46 S. Cal. L. Rev. 617 (1972-1973)
Technology Assessment and the Fourth Discontinuity: The Limits of Instrumental Rationality

handle is hein.journals/scal46 and id is 627 raw text is: TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT AND THE
FOURTH DISCONTINUITY: THE LIMITS
OF INSTRUMENTAL RATIONALITY
LAURENCE H. TRIBE*
It has been said that mankind stands today at the brink of a precipice
as deep as the three ego-smashing divides that our species has already
traversed in its intellectual history.' The first crossing, signalled by
the Copernican revolution if not earlier, dislodged man from his seat at
the center of the universe by establishing a continuity in his perception
between the earth he inhabited and the physical bodies he observed in
the heavens. The second, heralded by Darwin, dethroned mankind
from its secure place at the pinnacle of life by bridging the gap that
had separated it from the rest of the animal kingdom. And the third
crossing, due largely to the work of Freud, challenged the supremacy
and autonomy of the human ego by linking the primitive and archaic
in man with the civilized and the evolved. But this sequence is not
yet complete. There remains, it is said, a fourth great discontinuity2-
that between man and his machines-which must be bridged if man is
to live in harmony with his tools, and hence with himself. The only
alternative to such unified coexistence, according to this view, is the
dilemma of either rejecting man's technologies in Luddite panic--or
becoming their slaves. In this Article, I will argue that bridging this
fourth discontinuity--truly regarding and treating our technologies
as parts of ourselves-is tantamount to developing certain modes of
thought and action that lie outside the domain of instrumental rational-
* Professor of Law, Harvard University. A.B. 1962, J.D. 1966, Harvard Uni-
versity. I am indebted to many colleagues at Harvard and elsewhere for helpful com-
ments on earlier drafts of this Article. I owe particular thanks to Bruce Ackerman,
Charles Fried, Murray Gell-Mann, Philip Heymann, Duncan Kennedy, Anthony Oet-
tinger, Alan Stone, Jerome Wiesner, and Roberto Unger. Errors, of course, are mine
alone. @ Copyright 1973, Laurence H. Tribe.
1. Mazlish, The Fourth Discontinuity, 8 TECHNoLOGY AND CT.vuR 1 (1967).
2. Indeed, I shall later note a fifth (see note 137 infra), and there is no reason
to suppose that the journey's end will ever be discerned.

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