Exploring Human Potential

Brother Austin David Embraces Technology: Circa 1977

Posted on | March 13, 2008 | 2 Comments

Techmanity before the invention of the termI recently came across a paper written in 1977 titled "A Not So Modest Proposal: Technology and Tomorrow’s School" from the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, Volume 7(2), 1977. It’s author was a Christian Brother named Austin David Carroll, who had served as a Technology Consultant and Futurist for IBM and was, at the time, Diector of the Data Systems Center for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The paper examined "the use of the technology of the electric typewriter and the electronic calculator in the curriculum of the elementary school", and focused on the possible future benefits of embracing new technologies (including computers not yet available to the general public) to aid communication, calculation, and the training of future writers and scientists.

The paper briefly summarizes the history of communication and computation including graphic symbols, pictures, pictograms, alphabetic symbols, the use of the abacus and the soroban, the emergence of scribes, the spread of calligraphy to the masses, the printing press, the typewriter, the electric typewriter, and the emergence of the electronic calculator which "burst on the scene in 1973." This last advance was placed in context by Brother Austin David as follows, "The pocket sized calculating devices were the result of the continuing refinement of electronic computing technology which has moved from vacuum tubes of early computers, ca. 1950, to microminiaturized circuits containing 10,000 elements on a chip the size of a fingernail."

The author goes on to argue that technology should not simply be grudgingly accepted but embraced for its tranformational potential. In his words, "The technology…shows that we are not so much concerned with changing content as with changing the total atmosphere, arrangements, and interrrelatedness of the people involved; students, teachers, parents, and members of the wider community…it is most important for us to realize that we are today instructing children whose early adult life will be lived in the 1990’s." Signaling that technology was as controversial then as it is today, the author summarizes, " is not about to save man from the spectre of starvation, or solve his economic ills….it is man’s imagination which possesses the potential to alleviate much of the physicial suffering and intellectual pain experienced by man. Man went to the moon not because of technology but rather because of his imagination."

And I would say, this is true. But equally I believe, looking back on the last eight years, and on the fierce battle that has emerged for the presidency of these United States, imagination can take the human race in two directions: forward when it is fueled by hope and enlightenment, and backward when it is fueled by fear and resentment. "Techmanity," as I envision it, is the coupling of technology with the former rather then the latter.


2 Responses to “Brother Austin David Embraces Technology: Circa 1977”

  1. piramida linków
    May 7th, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

    Enjoyed looking at this, very good stuff, appreciate it. “What the United States does best is to understand itself. What it does worst is understand others.” by Carlos Fuentes.

  2. tim welch
    May 20th, 2017 @ 11:51 am

    interesting stuff

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