J. David Bolter in Turing’s Man: Western Culture in the Computer Age distinguishes an epoch of tool use from one of machine use. It is useful to be reminded of such a distinction when the common discourse often conflates tools and machines. He moves from speculating about the ancients and their failure to adopt machines to a set of considerations about the imbrication of technology and world view.
[T]here was something in the world outlook of the ancients (perhaps the reliance on slavery) that kept them satisfied with traditional sources of power and did not compel them, like later Europeans, to seek to increase efficiency, invent new prime movers, and in general expand their control and domination of nature.
The result was a simple but elegant technology of the hand rather than of the machine. The ancient craftsman worked with tools that became extensions of his hands in the manipulation of his materials. There was no real mass production. Although a pottery shop in Athens might employ seventy men who worked from specified designs, each thrown pot carried to some extent the impress of the hand that made it. Also, all technical discoveries were the product of clever observation and innovation without a theoretical basis, for the relationship between science and technology, so much a part of our own industrial society, did not exist.
And one wonders what power sources will emerge in the transition to a networked culture. No telling from which quarter elegance might flow.
And so for day 726