Fourth Question:
What are the Links?

Rapidly changing technology is the essential post-modernization: it makes the others easier to swallow, includes the means they spread by, and provides much of their content.

It is easy to see how technical progress justifies neophilia. Changes in the fine arts, governments or table-manners are notoriously hard to judge, but, beyond question, a car with a stronger engine or a new explosive increase our capabilities. Even the few neophiles before the seventeenth century, such as Roger Bacon, pinned their hopes on technology. (Montaige is, perhaps, an exception.) With the arrival of the scientific revolution the idea of progress and the love of the new achieved power and prominence. One sees them in Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius, in Kepler's raptures over his discoveries, real and imaginary, on virtually every page of Francis Bacon. Neophilia began around science and technology, and gradually expanded to government, the arts, religion, etc. An early sample is Dryden's 1668 comment that ``If natural causes be more known now than in the time of Aristotle, because more studied, it follows that poesy and other arts may, with the same pains, arrive still nearer to perfection ...'' Given such premises, it is easy to conclude that today, when technology is both more influential and more rapidly advancing than ever before, that the past is not prologue but irrelevant punditry.

Of course all this is easily reversed, and so technologists are occupationally prone to neophilia. Producers likewise wish to foster it, since (as Schumpeter pointed out long ago) technological advance creates a temporary monopoly, if the fruit of the advance can be sold. Obviously, this is easier if the equation new = improved is widely accepted. We shall have more to say about this when discussing the relationship between the post-modernizations and the mass media. Technology encourages neophilia, but neophilia is the only other post-modernization which encourages technology.

Anti-rationalism does not encourage technical progress, but ironically enough technology does encourage anti-rationalism, in at least three ways. The most obvious is that many of the uses and products of technology seem unpleasant, unfortunate or blasphemous, which leads to opposition to it and the rationalism so deeply associated with it. Second, as Russell observed, technology confers almost incredible capabilities on those who master it. Reminders that such power is not, in fact, omnipotence, are unwelcome, and therefore thought untrue. The ancients called this hubris; we call it ``groupthink'' when we notice it at all. It is an affliction only of those with genuine power, and this technology provides in abundance. Third, by endowing collective institutions with such immense power, technology makes the individual feel, in contrast, all the more impotent, helpless and ignorant, and hence favorably disposed to anti-rationalism, not to mention apocalyptic beliefs. This topic, however, is sufficiently important to deserve a section to itself.

It is clear from the nature of the proposed apocalypses and millennia that technology inspires them. Even such venerable ancients as the Christian Armageddon have been forced to accommodate nuclear and biological warfare --- some sects, with a better grasp of the Zeitgeist than Holy Writ, go so far as to include alien saviors and demons in their eschatology. In successively younger apocalyptic traditions, technology, whether hero or villan, plays a larger and larger role. Marxism and Bakunin's anarchism, for instance, were based on the view that machine production had made classes and scarcity obsolete; hence the curious Soviet tendency to turn steel foundries and fish-canning plants into propaganda movies. On the other hand, the cruder Romantics - who were, of course, the majority - saw in technology nothing more than ``dark Satanic mills'', and desired a ``return'' to an idealized, often medieval, past. (Such views are still surprisingly common among the European Greens. See Lewis, Green Delusions) The current extremes are represented by the radical environmentalists such as Earth First! on the one hand, and the cyberpunks and trans-humanists on the other. The former would have us go ``Back to the Pleistocene'', and represent an excess of primitivism which would give even Jean-Jacques Rousseau pause. The latter see the human destiny as being converted into molecular computers (or other, less imaginable repositories for intelligence) which will live forever and exploit all the matter in the universe. The less radical of their number foresee utopia arising from a combination of anarchism, capitalism and advances like nanotechnology.

Finally, there are the obvious but important connections between apocalypticism, anti-rationalism and neophilia. Both the latter encourage apocalypticism. Anti-rationalism replaces the question ``Is it true?'' with the question ``Does it feel good?'' Even those who believe in one form of the apocalypse must admit that such an attitude would be conducive to belief in false apocalypses - a view with which I am in complete accord. Furthermore, anti-rationalism makes it easy for apocalyptic movements to combine mutually contradictory beliefs, enhancing their selling power, and reduces or eliminates the effort which must be expended in explaining away failures of policy and prophecy. Extreme neophilia also helps, for when the past is unknown or thought irrelevant, it is far easier to conceive of present as unprecedented, extraordinary, fit candidate for the End. In an another case of the sort of feedback which should by now be familiar, the apocalyptic tone of the general culture, whether enthusiastically proclaiming ``the end of history'' or the latest crisis encourages the belief that the times are unprecedented, the past is irrelevant, and the End is Nigh. Tantum televisio potuit suadere malorum!