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Never mind where, as long as it's fast: Jacques Ellul and La Technique



French philosopher Jacques Ellul (1912–1994) wrote almost 60 books and many hundreds of articles. He was one of the first to argue that technology is the decisive factor that determined the character of Western society in the 20th century. In his first book on the subject, La Technique (‘The Technological Society’), which went largely neglected by the general public, he described how technology had become autonomous, growing beyond our control to wield decisive influence over human society and behaviour. In a provocative article he even insisted that Hitler had in fact won the war, as unlimited technical thinking, guided almost exclusively by considerations of efficiency and goal-directed rationality, now holds sway almost universally, at the expense of other values which may have guided human action. In technological society, all forms of human activity, whether personal behavior or organised social and economic activity, have become fundamentally adaptive to this dominant logic. For this reason, Ellul preferred the term ‘technique’ to ‘technology’, indicating by it not a particular machine or procedure but rather ‘the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency… in every field of human activity.’ He argued that technology has become an environment: the technological milieu – our technotope – is not only the place where we live, but it also makes living possible and forces change; it obliges us to transform who we are because of the problems arising from the milieu itself.
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portrait of Ellul A
Jacques Ellul, ©Rerun
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Jacques Ellul and La Technique
Jan van Boeckel
French philosopher Jacques Ellul (–) wrote almost 
books and many hundreds of articles. He was one of the rst to
argue that technology is the decisive factor that determined the
character of Western society in the th century. In his rst book
on the subject, La Technique (‘The Technological Society’), which
went largely neglected by the general public, he described how
technology had become autonomous, growing beyond our control
to wield decisive inuence over human society and behaviour. In a
provocative article he even insisted that Hitler had in fact won the
war, as unlimited technical thinking, guided almost exclusively by
considerations of efciency and goal-directed rationality, now
holds sway almost universally, at the expense of other values which
may have guided human action. In technological society, all forms
of human activity, whether personal behavior or organised social
and economic activity, have become fundamentally adaptive to this
dominant logic.
For this reason, Ellul preferred the term ‘technique’ to ‘technol-
ogy’, indicating by it not a particular machine or procedure but
rather ‘the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having
absolute efciency… in every eld of human activity.
He argued that technology has become an environment: the tech-
nological milieu – our technotope – is not only the place where we
live, but it also makes living possible and forces change; it obliges
us to transform who we are because of the problems arising from
the milieu itself.
A, : Ivan Illich sighs. ‘I never watch lms; the im-
ages just keep haunting me.’ Some weeks earlier we had sent him a
copy of our documentary on French philosopher Jacques Ellul, his
great friend and teacher, who had died in . Six months before,
in , Illich had travelled to Bordeaux (a city where Ellul once
served as deputy mayor), to give an address in his honour, express-
ing his gratitude to ‘a master to whom I owe an orientation that has
decisively affected my pilgrimage for  years.’
We were two young Dutch lm-makers who had been hoping
that, when Illich saw the lm, he would be more inclined to accept
our request to make a documentary portrait of him as well. ‘Did
you receive our lm on Jacques Ellul?’ we ask. ‘Yes, yes, and I am
very thankful for it; I immediately forwarded it to friends in
Santiago de Chile and I am sure that they will make great use of it!’
‘But did you like it?’ we press, assuming the Austrian philosopher
and theologian would be eager to see one of the very few documen-
taries that has ever been made about his close friend. And then
there is the revelation: I never watch lms. Illich was in no way
interested in developing an active working relation with modern
An hour or so earlier he had given his presentation at the Doors
of Perception conference on the theme of ‘speed’. When he entered
the stage, no-one in the audience could fail to see the tumour about
the size and shape of a small head of cauliower on the right side
of his face. From the very start, it was clear which perspective he
would pursue. He opened his talk this way: ‘From the tone of those
lectures I have heard so far, it is obvious that I am addressing
people imprisoned in the age of speed.’
The author of Medical Nemesis () told us that his doctors
had advised him in the strongest possible terms that the tumour
needed to be removed if he was to survive. But he refused to have
the operation, in accordance with his critique of professionalised
medicine. He had waged a bet with the physician concerned; every
year that he was still alive, he would get a bottle of wine. By that
time, he had collected twelve or so.
