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Symbolic Life


The question you ask me, concerning the effect of technology on the human psyche, is not at all easy to answer, as you may well imagine.

The problem is a very complicated one.

Since technology consists of certain procedures invented by man, it is not something that somehow lies outside the human sphere.

One may therefore conjecture that certain modes of human adaptation also exist which would meet the requirements of technology.

Technological activities mostly consist in the identical repetition of rhythmical procedures.

This corresponds to the basic pattern of primitive labour, which is never performed without rhythm and an accompanying chant.

The primitive, that is, the man who is relatively instinctive, can put up with an extraordinary amount of monotony.

There is even something fascinating about it for him.

When the work is accompanied by drumming, he is able to heat himself up into an ecstasy, or else the monotony of the action makes him fall into a semi-unconscious condition, which is not so unpleasant either.

The question naturally is: What is the effect of these primitive techniques on modern man, who no longer has the capacity to transport himself into semi-unconscious or ecstatic states for any length of time?

In general it can be said that for modern man technology is an imbalance that begets dissatisfaction with work or with life.

It estranges man from his natural versatility of action and thus allows many of his instincts to lie fallow.

The result is an increased resistance to work in general.

The remedy would presumably be to move industry out of the towns, a four-hour day, and the rest of the time spent in agricultural work on one’s own property—if such a thing could be realized.

In Switzerland it might be, given time.

Naturally it is different with the slum mentality of huge worker populations, but that is a problem in itself.

Considered on its own merits, as a legitimate human activity, technology is neither good nor bad, neither We have come very close to this with the atom bomb.

Faced with such menacing developments, one must ask oneself whether man is sufficiently equipped with

reason to be able to resist the temptation to use them for destructive purposes, or whether his constitution will allow him to be swept into catastrophe.

This is a question which experience alone can answer. Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 614-615