"Invention is the mother of necessities.”
- Marshall McLuhan
Questions We Ask Ourselves
Marshall McLuhan's saying, "Invention is the mother of necessities", is an example of wit. How
is it witty? What is the original saying? You need wit to think about technology, for wit
demands creative thinking. And once you start thinking creatively, you start to see the effect of
technology on us all. The usual saying is, "Necessity is the mother of invention." That makes
sense: right now, for example, the world may be running out of oil, and as a result, the necessity
of finding a new energy supply will lead to new inventions. Hence the necessity (need for
energy) is the mother of invention. But McLuhan says that invention itself can be the mother of
necessities: invention is the mother of necessities. He has a point. How can we live without
inventions like refrigerators, washing machines, cars, computers, much less jets, the Internet,
dams, electrical grids, cell phones etc? The answer is that we can't: these inventions have
become necessities. Technology in general is a necessity for us. Society as we know it cannot
exist without technology now. Once we see this effect in our lives, we are led to further
questions about the effect of technology on us all:
Have we moved too far away from nature with our inventions?
Do our technological inventions control our lives now?
Is technology changing human nature itself to something beyond "human"?
Are traditional societies doomed to extinction by the effect of technology on them?
Is technological artificiality becoming a fact of life in beauty, food, clothing, and
Is the modern corporation good or bad?
Why are there terrorists?
What future technologies will change the world even more?
Our attempts to answer such questions are what this course is about. The course will deal with
where technology came from, where it is now and where it... [continues]
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