The unwillingness to accept the natural environment as a fixed and final condition of man’s existence had always contributed both to his art and his technics: but from the seventeenth century, the attitude became compulsive, and it was to technics that he turned for fulfillmment.—Lewis Mumford1 Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellec­ tual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of electronic com­ puters.—Dwight D. Eisenhower2 But lo! Men have become the tools of their tools.—Henry David Thoreau3

Few of the many observers of the first mechanically driven textile mills saw a social transformation that would eventually reach out to the most remote cor­ ners of the globe. In fact, only after the industrial revolution reached full force did intellectuals go beyond reaction to attempt to understand the inventions whose power promised so many benefits and threatened so much misery. They asked, “What is a machine?” and answered with an emphasis on movement and interdependence, as in Franz Reuleaux’s 1876 definition. Even today, the popular notion of technology stays close to Reuleaux’s.:

A machine is a combination of resistant bodies so arranged that by their means the mechanical forces of nature can be compelled to do work accomplished by certain determined motions__4

To which Lewis Mumford added:

The essential distinction between a machine and a tool lies in the degree of inde­ pendence in the operation from the skill and motive power of the operator: the tool lends itself to manipulation, the machine to automatic action.. . .5