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The technological determinist position (aka technological determinism) states that technological progress is an automonous force outside human control and has been the primary factor shaping the course of history. According to Karl Marx,"The windmill gives you a society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist." Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,"Things are in the saddle / And ride mankind." In a sense, humans become "the sex organs of the machine world", as Marshall McLuhan put it. Technology undergoes a form of natural selection in the marketplace. People choose to purchase certain technology over others. This leads to a sort of evolutionary change in technology. The role of humans is to create increasingly complex technology until the technology reaches the point when it can reproduce on its own. Technology has its own ends, independent of humanity.

In the larger view of human civilization, it seems improbable that humanity had much control over the direction and speed of technological progress. The origin of a new technology has often had profound effects on the course of human civilization and societies have been forced to adopt a technology to continue existing or face extinction. For example, the European colonists in the Americas brought new technologies such as firearms and cannons with them. This new technology helped tip the balance of power in favor of the Europeans over the natives and lead to rapid conquest of native land during the colonial period. To be able to use this technology, European society had to adopt economic and social changes that allowed gunpowder-based warfare. Although people are able to control technology to some degree, people often must adapt to technology to successfully use it. In this way, technology can control humans to some degree.