Illich was the one who pointed out that, at most schools, teach-
ing is confused with learning (Deschooling Society, ), who
stated in  that the real speed of cars is just .mph, if you
factor in all the social and economic costs (Energy and Equity). (In
countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to
achieve the same, he would add triumphantly, walking wherever
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they want to go.) And in Silence is a Commons (), he would
articulate his view that computers are doing to communication
what fences did to pastures and cars did to streets.
As Illich acknowledged in his Bordeaux address of , Ellul
helped him grasp how technique (Ellul’s more precise term for
technology) has become the determining factor in our society:
‘More and more, people live their lives as in a nightmare: They feel
themselves ensnared in unspeakable horrors, with no means to
wake up to the light of hope. As in certain nightmares, the terror
transcends the expressible. Ellul’s recognition of the established
status of globalising technique allowed him to foresee in the s
what today is palpable but now irremediable.’ The concept of la
technique entered Illich’s awareness in  in California, when
John Wilkinson – who, following the strong recommendation of
Aldous Huxley, had just translated the book – gave him a copy of
Ellul’s  work The Technological Society. Since then, Illich said,
the questions raised by the concept of la technique had constantly
reoriented his own examination of our relation to objects and to
others. It permitted him to identify – in education, transport and in
modern medical and scientic activities – ‘the threshold at which
these projects absorb, conceptually and physically, the client into
the tool; the threshold where the products of consumption change
into things which themselves consume; the threshold where the
milieu of technique transforms into numbers those who are en-
trapped in it; the threshold where technology is decisively trans-
formed into the system.’
For Illich, Jacques Ellul was one of a select few modern thinkers
who understood that the place of the sacred is now occupied not by
this or that artefact, but by la technique, the black box we worship.
He declared in his lecture that it would be rational in today’s world
to prioritise examining the effects of la technique on one’s own
esh and senses before looking at current and future damages to
the environment:
Existence in a society that has become a system nds the
senses useless precisely because of the very instruments
designed for their extension. One is prevented from touching
and embracing reality. Further, one is programmed for inter-
active communication; one’s whole being is sucked into the
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This excerpt, and all
others presented here
in boxes, are from the
lm The Betrayal by
system. It is this radical subversion of sensation that humili-
ates and then replaces perception. We submit ourselves to
fantastic degradations of image and sound consumption in
order to anaesthetise the pain resulting from having lost
Technology will not tolerate any judgment being passed on it. Or rather:
technologists do not easily tolerate people expressing an ethical or
moral judgment on what they do. But the expression of ethical, moral
and spiritual judgments is actually the highest freedom of mankind. So I
am robbed of my highest freedom. Whatever I say about technology
and the technologists themselves is of no importance to them. It won’t
deter them from what they are doing. They are now set in their course.
They are so conditioned. For a technologist is not free. He is condi-
tioned. By his training, by his experiences and by the objective which he
must reach. He is not free in the execution of his task. He does what
technology demands of him. That’s why I think freedom and technology
contradict one another.
City dwellers live in a completely dead environment. Cities consist of
brick, cement, concrete and so on. People cannot be happy in such an
environment. So they suffer psychological problems. Mainly as a result
of their social climate but also as a result of the speed at which they
are forced to live. Yet man is specifically suited for living amidst nature.
So man becomes mentally ill. And for the relief of those psychological
illnesses there is human technology, just as there is medical technology.
But human technology must enable man to live in an unnatural environ-
ment. As in the case of deep sea diving. Divers have a deep sea diving
suit and oxygen cylinders in order to survive in an abnormal environ-
ment. Human technology is just like that.
A, : Godfrey Reggio has just shown parts of the
two rst lms – Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi (Hopi Indian words
for ‘life out of balance’ and ‘life in transformation’) – of his trilogy
on how humans turn the earth from a biotope into a technotope
(Ellul’s term). The title of this seminar is ‘The End of Nature’; a
choir sings the Hopi Prophecies in the lm: ‘If we dig precious
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things from the land, we invite disaster; near the Day of
Purication, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky;
a container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which
could burn the land and boil the oceans.’
