Human Motivation in a Technate


Why People Will Work for Free

One of the most common concerns people have about Technocracy's design is that of the proposed “guaranteed income” that is part of Energy Accounting. The reasons for this, they often say, are because people are lazy and/or selfish, and will only work when there is something to be gained from it. Sure there are those who do things for so called “higher” reasons, such as altruism, sense of duty or honour, or perhaps just a simple work ethic, but these are the exception to the rule, are they not? Such people are of such a minority that they are often depicted as people like Mother Theresa. If you give an entire population an income, there will not be enough of these people to actually support the rest, especially once they realize that they are the minority, and the “leeches” and “loafers” are having a great time at their expense. They will become disenfranchised and soon say, “Why even bother?”

Technocracy did not leave the behaviour of the human animal out of their investigations. Since it was for human society that they were building this design, it was well regarded that understanding them would be intrinsic to creating a society that would both allow them to function as productive members of society, and be able to enjoy it at the same time. In fact, a great deal of attention was given to this area of study, and is part of the Technocracy Study Course, which every Technocrat takes in order to become familiar with the design that they are advocating. Both the nature and behaviour of humans is studied, from a biological point of view, psychological one, as well as sociological. If you have a Study Course text book, you can find much of this information in Lesson 20, as well as scattered throughout most of the rest of the lessons.

So the question remains as to why the Technocrats would build a design that incorporates a guaranteed income if it was not so that it was feasible. The simple answer is of course that their studies showed that this was indeed not the case. What I hope to do here is elaborate as well as demonstrate this point to the satisfaction of those who are so concerned.

First of all let us look at the reasons why it is generally believed that a guaranteed income is not feasible. Most of the people I have spoken with generally point to two rather large examples, the welfare recipients in North America, and the workers of the old USSR. Far too often we see people partake of both Canada’s and the US’s welfare programs and take them for granted. They are intended as a buffer for those temporarily between work until such time as they can find new jobs. However, many of them either take a long time to do so, perhaps even years, or even never find work of all. Accordingly, the respective governments try to weed out those who take advantage of the system, which is unfortunate because these measures make welfare harder to obtain for those who legitimately need it. Still, their success rate is far from ideal, and there yet remain many who simply behave as parasites on the system that they rest of us support.

Another favorite example is the former Soviet Union, at least how most people in western countries understand it. Under this country's communist policies, everyone was guaranteed a job, and if jobs were not available, then jobs were created for them. After all, if they didn't have jobs, they could not spend their money, and that as we all know is bad for the economy. Also, why simply pay them this money for nothing when you can at least ensure that they are doing something useful? The end result, however, was far from satisfactory. Most of the work done by these workers was second-rate at best, and absolutely shoddy at worst. I was told of a custom in the Soviet Union of giving a newly married couple a cat as a marriage present. The cat would then be tossed into the newlywed's brand new house or apartment, as a test to see if the floor would support its weight. I have since been told by people who have lived in the Soviet Union that this story is nothing more than a myth, but it serves to illustrate a point most people in North America believe anyway.

So surely, why would a group of intelligent and highly qualified people such as the designers of Technocracy want to design a society that required people such as these to build and maintain this great technological wonderland? Surely even they could realize the dangers inherent in such a leap of trust? The answer to this conundrum lies in the lesser known aspects of human behaviour, the ones often not seen or just discounted. Allow me to illustrate for a moment on the nature of common observation verses true nature.

Let us take the nature of a bar of metal, for instance, lead. Now suppose one were to ask the average person on the street what the obvious properties of lead were, they would likely say something like that it was hard, and heavy, with a dull look to it. If you were to then ask another person at random, they would probably agree with this assessment. In fact, it would be very likely that even after asking a hundred, or even a thousand different people this question, or more, that you would find few, if any, that would disagree. The reason for this is that many of them have observed lead in various conditions, perhaps even multiple times, and have found these properties to be rather consistent. The same is true for the observations made by most people regarding the feasibility of guaranteed income, and would likely incur the same results.

Now, suppose that I were to show these people a sample of lead that I had in a special container. I would then proceed to pour out this material onto the ground, where it would glow a bright orange and form a puddle there, perhaps causing a bit of smoke or steam, depending on what it came in contact with. This demonstration would no doubt be a bit of a shock to each of these people, as it clearly shows how very wrong they were, but there is also little doubt that many of them would announce that they were only speaking of lead at room-like temperatures, and not molten ones. Most people don't deal with molten lead because they work and live in environments that are too cool for lead to melt, thus they rarely think of its properties in hotter conditions. People who work in the lead industry, however, regularly encounter it this way, and if asked the same question we initially asked everyone else, their response would more likely have been something like, “That depends on what temperature the lead is.”

