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Quotations Relevant to Technology

[Lesson logo] Assignment

After reviewing the following quotations, find an additional quotation relevant to technology. This quote should either mention technology directly or be open to reinterpretation in light of technology. Use any available resources that you have, which may include Internet resources, library references, current magazines, lyrics...

Your quotation, submitted via THIS E-MAIL FORM, will be posted to the class-submission list as soon as it is accepted -- you will receive an e-mail response when it is approved. The formal process of acceptance is meant to help minimize duplication. Please be sure to use the "search document/find" feature of your web browser to ensure that your submission is not already listed in this list or those listed below!

The Good?

  1. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    ARTHUR C. CLARKE, The Lost Worlds of 2001. (Dutton)

  2. Men are only so good as their technical developments allows them to be.
    GEORGE ORWELL, Inside the Whale and Other Essays, "Charles Dickens," 1940. (Columbia)

  3. However far modern science and technics have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.
    LEWIS MUMFORD, Technics and Civilization, 1934. (Columbia)

  4. Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world.
    ISAAC ASIMOV, Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988. (S&S)

  5. For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
    RICHARD P. FEYNMAN, What Do You Care What Other People Think? (Dutton)

    Photo of Feynman lecturing, from PhotoNet, CalTech's archive.

  6. There are, as we have seen, a number of different modes of technological innovation. Before the seventeenth century inventions (empirical or scientific) were diffused by imitation and adaption while improvement was established by the survival of the fittest. Now, technology has become a complex but consciously directed group of social activities involving a wide range of skills, exemplified by scientific research, managerial expertise, and practical and inventive abilities. The powers of technology appear to be unlimited. If some of the dangers may be great, the potential rewards are greater still. This is not simply a matter of material benefits for, as we have seen, major changes in thought have, in the past, occurred as consequences of technological advances.
    D. S. L. CARDWELL, Concluding paragraph of "Technology," in Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 1973.

  7. I'm not sure what solutions we'll find to deal with all our environmental problems, but I'm sure of this: They will be provided by industry; they will be products of technology. Where else can they come from?
    GEORGE M. KELLER, Nation's Business, 12 June 1988. (S&S)

  8. Technology, when misused, poisons air, soil, water and lives. But a world without technology would be prey to something worse: the impersonal ruthlessness of the natural order, in which the health of a species depends on relentless sacrifice of the weak.
    New York Times, editorial, 29 August 1986. (S&S)

  9. Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.
    C.P. SNOW, New York Times, 15 March 1971. (S&S)

  10. People are the quintessential element in all technology... Once we recognize the inescapable human nexus of all technology our attitude toward the reliability problem is fundamentally changed.
    GARRETT HARDIN, Skeptic, July-August 1976. (S&S)

  11. Technology was developed to prevent exhausting labor. It is now dedicated to trivial conveniences.
    B.F. SKINNER. (Citadel)

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    The Bad!

  12. Why does this magnificent applied science which saves work and makes life easier bring us so little happiness? The simple answer runs: Because we have not yet learned to make sensible use of it.
    ALBERT EINSTEIN, in an address at Cal Tech, 1931. (Harper)

    Photo of Einstein lecturing at Mt. Wilson, from PhotoNet, CalTech's archive.

  13. We have become a people unable to comprehend the technology we invent.
    ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN COLLEGES, Report, "Integrity in the College Curriculum," February 1985. (S&S)

  14. If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.
    FREEMAN DYSON, Disturbing the Universe, 1979. (Columbia)

  15. Despite the dazzling successes of modern technology and the unprecedented power of modern military systems, they suffer from a common and catastrophic fault. While providing us with a bountiful supply of food, with great industrial plants, with high-speed transportation, and with military weapons of unprecedented power, they threaten our very survival.
    BARRY COMMONER, Science and Survival, 1966. (Harper, S&S)

  16. It is not enought that you should understand about applied science in order that your work may increase man's blessings. Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors, concern fo the great unsolved problems of organization of labor and the distribution of goods -- in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.
    ALBERT EINSTEIN, in an address at Cal Tech, 1931. (Harper)

    Portrait of younger Einstein (~1908), from PhotoNet, CalTech's archive.

