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The Two Technologies

by Dr. W. B. Ready

MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 33, 1976-77 Season

MHS Transactions were originally published by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make online versions available as a free, public service. As an historical document, Transactions may contain language that is no longer in common use and which may offend some readers. They should not be construed to represent the views of today’s Manitoba Historical Society.

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There are two technologies, as there were two towers in Middle Earth. It was by the sorcery of the seeing eye, of the magic built by Sauron the Great into his Dark Tower, the Baraddur, that there was suborning of free folk, and with the unwise elves the forging of the Rings of Power.

There is something beguiling in technology, some influence that seems altogether beneficent in the control of information and its retrieval from the ever-growing data bank with its plethora of knowledge. It is a return to the Romantic Age, the Age that from its beginning has led us to the precipe edge. The machinery of technology is developing a mastery that demands from us a cleavage into two or we shall tumble into the abyss and become ring-wraiths, nazguls, who will encompass the subjugation of all of us to a like but lesser fate.

We are always living on a knife edge in this world, we progress on a tight rope across the abyss that quakes and absorbs into its fell depths a marsh of lore from whence arises a miasma. The malaria that is absorbed therefrom has infected all parts of the world of learning. Through the betrayal of intellectuals, shaken with the ague of it and starry-eyed, there has arisen in our midst a grave and maybe mortal danger to any orderly analysis or narration of the past whereby we can predict in print and lecture a reasonable present and future. Technology is needed for us to survive or perish.

"I don't want to make History / I just want to make Love". This preoccupation with what passes for Love is a sign of the time. Love is regarded by the romantics as a panacea, as pot on a whirligig, instead of being a state to which we are called that brings not euphoria, not lust, but splintered wood and cold steel, not never-ending pleasure but sheer short sharp beams of joy. We are here to discover the truth and reinterpret it anew for every generation. We who are gifted enough, fortunate enough, must work to realise this, not laze like lizards in the sun or crouch on skins in a slalom save to recharge our batteries, for within us is the friendly persuasion of automation.

A technology adapted for bibliographic control is essential if we are to survive the oceans of information that otherwise will engulf us and drown us with bubbling groan. We must use technology, computer control, to acquire and dispose of library resources. Daily there is printed now in libraries throughout Canada a list of books that are out on loan, a copy of those books that are on reserve, an automatic compilation of documents, and a list of current serials. These and other in-house uses of the computer are becoming common-place and are having a beneficent effect on library economy. But this is of mere fringe and local benefit unless the bibliographic entry subscribes to a format that is based upon a nationally recognised entry, with subject headings and authority files that are of universal significance. Thereby the library resources can be matched with those of all in Canada and eventually in the world of learning.

This is being delayed more by the intransigeance of our nature than by any technology. We are loath to cooperate, unwilling to reveal the extent or inadequacy of our resources and, most of all, to tell in Gath or publish in the streets of Askelon that which we would rather deliver in our own inimitable style.

Page revised: 22 May 2010

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