“Cities have some of the human attributes of personality. That they show character, moods, visible gestures of welcoming or rejecting is something that men have know almost since they began to live in cities.”
“The New York express highways would be admirable if they were related to anything except the desire , on the part of the more prosperous, to get out of New York as fast as possible; actually, their function …pile up such a load of decaying properties in the center as to hasten the final exodus”.
Mumford’s Critique of the World Trade Center, 1970
“characteristic example of the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that are now eviscerating the living tissue of every great city”
Port Authority executives “their duty to funnel more motor traffic into the city, through new bridges and tunnels, than its streets and its parking spaces can handle..”
“ And as the machine itself became, as it were, more active and human, reproducing the organic properties of eye and ear, the human beings who employed the machine as a mode of escape have tended to become more passive and mechanical. Unsure of their own voices, unable to hold a tune, they carry a phonograph or a radio set with them even on a picnic: afraid to be alone with their own thoughts, afraid to confront the blankness and inertia of their own minds, they turn on the radio and eat and talk and sleep to the accompaniment of a continuous stimulus from the outside world.”
“ a need for a conception of what constitutes a valid human life, and how much of life will be left is we go on ever more rapidly in the present direction. What has to be challenged is an economy that is based not on organics needs, historic experience, human aptitudes, ecological complexity and variety, but upon a system of empty abstractions: money, power, speed, quantity, progress…
This is a fully developed historical explanation of the irrationalities that have undermine the highest achievement of modern technology- speed, mass production, automation, instant communication and remote control. These have brought about pollution, waste, ecological disruption and human extermination.
He claimed that the evolution of language was a key factor that separated humans from other animals. He claimed the evolution of language was far more important to early human development than the evolution of physical tools.
He asks the eternal question. Why had technological progress brought with it such catastrophic ruin? He was a witness to the worst 20 years of humankind, Hitler and Hiroshima, and he wanted an explanation of what went wrong. Was the modern association of power and productivity with mass violence and destructiveness merely coincidental?
Polytechnic – different modes of technology providing a complex framework to solve human problems
Monotechnic – technology only for its own sake, which oppresses humanity as it moves along its own trajectory. An example of monotechnic is the modern American transportation network. Reliance on cars which become an obstacle to walking, bicycle and light rail.
He emphasizes the electronic computer’s insidious impact on personal privacy and autonomy. To him the computer is merely another overrated tool, vastly inferior to the human brain; in the wrong hands, however, an extraordinarily dangerous one.
“The test of maturity, for nations as well as individuals, is not the increase in power but the increase of self-understanding, self-control, self direction and self-transcendence. For in a mature society, man himself, and not his machines or his organizations, is the chief work of art”. (written later in life)