So what does this example illustrate exactly? That certain things behave in a certain manner often due to the environment that they are in. It is often hard to change this behaviour within that environment, much like it is difficult to “pour” lead in its solid state. Only by changing the environment of the lead, i.e. the temperature, can we make it behave in the other ways common to it in those conditions. So too is this true of animals, including the human race. There are many varied conditions and environments that human beings have adapted to in order to survive, and these adaptations required changes of behaviour. Thus, is it not possible then that the behaviour of “leeching off of the system” might too also change, given the correct change of environmental conditions?

Before we answer that question, let us now divert to another topic for a short time, that of human motivators. Again, looking at the common objections to guaranteed income we find that something most people will argue is that people will not work when there is no incentive. This very statement implies that either there is no other motivations for people to do something other than incentives (negative or positive), or at least that it is dominant enough that any others would be insufficient to significantly change this view.

I would now like to direct your attention to a piece of computer software call “Linux.” Linux is an operating system that allows a computer to work and interface with other software and hardware connected to it. Without an operating system, a computer wouldn't be able to do anything. A computer's operating system can define it's flexibility, limitations, and stability. Thus, at one time, competition was fierce between the various makers of these software.

Linux is an OS designed by a Finnish programmer named Linus Torvalds. He developed the OS as an alternative to the UNIX operating system (common among universities and larger companies) for his own use. He designed it to have features that he himself wanted, such as being able to work on smaller processors, and generally never really thought about marketing it. After speaking with several people about the project, their enthusiasm convinced him to release his product under the GNU Public Licence (GPL), (see www.gnu.org(external link)) for free. Under this licence, anyone may contribute to the development of this software either for their own use or public distribution. In fact, one of the major stipulations of this licence is that all the code released under it by the author(s) cannot be sold. Since its inception in 1991, Linux has become one of the biggest and most powerful operating systems in the world, and despite this, Linus doesn't receive a single cent for it.

How did it become so popular? Was it all Linus' work that did it? Not at all. The GPL that Linux was released under guaranteed that the Linux code would be free to obtain, change, and update. Hundreds of thousands of programmers worldwide have been working on the project, making it better, faster, more stable, and more flexible. Today Linux can be found on everything from car engines to supercomputers. Thousands of programs have been developed to work with Linux, or enhance it, most of them also released under the GPL or similar free-software licences. (A nice brief history of Linux can be found on this web page, at least as of the writing of this article: https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/rhasan/linux(external link)) And out of all these people, none of them have ever made any money for their work.

So why do they do it? Are they just weird? Aberrations from the norm? Bored rich kids with nothing better to do? Far from it. Linux programmers range from starving-students, to university professors, to businessmen, and many others. What could motivate such a diverse and numerous group of people from around the world to do quality work for nothing?

Technocracy has long established that there are in fact two distinct classes of human motivation. One is the familiar incentive. The other, is initiative. While incentives are outwardly directed, such as fear, punishment, praise or reward, initiative is inwardly based. These motivators come from within the person, that drive them to do what they do largely due to their personality. It is what inspires the artist to paint, or the performer to sing. It is why great visionaries of the past built large monuments and created beautiful buildings. It can include the need to build, to explore, to create, or to improve. It includes all the lofty goals that we see in those few, strange people who try to help humanity without expectation of reward.

But this is still a very uncommon thing, is it not? Or is it? Where else can one find these “weirdos” who work for nothing? One often needs go no further than the Internet. FreeBSD, for example, is another operating system that is also released under a free-software licence. So is Net BSD. And FreeDOS. And QNX. And for each of these there is a community of active programmers working away to build and improve these projects.

But is this simply limited to operating systems? Not at all. Hundreds of thousands of software titles are created and released for free, ranging from word processors, accounting software, hardware utilities and drivers, databases, Internet browsers, network servers, even games. Each one created by anywhere from a single programmer to teams of thousands or more. The free software phenomenon is much larger than most companies would like you to believe, and for obvious reasons.

But this is not just limited to software design either. On the Internet you can find people creating numerous other projects for use by others, often for free. Web page designers, graphics designers, animators, cartoonists, and fiction and documentation writers are just some of the types of people you will find contributing their works for free. Most of the time all they will ask for is that proper credit be assigned, or even a simple acknowledgement in an e-mail. I recall seeing one program designer that released his program for almost free. He called it “postcardware,” and only asked that you send him a postcard from wherever in the world you were.

