology and the element it mastered.  For instance, a wind turbine had a direct relationship to wind.  With modern technology, we abstract the physicality and process of wind and produce machines that can master it, thus creating a standing-reserve.  We transform the objects in the world into a standing-reserve, to possibly be used in the future.  He suggests that we also become part of the standing-reserve.

After re-reading this essay, it occured to me that he is describing quite well the way in which we willingly give ourselves over to the standing-reserve of the network to be used for this purpose or that.  Modern technology illiminates objectness for the sake of the standing-reserve. 

This danger attests itself to us in two ways.  As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing reserve, then he comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall; that is, he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve” (332).

So, man orders things.  Man puts files into place and spends his time searching for them.  Is this not the majority of what takes place within networks?  But, what is distinct about contemporary digital technology is the sense of freedom that corresponds with the standing-reserve.  Is it possible that agency is revealed in the standing-reserve?

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