When we saw the lm, we had just been travelling for six months
through the United States, occasionally doing voluntary work on
Native American reservations across the country. We had also
visited the Hopi Nation, and like Reggio, had tried to secure per-
mission to make a lm on their prophetic warnings to the modern
world. The Hopi elders had advised Reggio to make a lm about
his own world, rather than to lm the Hopi people. Through that,
he could show in the ‘language of the Western world’ what the core
of the Hopi message was. We had tried doing something similar,
though on a much more modest scale. The result was The Earth is
Crying, in which four Native Americans – Leslie Silko, Bill
Wahpehah, John Graham and Floyd Westerman – come to discover
our European shores, ve centuries after Columbus. On their jour-
ney through The Netherlands, they visit a nuclear power station, an
anthropological museum, a zoo and a peace camp and share their
impressions of our way of life.
At the very, very end of Reggio’s screening, when most other
people had already left the cinema, he explicitly thanked Jacques
Ellul and Ivan Illich (together with Hopi elder David Monongye,
Guy Debord and Leopold Kohr) for their inspiration and ideas.
When we came to interview him, he told how, each time he would
commence working on a part of his Qatsi trilogy, he would start by
travelling to Bordeaux to seek advice from Jacques Ellul. Sometime
earlier in the conversation, we had told Reggio of our own lm-
making activities. Suddenly, he turns sharply in his chair. ‘Ellul is
becoming old. It is very important that a documentary be made on
him soon. My hands are full with the directing of the nal part of
the trilogy [Naqoyqatsi, or ‘life as war’, JvB]. Why don’t you make
that lm on Ellul? I can recommend you to him – you can always
B, : With colleague lm-makers Pat van Boeckel,
Frits Steinmann and Karin van der Molen, I have come to southern
France for a week to interview Ellul in his mansion, in sessions of
      219
a few hours each day. Ellul carefully takes the time he needs to
respond to our questions, sometimes reading from pre-prepared
notes on a small piece of paper. For Ellul, technique not only
includes merely machines and other technical devices but the whole
complex of rationally ordered methods for making any human
activity more efcient. In his view, this whole complex has grown
into a system that has outgrown human control, even if we are able
to govern individual technologies. It threatens human freedom and
responsibility and it suppresses the conditions under which a
solution to this predicament would seem possible. Ellul holds that
every technical innovation that is implemented to solve a prior
problem creates, in its turn, secondary problems that worsen the
problem they were intended to resolve.
Ellul recalled that when his rst book on technology came out in
, people did not read the warning. The book found its way
onto library shelves and among the quiet studies of slightly out-
dated intellectuals. It was different across the Atlantic: ‘The only
ones to take it seriously belonged to a society in which it was
already too late to do anything – the USA. There both intellectuals
and the public at large seized on my book because it described ex-
actly what they were already experimenting with and experiencing
In France people dismissed my expositions as the reveries of a
solitary walker who prefers the country to the town.’
In a society such as ours, it is almost impossible for a person to be
responsible. A simple example: a dam has been built somewhere, and it
bursts. Who is responsible for that? Geologists worked it out. They ex-
amined the terrain. Engineers drew up the construction plans. Workmen
constructed it. And the politicians decided that the dam had to be in
that spot. Who is responsible? No-one. There is never anyone responsi-
ble. Anywhere. In the whole of our technological society the work is so
fragmented and broken up into small pieces that no-one is responsible.
But no-one is free either. Everyone has his own, specific task. And that’s
all he has to do.
In the foreword to The Technological Society, Ellul provides what
he calls an ‘extrapolation’ that ‘never represents more than a prob-
ability, and may be proved false by events The reader must al-
ways keep in mind the implicit presupposition that if man does not
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pull himself together and assert himself (or if some other unpre-
dictable but decisive phenomenon does not intervene), then things
will go the way I describe.’
According to Ellul, the crisis that we are facing in our times
entails the transition, not from one form of society and power to
another, but to a new environment, the technological environment.
In his view, the present change of environment is much more
fundamental than anything that humans have experienced for the
last ve thousand years. Ellul points at the problem of ‘denaturali-
What is now so awful in our society is that technology has destroyed
everything which people ever considered sacred. For example, nature.
