Postman describes the development and characteristics of a "technopoly". He defines a technopoly as a society in which technology is deified, meaning “the culture seeks its authorisation in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology”. It is characterised by a surplus of information generated by technology, which technological tools are in turn employed to cope with, in order to provide direction and purpose for society and individuals.
He considers technopoly to be the most recent of three kinds of cultures distinguished by shifts in their attitude towards technology – tool-using cultures, technocracies, and technopolies. Each, he says, is produced by the emergence of new technologies that "compete with old ones…mostly for dominance of their world views".
According to Postman, a tool-using culture employs technologies only to solve physical problems, as spears, cooking utensils, and water mills do, and to "serve the symbolic world" of religion, art, politics and tradition, as tools used to construct cathedrals do. He claims that all such cultures are either theocratic or "unified by some metaphysical theory", which forced tools to operate within the bounds of a controlling ideology and made it "almost impossible for technics to subordinate people to its own needs".
The author refers to Harold Innis’ concept of "knowledge monopolies" to explain the manner in which technology usurps power in a technopoly. New technologies transform those who can create and use them into an "elite group", a knowledge monopoly, which is granted "undeserved authority and prestige by those who have no such competence". Subsequently, Postman claims, those outside of this monopoly are led to believe in the false "wisdom" offered by the new technology, which has little relevance to the average person.