McLuhan on 2017 in 1970

From an interview with Edward Fitzgerald on the CBC in 1970:1

The new electric technology has destroyed the American image of itself. The country is falling apart, physically and politically, because of the speed of information. The American bureaucracy, politics and education were set up for the very slow speeds of the printed word and railways. At electric speeds nothing in the U.S.A. makes sense. Early America smashed the mediaeval hierarchies of [corporate] loyalties and set up the individualist — the isolated man — as the material from which to construct the state. America began with the printed word and with the latest technology — the assembly line in industry and in education. With electricity all that ends. The American image of itself, American goals, American directions, have been scrapped by electric speeds. I am not making value judgments. I am simply observing that if you accelerate any structure beyond a certain speed it collapses.  Our postal systems have collapsed because of the telephone and telex. Our bureaucracies have become police states. The most benign political democracy becomes a police state as soon as you improve the speed of communication. Everybody then comes under surveillance, everybody is put into a data bank.2 There is [then] no freedom left.

  1. Excerpted in Ekistics as ‘The Gobal Theatre’, 32:190, 181-183, Sept 1971.
  2. “As we transfer our whole being to the data bank, privacy will become a ghost or echo of its former self, and what remains of community will disappear.” (‘Living at the Speed of Light’, Maclean’s, Jan 7, 1980)