Invention Is the Mother of Necessities

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Module 1 - Background
"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 even attitudes?

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 will lead us....
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