People have voluntarily moved to an acceptance of technology as
something sacred. That is really awful. In the past, the sacred things
always derived from nature. Currently, nature has been completely
desecrated and we consider technology as something sacred. Think, for
example, of the fuss whenever a demonstration is held. Everyone is then
always very shocked if a car is set on fire. For then a sacred object is
Living in today’s world, we are out of direct contact with the
realities of earth and water. Instead we deal with the reality of tech-
nical objects and instruments that more and more constitute our
environment. The process of denaturalisation is so overwhelming
and complete that our contact with the natural elements is almost
exclusively mediated by techniques, or by what Ellul calls the tech-
nological system. The relationship between nature and the articial
has been reversed, has been thrown into disorder, and we have to
situate ourselves in relationship to this, what he calls ‘unbelievable
reversal’. Here is how he describes the rupture in The Technological
Bluff ():
Regarding technical objects, there is no true symbolising in
the primary sense anymore. What we have now is the cre-
ation of a ctional world in which our religious sense incar-
nates itself. Objects like televisions, computers, bikes and
rockets acquire a fabulous dimension by reason of the sense
of their power, their ubiquity, their domination, the unlim-
      221
ited access that they give, their secret, which remains strange
to us, and the sacred awe that we experience face to face with
nuclear ssion. This complex is typically religious. The reli-
gious and the sacred that we have chased out of nature are
now transferred to objects. Be it noted that the transfer is not
quite the same. We originally related our religious feelings to
our natural environment. The tree, the fountain, the wind,
the animal were the focus. We invested them with a formida-
ble greatness and they became sacred. But the things that
compose our human environment now play this role. We
ourselves have not changed. We still relate our sense of the
sacred to what constitutes our environment. We adore and
use with joy and fear that which forms our environment,
making sacrice to it. It is the environment that has changed.
But how far we are from the famous Entzauberung der Welt.
There isn’t any ‘disenchantment of the world’. It is simply
that the world we now know bears no relation to the human
world which up to half a century ago seemed to be eternal.
But what does matter is that pessimism in a society such as ours can only
lead to suicide. That’s why you must be optimistic. You must spend your
holiday in Disneyland. Then you are a real optimist. With all that you see
there, you no longer have to think about anything else. In other words,
those who accuse me of pessimism are in fact saying to me: ‘You prevent
people from being able to sleep peacefully. So if you let everything take
its course, you never interfere, and you just go to sleep peacefully, all will
end well.’ I would certainly not want my words to be too pessimistic and
too inaccessible. And I would like to explain that people are still people
a bit – notice, I say: a bit – and they still have human needs; and they can
still feel love and pity, and feelings of friendship.
It is easy to discard Ellul’s warnings as coming from a blatant pes-
simist or fatalist. When we ask him what he thinks of that charge,
he says that he doesn’t regard himself as such. He makes the com-
parison with a physician who has diagnosed a patient’s illness. ‘If
he tells him the truth, for example that the person concerned has a
life-threatening disease, would you then call him a pessimist? Or
would you call him a realist?’
There is yet another level to this, though. Ellul was fond of mak-
  ·  222
ing the analogy that his work was like the two parallel rails of a
train track: one rail was theological, the other sociological. No
train can ride on only one rail. Similarly, his  titles should be seen
as a coherent whole. For every sociological (or, we would say,
philosophical) work Ellul wrote, he wrote a theological counter-
part to it. The theological books sound a tone very different from
the dire warnings of his sociological books. Here the message is
more one of freedom, responsibility and hope. For Ellul, these were
the forces that could countervail against the rigidity of technique
that was forging an autonomous system, from which any meaning-
ful human intervention was excluded.
Ellul grew up in poverty. In the writings of Marx, he found a tool
both to analyse society and to understand why his father was
sitting at home, unemployed. From the beginning of his academic
career, Ellul had great respect for the way in which Marx had
analysed developments in the th century. On reection, however,
he came to the conclusion that Marx’s interpretation was inade-
quate for understanding modern society. Where was the liberation
through technology he had predicted? The much-needed transfor-
mation of the world was obviously more complex than he could
have foreseen in his time. Ellul asked himself: if Marx had lived in
, what would he have seen as the fundamental element of so-
ciety, what would he have chosen as the basis for his study? In the
th century, the economy was the decisive factor, but in Ellul’s
time, it was no longer the economy, but technique. And so he began
to study the phenomenon of technique just as Marx had studied
capitalism a century earlier. Ellul did not consider himself a
Marxist; in politics he was most attracted to anarchism. Given
these political leanings, it comes as a surprise to many that he
nevertheless saw himself rst and foremost as a Christian.
In a long interview with Patrick Troude-Chastenet that has been
published as a book, Ellul tells of his conversion to Christianity. It
was a completely overwhelming – in his own words even violent –
experience. It happened when he was , during the summer
holidays. Ellul was staying with friends not far from Bordeaux.