So is this a strictly Internet-based mentality? Granted, it is very prevalent on the Internet due to the fact that information can be so easily exchanged. There is no need for production costs or shipping; all one needs is a connection to the Internet, and perhaps some software that they would likely have already. However, there are still millions of volunteers all over the world giving their time, expertise, and skills to whatever they think will help others. Statistics Canada reported that in 1996 over half of the population of Canada had donated some of their time to volunteer work.

So what incentive do these people have for what they do? Very little. There are numerous side benefits, such as status and prestige in some cases (such as programming or art), or some volunteer organizations are able to get special privileges or discounts for their volunteers. But by and large, there is no real “incentive” to do this kind of work for free. So what is left? Only initiative can explain the drive most of these people have for spending their time and energy with little or no material reward. So not only is initiative far more widespread than many people think as a motivation, it exists in an environment that actively discourages it.

First of all there is the time trade-off. Time spent volunteering or similar activities can be easily spent attempting to earn money, or other form of material reward. This is particularly true of programmers, who often spend 60-80 hours out of their week programming. All the time they spend on their personal projects is time taken away from a job that may very well be paying them by the hour, or at least by completed projects, which obviously would happen less often if one is spending their time programming free software. I know that many if not most of them would prefer to be working on these projects because they prefer the process, the quality controls, and freedom from economic demands that make business programming a hassle and a strain. These programmers would, if they could, spend all of their programming time on these projects, but they know that they have to earn a living, so they get jobs, or attempt to sell some of their projects.

There are also other reasons why such initiative-based work is discouraged. Outside of their respective circles, volunteers and free-product makers rarely receive any recognition for their efforts, even when they are just as deserving or even more so than the efforts of those working for pay. Not dealing with money, there is rarely any success in general advertising and marketing of their products, nor are they often mentioned in the press. Linus Torvalds was one obvious exception to this rule, but how many other free software designers have you heard of in the news?

There is also the general unsaid bias in our society towards work that is paid for. It is generally regarded that if someone is working for pay, then it is good, honest work for which they are accountable, otherwise they would not be paid for it. Free products and services, on the other hand, are suspect, since the person “donating” these things has no accountability whatsoever. Herein too lies the major difference between incentive and initiative-based attitudes, and that is that accountability is an external motivator, whereas responsibility is an internal one. Upon closer examination of the communities that develop around such free-products, such as the Linux community, or the readership of a web-based comic strip, one notices that there is indeed a certain amount of accountability on the part of creator; if you don't create good stuff, no one will use it. But largely these people actually just like to produce good works, be it for the challenge, the sense of accomplishment, or even simple self-worth, there are many reasons people may state for the reasons behind their work.

So now that we know that there are a fair number of people who have found the time and opportunities to give of themselves in some regard despite living in an environment that actively attempts to prevent it, the question arises as to how many others, if given the chance, would do the same? It is a common enough stereotype of the poor starving artist having to work at a crummy and menial job that drains him of his energy, health, and sense of self worth. Granted, this is far from true of all artists, but how many of us feel as though we would love to be doing something else if only we didn't have to spend so much time and energy earning a living? Very few people are currently working in their “dream job,” or even in a field that interests them. When asked why they don't pursue that field, the most common answer you would likely find is: “but I have to earn a living/enough money first.” There are also other factors that prevent this as well, most prominently the ever chaotic and fickle market. Some jobs simply are not profitable, or even entire fields. The arts is one that often falls under this category.

Now ask these people if they would pursue their dream job/field if they were given for free all the education they needed for it, and then every opportunity to achieve in it, and likely many people would jump at the chance. Generally, the only people that wouldn't would fall into three groups. 1) Those who don't know what fields are available, and have thus never found something that really interests them. 2) Those who because of low self-esteem do not believe that they are worthy of any sort of achievement, or even choice. 3) People who have learned that the best way to earn a living is through “socially unacceptable” behaviour, i.e. crime. Each of these three categories are problems that can be solved, for the most part, but that we will get to later.