  17. America's technology has turned in upon itself; its corporate form makes it the servant of profits, not the servant of human needs.
    ALICE EMBREE, quoted in Robin Morgan, Sisterhood is Powerful, 1970. (Harper, S&S)

  18. Technology, while adding daily to our physical ease, throws daily another loop of fine wire around our souls. It contributes hugely to our mobility, which we must not confuse with freedom. The extensions of our senses, which we find so fascinating, are not adding to the discrimination of our minds, since we need increasingly to take the reading of a needle on a dial to discover whether we think something is good or bad, or right or wrong.
    ADLAI E. STEVENSON, "My Faith in Democratic Capitalism," in Fortune magazine, October, 1955. (Harper, S&S)

  19. Technology... the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.
    MAX FRISCH, Quoted in Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image. (Dutton, Columbia)

  20. If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery, in impoverishment.
    MICHAEL HARRINGTON, The Other America, 1962. (Columbia)

  21. By his very success in inventing labor-saving devices, modern man has manufactured an abyss of boredom that only the privileged classes in earlier civilizations have ever fathomed.
    LEWIS MUMFORD, The Conduct of Life, "The Challenge of Renewal," 1951. (Columbia)

  22. Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
    HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden, "Economy," 1854. (Columbia)

  23. The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.
    ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY, Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939. (Dutton, S&S)

  24. Our contemporary culture, primed by population growth and driven by technology, has created problems of environmental degradation that directly affect all of our senses: noise, odors and toxins which bring physical pain and suffering, and ugliness, barrenness, and homogeneity of experience which bring emotional and psychological suffering and emptiness. In short, we are jeopardizing our human qualities by pursuing technology as an end rather than a means. Too often we have failed to ask two necessary questions: First, what human purpose will a given technology or development serve? Second, what human and environmental effects will it have?
    U.S. SENATE PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE, report on water pollution bill, 7 August 1969. (S&S)

  25. The most important and urgent problems of the technology of today are no longer the satisfactions of the primary needs or of archetypal wishes, but the reparation of the evils and damages by technology of yesterday.
    DENNIS GABOR, Innovations: Scientific Technological and Social, 1970. (S&S)

  26. Technology and production can be great benefactors of man, but they are mindless instruments, and if undirected they careen along with a momentum of their own. In our country, they pulverize everything in their path -- the landscape, the natural environment, history and tradition, the amenities and civilities, the privacy and spaciousness of life, much beauty, and the fragile, slow-growing social structures that bind us together.
    CHARLES A. REICH, The Greening of America, 1970. (S&S)

  27. The supersonic transport (SST) summarizes, in one project, our society's demented priorities. It is a virtual catalog of the reasons why the United States is ailing in the midst of its affluence -- nationalistic vanity, pandering to corporate profit, the worship of technology, and the deteriorating human environment.
    BRENN STILLEY, in Garrett De Bell, ed., The Environmental Handbook, 1970. (S&S)

  28. There is a demon in technology. It was put there by man and man will have to exorcise it before technological civilization can achieve the eighteenth-century ideal of humane civilized life.
    RENE DUBOS, A God Within, 1972. (S&S)

  29. Technology can relieve the symptoms of a problem without affecting the underlying causes. Faith in technology as the ultimate solution to all problems can thus divert our attention from the most fundamental problem -- the problem of growth in a finite system -- and prevent us from taking effective action to solve it.
    DONELLA A MEADOWS et al., The Limits to Growth, 1972. (S&S)

  30. The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.
    E.F. SCHUMACHER, Small is Beautiful, 1973. (S&S)

  31. Even bigger machines, entailing even bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the nonviolent, the elegant and beautiful.
    E.F. SCHUMACHER, Small is Beautiful, 1973. (S&S)

  32. Any demanding high technology tends to develop influential and dedicated constituencies of those who link its commercial success with both the public welfare and their own. Such sincerely held beliefs, peer pressures, and the harsh demands that the work itself places on time and energy all tend to discourage such people from acquiring a similarly thorough knowledge of alternative policies and the need to discuss them.
    AMORY B. LOVINS, Foreign Affairs, October 1976. (S&S)

  33. Presumably, technology has made man increasingly independent of his environment. But, in fact, technology has merely substituted nonrenewable resources for renewables, which is more an increase than a decrease in dependence.
    HERMAN E. DALY, Steady-State Economics, 1977. (S&S)

  34. We must ask whether our machine technology makes us proof against all those destructive forces which plagued Roman society and ultimately wrecked Roman civilization. Our reliance -- an almost religious reliance -- upon the power of science and technology to forever ensure the progress of our society, might blind us to some very real problems which cannot be solved by science and technology.
    ROBERT STRAUSZ-HUPE, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1978. (S&S)

  35. There is unquestionably a contradiction between an efficient technological machine and the flowering of human nature, of the human personality.
    ARTHUR MILLER. (Citadel)

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    The Inevitable.