He was alone in a house in Blanquefort, translating Faust, when
suddenly he felt himself in the presence of ‘something so astound-
ing, so overwhelming that entered me to the very centre of my
being.’ No words were uttered. He saw nothing. But the presence
was unbelievably strong: ‘I knew with every nerve in my body that
I was in the presence of God.’ The young Ellul was so moved that
      223
he left the room in a stunned state. In the courtyard he found a bi-
cycle that was lying around. Ellul jumped on it and ed. He covered
dozens of kilometres, he cannot recall how many. He quickly
realised that he had experienced a conversion. At no point did he
have the idea that his senses were playing tricks on him. He was in
excellent shape both physically and psychologically. It was not a
beautiful illumination and it did not involve fear. He was stunned:
‘Meeting God had brought a complete change in my whole being.
To begin with this meant a re-ordering of my ideas. I would have to
think differently now that God was near me.’
I know many people who like watching commercials because they’re so
funny. They provide relaxation and diversion. People come home after a
day’s work, from which they derive little satisfaction, and feel the need
for diversion and amusement. The word diversion itself is already very
significant. When Pascal uses the word diversion he means that people
who follow the path of God deviate from the path which leads them to
God as a result of diversion and amusement. Instead of thinking of God,
they amuse themselves. So, instead of thinking about the problems
which have been created by technology and our work we want to amuse
ourselves. And that amusement is supplied to us by means of technol-
ogy. But by means of technology which derives from human technology.
For example, in a work situation people are offered the diversion which
must serve as compensation.
L, M, : Theodore Kaczynski – also known as
the Unabomber – is arrested in his cabin near for murdering three
people and injuring . In total,  bombs were attributed to him.
One of his bombs was set on a Boeing  airliner, but the detonat-
ing system was faulty causing the pilot to make an emergency land-
ing. Kaczynski also sent out several deadly mail bombs to a variety
of people, including a computer store owner, a computer science
professor and a PR agent for Exxon Valdez.
In , he announced that he would put an end to his bombings
if his manifesto, ‘Industrial Society and its Future’, would be
published in major newspapers. Yielding to pressure by the Federal
  ·  224
Bureau of Investigation, the text was eventually published in The
New York Times and The Washington Post. Family of Kaczynski
recognised his writing and their tip-off eventually led to his arrest
in a small cabin in the woods.
The question now is whether people are prepared or not to realise that
they are dominated by technology. And to realise that technology
oppresses them, forces them to undertake certain obligations and con-
ditions them. Their freedom begins when they become conscious of
these things. For when we become conscious of that which determines
our life we attain the highest degree of freedom. I must make sure that I
can analyse it, just as I can analyse a stone or any other object, that I can
analyse it and fathom it from all angles. As soon as I can break down this
whole technological system into its smallest components my freedom
begins. But I also know that, at the same time, I’m dominated by tech-
nology. So I don’t say, ‘I’m so strong that technology has no hold on me.’
Of course technology has a hold on me. I know that very well. Just
take … a telephone, for example, which I use all the time. I’m continually
benefiting from technology.
Some parts of the manifesto are strikingly reminiscent of Ellul’s
views. Take this one:
most individuals are unable to inuence measurably the
major decisions that affect their lives. There is no conceivable
way to remedy this in a technologically advanced society.
The system tries to ‘solve’ this problem by using propaganda
to make people want the decisions that have been made for
them, but even if this ‘solution’ were completely successful in
making people feel better, it would be demeaning.
Or this:
The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human
needs. Instead, it is human behaviour that has to be modied
to t the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the
political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the
technological system. It is not the fault of capitalism and it is
not the fault of socialism. It is the fault of technology, be-
      225
cause the system is guided not by ideology but by technical
Throughout the -year search for the identity of the Unabomber,
the FBI compiled very little concrete information about the perpe-
trator. But they had come to the same conclusion: the Unabomber
was a neo-Luddite, and, at that, one who was very familiar with the
writings of the French philosopher Jacques Ellul. The Unabomber
used an uncommon amount of Ellul’s vocabulary.
The media era is also the era of loneliness. That’s a very important fact.