Let us now look back at incentives. The failure on the part of the USSR and western social programs to motivate people indeed did provide a lack of incentive through their guaranteed incomes for people to work. The reason for this is because for the most part, the work that they were either assigned or given a choice of was, frankly, unappealing. Given a choice between destitution and a handy construction job, most people would take the latter. However, not many people find a lot of personal fulfilment in such work, and after a while the reasons to perform any quality of work become strictly external, i.e. fear of punishment or loss of job. However, even the latter motivator is removed when one guarantees the job, and gives birth to the phrase: “What are they going to do, fire me?” Now imagine for a moment what would happen if these people were allowed to attend school again to pursue any career they chose, be it arts, sciences, industry, or services. Do you think that their behaviour might change? Out of all the many groups we have discussed so far, including the artists, programmers, volunteers, etc., how many of them would jump at the chance to do this rather than remain at some menial labour or retail job?

Now finally let us look at how the different conditions in a Technate would change the behaviour of people using all the factors just mentioned, in much the same manner as lead does once heated to a high temperature.

With all the barriers of scarcity removed in a Technate, the quality of education would be unsurpassed. Every single citizen would receive the best quality education, teachers, and materials from day one, and all for free. Only the latest and most successful techniques in instruction would be used, and would be used equally in every school. They would be assessed at regular intervals, starting in early childhood, to determine each individual's strengths and weaknesses. They would be shown their strengths, how to take advantage of them, and where such strengths could be applied best. They would be shown techniques for overcoming their weaknesses, or working around them. Such information is available to us now today, but it is made scarce, available only to those who can afford it, and scattered, so that no one institution would be able to use them all. Thus the majority of our schools and universities often use outdated teaching methods, either due to lack of knowledge of anything better, or more often, insufficient funds to acquire individuals trained in these techniques, and the materials to support them.

Each student would also be given a program of instruction that best suited their individual learning style, whether it be individual work, group work, or large group lectures. They would be given either books, movies, lectures, or even hands on experience depending on how they learn best. Mixtures of such styles would also be introduced in order to ensure that each student also develops flexibility, making them the best learners possible. And finally all such learning would be made fun for the student, something that often facilitates learning.

During this process, and more so towards the later years in their education, students would be shown every aspect of the operation of the Technate. Field trips could be taken in mobile classrooms across the continent so that they can experience different places and things first hand. Through all this they would become familiar with all the various types of activity that people regularly participated in, as well as the importance of each. As they grow older, their interests will become more well-defined, and they can begin concentrating their studies more towards those topics which would help them in such fields. By the time the student is 25 years old, they will be fully trained and proficient for at least an entry level position in their chosen line of work. If they showed great talent and/or drive, they might even be started off at a higher position, or even started earlier.

The upshot of all this is that every citizen is well aware of his or her choices, everything that is possible to do in a Technate. They are also fully aware of how the Technate operates, and which jobs are essential to its operation. This alone solves many of the problems we've previously looked at, namely lack of self-esteem, and not knowing what is available for them that would fulfil them. The complete lack of poverty prevents the majority of the third of the last list of problems, as few people would grow up in environments where crime “pays,” either by affording them sustenance, luxury, power, or even simple “cool” factor. The lack of crime would also help with this.

Initiative would not only be freed up in all those that would have it normally at high levels, but would also be encouraged in everyone, so that even people with little inherent self-motivation would find it easy to participate in socially useful activities, and not simply “leech” off of the system. What we are left with then is a population with much higher levels of initiative than in the Price System, actively participating in the operation of the continental mechanism, and the pursuit of their own dreams.

But lastly, what of incentives? Despite the emphasis on personal initiative throughout the Technate, there would indeed be externally based incentives. Things such as fame, respect, greater opportunities to achieve, and greater responsibilities are all external reasons for people to perform quality work in a Technate. Good scientists would be promoted to more advanced and interesting projects, excellent leaders would be placed in positions of greater responsibility (e.g. from Urbanate director to Area Control Director), and artists would have their name and works spread across the continent, perhaps even the world, to be enjoyed and praised by greater and greater numbers of adoring fans.

Given all this there are many good reasons why people would not only participate in the operation of the Technate, but learn to excel as well. It comes down to what sort of behaviour does your environment encourage and reward? If that environment gives material and other incentives to anyone who can acquire the most transferable currency, then your system is going to “evolve” people that become better at this all the time, regardless of whether that activity is socially useful (or desirable), or how much you try to “fight” against it with laws and threats. However, if your environment not only encourages socially acceptable behaviour, but also supports it and rewards it as well, then your population will adapt to their new environment in order to become successful in it, and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Only in an environment of abundance can this be achieved, and only a carefully designed technological society can operate the complex of technology that makes such an abundance possible. Technocracy is the only known design that is capable of accomplishing this, of freeing millions of people to finally pursue their dreams, rather than merely a scarce supply of dollars.

Bill DesJardins
March 9, 2004