Neil Postman brings up many excellent points in “Five Things We Need to Know about Technological Change”, and of those many points, the one that strikes me as the most interesting – because I never considered it myself – yet also one of the most accurate, is the idea that technology can become mythic. Mythic as in we take the technology for granted to the point it seems completely natural, as if it was always there, because we didn’t live in a time when we didn’t have that technology.
The best example I can think of when it comes to mythic technology is also one of the most basic: electricity. We use it to cook, clean, study, reach our destinations, and now we can even drive cars that are fueled by it. Electricity has become such a huge part of our lives, and because of that, we risk forgetting that there ever was a time when it wasn’t used. Flipping a switch and instantly having light is something we easily take for granted, and it’s natural for us to go into our kitchens and heat up our food in a microwave. We don’t just take it for granted; we rely on it so much more than we ever did before.
At some point, our ancestors didn’t live like we did. They didn’t rely on electricity because that simply wasn’t how it was done back then. If they needed to cook, they got wood and built a fire. If they needed to go somewhere, they didn’t use a GPS or look up directions on MapQuest. Nowadays, even a power outage that lasts only a few hours long is enough to drive most of us into a panic; we rely on electricity so much, sometimes I wonder if we can even survive without it anymore.