The closest I've found would be something like the Prometheus myth, or perhaps even the story of Eden, where man is punished by a deity for poking his nose where it doesn't belong. But this isn't exactly critical of technology, at most it's saying that (some) knowledge is dangerous for people to have.

I'm thinking more along the lines of the myth at the end of Plato's Phaedrus (274b-279b), which he attributes to the Egyptians but which I've never found elsewhere. In it, the god Thoth approaches the god-king Thamus offering his invention of the technology of writing, suggesting that it will improve mankind's memory.

"Far from it," Thamus replies, "in fact it will have just the opposite effect since men will become dependent on it and lose their natural capacity for memory."

Does anyone here know of similar myths which are skeptical or perhaps even critical of technology?


3 Answers 3


The myth of Icarus is often used to describe the foolishness of technological ambition which is untempered by caution.


The myth of Cain and Abel is about the rivalry between nomadic cattle-breeders and sedentary farmers. God accepts Abel’s sacrifice of a sheep, but rejects Cain's offering of plants.

  • That's one of many interpretations of the story. That said, I'm not sure how the story of Abel and Cain is critical of "science and technology"
    – user62
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 19:56
  • The dominant academic view is that agriculture represents technical progress over pastoralism.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 22:15
  • 4
    I'd concur with this. The tower of Babel has a similar theme, as well as the tree of knowledge right back in the garden of Eden.
    – Ben Cannon
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 13:38
  • It is not the dominant academic view, it is one of many interpretations of the story. Regardless, I'm still not quite sure how you would interpret the story as being critical of "civilization or technology".
    – user62
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 22:38
  • 2
    @Hamlet. Do have a look at what I actually wrote. I was discussing the "dominant academic view" not of the exegesis of the Cain and Abel story, but that of the historic role of agriculture versus animal husbandry.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 8:17

The Icarus story is more a story of failing to RTFM or follow directions. Or not listening to your father.

The Plato story sounds unlikely to have actually come from an Egyptian, since they adopted writing quite early, it was considered sacred, and the scribes were generally one of the highest classes in society. It was probably a case of ascribing a concept to The Other.

I suspect an anti-technology sentiment wouldn't be a survival trait for an ancient society, when agricultural advances would reduce starvation. And saying "These good old copper swords are just fine for us" when your neighbors have bronze can be disastrous.

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