We can also see that in the young. In 1953 you had the so-called ‘rebels
without a cause’. Students who revolted in Stockholm. That was the first
revolt of the young rebels without a cause. They had everything. They
were happy. They lived in a nice society. They lacked nothing. And
suddenly, on New Year’s Eve, they took to the streets and destroyed
everything. No one could understand it. But they needed something
different from consumption and technology. If people lose their motive
for living, two things can happen. It only seldom happens that they can
accept that fact. In that case, they develop suicidal tendencies. Either
they try to find refuge in diversion. We’ve already discussed this. Or they
become depressed and begin swallowing medicines. So if people
become aware of their situation they react to it in ways of what usually
happens in Western society: they become depressed and discouraged.
So they just don’t think about their situation and simply carry on. They
drive faster and faster. Never mind where, as long as it’s fast.
In a pre-trial interview, Kaczynski acknowledged Ellul’s immense
inuence on his thinking, along with his reverence for the philoso-
pher. Somewhere early in the s, after he had moved to
Montana, Kaczynski read The Technological Society. He was
greatly enthused by his reading of it, considering it a masterpiece:
‘I thought, look, this guy is saying things I have been wanting to say
all along.’ When the FBI searched his cabin, they discovered a small
but impressive library containing several books by Ellul. It is
perhaps signicant, however, that none of Ellul’s theological works
were found; only his philosophical and sociological work concern-
ing technology.
  ·  226
Because of our technology, we now have a world in which the situation
of mankind has totally changed. What I mean by that is: mankind in the
technological world is prepared to give up his independence in ex-
change for all kinds of facilities and in exchange for consumer products
and a certain security. In short, in exchange for a package of welfare pro-
visions offered to him by society. As I was thinking about that, I couldn’t
help recalling the story in the Bible about Esau and the lentil broth. Esau,
who is hungry, is prepared to give up the blessings and promise of God
in exchange for some lentil broth. In the same way, modern people are
prepared to give up their independence in exchange for some techno-
logical lentils. The point is simply that Esau made an extremely
unfavourable exchange and that the person who gives up his position of
independence lets himself be badly duped too, by the technological
society. It boils down to the fact that he gives up his independence in
exchange for a number of lies. He doesn’t realise that he is manipulated
in his choice. That he is changed internally by advertisements, by the
media and so on. And when you think that the manipulator, the author
of advertisements or propaganda, is himself manipulated, then you
cannot point to one culprit as being responsible. It is neither the adver-
tiser nor his poor public. We are all responsible, to the same extent.
Towards the end of the interview, Kaczynski relates a poignant
personal story about the close relationship he had developed with
a snowshoe rabbit. His interviewer asks if he wants him to turn off
the audio-recording, but he says it is not necessary. If one didn’t
know more about the background of the man at the other end of
the microphone, one could easily get the impression of listening to
a storyteller round the campre at a festival:
While I was living in the woods I sort of invented some gods for myself …
Not that I believed in these things intellectually, but they were ideas that
sort of corresponded with some of the feelings I had. I think the first one
I invented was Grandfather Rabbit. You know the snowshoe rabbits were
my main source of meat during the winters. I had spent a lot of time
learning what they do and following their tracks all around before I could
get close enough to shoot them. Sometimes you would track a rabbit
around and around and then the tracks disappear. You can’t figure out
where that rabbit went and lose the trail. I invented a myth for myself,
that this was the Grandfather Rabbit, the grandfather who was responsi-
      227
ble for the existence of all other rabbits. He was able to disappear, that
is why you couldn’t catch him and why you would never see him … Every
time I shot a snowshoe rabbit, I would always say ‘thank you Grandfather
Rabbit.’ After a while I acquired an urge to draw snowshoe rabbits. I sort
of got involved with them to the extent that they would occupy a great
deal of my thought. I actually did have a wooden object that, among
other things, I carved a snowshoe rabbit in. I planned to do a better one,
just for the snowshoe rabbits, but I never did get it done. There was
another one that I sometimes called the Will o’ the Wisp, or the wings of
the morning. That’s when you go out in to the hills in the morning and
you just feel drawn to go on and on and on and on, then you are follow-
ing the wisp. That was another god that I invented for myself.
Where Kaczynski sought with his manifesto to overthrow technol-
ogy by force, Ellul in The Technological Society explicitly declines
to offer any solution at all. Ellul insisted that his intention was only
to diagnose the problem and not to prescribe a treatment. He
realised that his analysis seemed despairing, but yet, as we saw,
he didn’t regard himself as a pessimist. For him, there was always
room for hope, even if it has to rely on the possibility of miracle.
