"Still more perilous is the effect of the technical penetration of society by means of the technologizing of the formation of public opinion. Today this is perhaps the strongest new factor in the play of social forces. The modern technology of information has made available possibilities that make necessary the selection of information to a heretofore unimaginable extent. Any selection, however, means acting in the name of everyone else; that cannot be otherwise. Whoever does the selecting withholds something. If he were not to make a selection, things would be still worse. Then one would lose the last remnant of understanding to the relentless stream of information by which one is flooded. It is inevitable, then, that the modern technology of communication leads to a more powerful manipulation of our minds. One can intentionally steer public opinion in certain directions and exercise influence on behalf of certain decisions. Possession of the news media is the decisive issue, which is why in every democracy more or less impotent attempts have been made in the administration and structuring of the public news media to bring about balance and control. That this is never accomplished to the degree that the consumer of the news can be assured of a genuine satisfaction of his need for information is clear from the increasing apathy of mass society with regard to public affairs.
The increase in the degree of information, then, does not necessarily mean a strengthening of social reason. Instead it seems to me that the real problem lies right here: the threatening loss of identity by people today. The individual in society who feels dependent and helpless in the face of its technically mediated life forms becomes incapable of establishing an identity. This has a profound social effect. Here lies the greatest danger under which our civilization stands: the elevation of adaptive qualities to privileged status.
In a technological civilization it is inevitable in the long run that the adaptive power of the individual is rewarded more than his creative power. Put in terms of a slogan, the society of experts is simultaneously a society of functionaries as well, for it is constitutive of the notion of the functionary that he be completely concentrated upon the administration of his function. In the scientific, technical, economic, monetary processes, and most especially in administration, politics, and similar forms, he has to maintain himself as what he is: one inserted for the sake of the smooth functioning of the apparatus. That is why he is in demand, and therein lie his chances for advancement. Even with the dialectic of this evolution is sensible to each one who asserts that ever fewer people are making the decisions and ever more are manning the apparatus, modern industrial society is oppressed by immanent structural pressures. But this leads to the degeneration of practice into technique and — through no fault of the experts themselves — to a general decline into social irrationality" (Gadamer 1993:73-74).
1993 Reason in the Age of Science. Frederick G. Lawrence, trans. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
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