  36. That great, growling engine of change -- technology.
    ALVIN TOFFLER, Future Shock, 1970. (Harper, S&S)

  37. Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible.
    ALVIN TOFFLER, Future Shock, 1970. (Harper, S&S)

  38. Each new machine or technique, in a sense, changes all existing machines and techniques, by permitting us to put them together into new combinations. The number of possible combinations rises exponentially as the number of new machines or techniques rises arithmetically. Indeed, each new combination may, itself, be regarded as a new super-machine.
    ALVIN TOFFLER, Future Shock, 1970. (Harper)

  39. The advance of technology, like the growth of population and industry, has also been proceeding exponentially.
    CARL KAYSEN, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1972. (S&S)

  40. Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.
    J.G. BALLARD, Introduction, 1974, to the French edition of Crash, 1973. (Columbia)

  41. To appeal to contemporary man to revert, in this twentieth century, to a pagan-like nature worship in order to restrain technology from further encroachment and devastation of the resources of nature, is a piece of atavistic nonsense.
    NORMAN LAMM, Faith and Doubt, 1971. (S&S)

  42. What we are finding out now is that there are not only limits to growth but also to technology and that we cannot allow technology to go on without public consent.
    DAVID R. BROWER, Skeptic, July-August 1976. (S&S)

  43. It troubles me that we are so easily pressured by purveyors of technology into permitting so-called "progress" to alter our lives without attempting to control it -- as if technology were an irrepressible force of nature to which we must meekly submit.
    HYMAN G. RICKOVER, quoted in The American Land, 1979. (S&S)

  44. Technology shapes society and society shapes technology.
    ROBERT W. WHITE, Environmental Science and Technology, 1990. (S&S)

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    The Future

  45. The choice of technology, whether for a rich or a poor country, is probably the most important decision to be made.
    GEORGE McROBIE, quoted in Conservation Foundation Letter, October 1976. (S&S)

  46. The question is not whether "big is ugly," "small is beautiful," or technology is "appropriate." It is whether technologists will be ready for the demanding, often frustrating task of working with critical laypeople to develop what is needed or whether they will try to remain isolated, a luxury I doubt society will allow any longer.
    ROBERT C. COWAN, Technology Review, February 1980. (S&S)

  47. Our way of life has been influenced by the way technology has developed. In future, it seems to me, we ought to try to reverse this and so develop our technology that it meets the needs of the sort of life we wish to lead.
    PRINCE PHILIP, Men, Machines and Sacred Cows, 1984. (S&S)

  48. I have no doubt that it is possible to give a new direction to technological development, a direction that shall lead it back to the real needs of man, and that also means: to the actual size of man. Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful. To go for giantism is to go for self-destruction.
    E.F. SCHUMACHER, Small is Beautiful, 1973. (Columbia)

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    The Internet

  49. Is it a fact, or have I dreamt it -- that, by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time?
    NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, The House of the Seven Gables. (Dutton)

  50. Since we have no choice but to be swept along by [this] vast technological surge, we might as well learn to surf.
    MICHAEL SOULE, in David Western and Mary C. Pearl, Conservation for the 21st Century, 1989. (S&S)

  51. The electric age ... established a global network that has much the character of our central nervous system. MARSHALL McLUHAN, Understanding Media. (Dutton)

  52. The open society, the unrestricted access to knowledge, the unplanned and uninhibited association of men for its furtherance -- these are what may make a vast, complex, ever growing, ever changing, ever more specialized and expert technological world, nevertheless a world of human community.
    J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER, Science and the Common Understanding, 1953. (Bartlett)
    Photo of Oppenheimer, from PhotoNet, CalTech's archive.

  53. When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web.... Now even my cat has its own page.
    President WM. CLINTON, during announcement of Next Generation Internet initiative, 1996.

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    My Philosophy

  54. Damn the torpedoes -- full speed ahead!
    Admiral DAVID GLASGOW FARRAGUT, At the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864. (Bartlett)

  55. If it wasn't for the last minute panic, nothing would ever get done.

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Harper = The Harper Book of American Quotations
Columbia = The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations
S&S = A Dictionary of Environmental Quotations, Simon & Schuster
Citadel = Quotations for the New Age, The CitadelPress
Dutton = The New International Dictionary of Quotations
Bartlett = Familiar Quotations

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
ALBERT EINSTEIN (From Steve Spanoudi's Quotations Page)

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Last updated Sept. 29, 1996.
Copyright George Watson, Univ. of Delaware, 1996.