Most of our interview sessions with Ellul in  take place in his
visitors’ room. At our very rst question, the initial moment of lm-
ing, we ask him to dene the word technology. In the middle of the
rst sentence of his answer, as if by divine intervention, a lighting
fuse breaks. ‘Technology with a capital T…’ and then the image
jumps to total darkness. We chose to have this initial moment of
power failure at the very start of our lm.
One of the last shots we make is of Ellul writing at his desk in his
studio. In order to enter it, we rst have to transverse the garden.
We ask if we can follow him while walking, otherwise viewers
will only see him sitting on his chair. Ellul reluctantly complies.
He doesn’t like it. ‘But I know for a lm, one has to allow this
vampirism’, he says. We lm him writing amidst towers of loosely
piled papers and books, suggesting he is fully occupied with his
studies. He hands us the paper he scribbled on. Only later do we
  ·  228
read what he actually wrote: ‘It is a great joy to have been able to
speak so freely about the things that have been of such concern for
me throughout my life.’
Reykjavik, May 2015
We are surrounded by objects which are, it is true, efficient but they are
absolutely pointless. A work of art, on the other hand, has meaning in
various ways or it calls up in me a feeling or an emotion whereby my life
acquires sense. That is not the case with a technological product. And
on the other hand we have the obligation to rediscover certain funda-
mental truths which have disappeared because of technology. We can
also call these truths values, important, actual values, which ensure that
people experience their lives as having meaning. In other words, as
soon as the moment arrives, when I think that the situation is really dan-
gerous, I can’t do any more with purely technological means. Then I
must employ all my human and intellectual capacities and all my rela-
tionships with others to create a counterbalance. That means that when
I think that a disaster threatens to happen and that developments
threaten to lead to a destiny for mankind, as I wrote concerning the de-
velopment of technology, I, as a member of mankind, must resist and
must refuse to accept that destiny. And at that moment we end up doing
what mankind has always done at a moment when destiny threatens.
Just think of all those Greek tragedies in which mankind stands up
against the destiny and says: No, I want mankind to survive; and I want
freedom to survive.
      229
... 6 Jacques Ellul called it "( . . . ) the new and specific milieu in which man is required to exist, one which has supplanted the old milieu, viz., that of nature" (Ellul 1963, p. 10). Jan Van Boeckel (2015), in a comment to his work, added that "( . . . ) technology has become an environment: the technological milieu-our technotope-is not only the place where we live, but it also makes living possible and forces change; it obliges us to transform who we are because of the problems arising from the milieu itself" (p. 215). ...
Full-text available
Throughout the 20th century, several thinkers noticed that Technology was becoming a global phenomenon. More recently, US geologist Peter Haff claimed that a Technosphere is now in place and can be conceived as a new Earth geological system. This unprecedented situation is creating enormous challenges not only for our species, since more and more of its members are now dependent on the subsistence of this man-made sphere, but also for other species and natural ecosystems that have become increasingly dependent on it. Perhaps the most crucial of these challenges is the sustainability of the Technosphere itself. In the first part of the article, I attempted a critical reconstruction of Haff’s Technosphere concept. The second part is dedicated to analyzing how the unsustainability of the Technosphere represents a global catastrophic risk and ultimately an existential risk.
Full-text available
RESUMO: Encontra-se em curso, sensivelmente no último meio século, a finalização de um processo de planetarização da Tecnologia, que, na ordem das causas, terá sido mais proximamente determinado pela Globalização político-económica urdida e imposta pelo Neoliberalismo e mais remotamente influenciado por sucessivas revoluções industriais, desde o século XVIII. Ele implicou uma transformação na própria natureza da Tecnologia, fazendo com que deixasse de ser mero meio (utensílio, ferramenta, instrumento) para determinados fins e se tivesse tornado num ambiente vital e existencial. Günther Anders foi um atento e perspicaz observador e crítico desse fenómeno, que, no seu jargão, concebeu como o do advento de um “Dispositivo universal” (Universalapparat). Dedica-se a primeira parte deste artigo à releitura da interpretação que esse filósofo alemão fez da sua suposta génese e evolução. Na segunda parte, analisa-se esse conceito. Explora-se, na terceira parte, duas consequências filosóficas maiores desse fenómeno.
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