Technocracy: A technological design for society,
not a social design for technologists
One of the most common, and understandable, mistakes that people make upon first learning about Technocracy is to compare it with other forms of government. Being one itself, this makes sense. However, it is an easy trap, because all previous forms of government all share traits in common that Technocracy does not share. It can often be difficult for a person to understand exactly how different Technocracy is, and how it should be looked at.
First of all, all previous forms of government share the following things in common:
- decisions made by political methods, including choice of leaders
- economics based on scarcity
- currency reflecting scarcity of resources
These traits carry with them problems endemic to all societies. These are both common and familiar:
- crime rewarded materially or politically
- corruption possible and profitable
- scarcity of income guarantees lower class, and hence poverty
- profit motive, on whatever level, ensures “higher” values (such as social responsibility, ecological protection, promotion of better lives for all) take second place
Because these things have existed in all societies and throughout time, it is understandable that it would be difficult to see that Technocracy would be any different. But the main difference is in Technocracy's origin, design, and purpose. The best way to think of Technocracy is not as a social system, or even a form of government, but rather as a technology.
How can this be? What does it mean to be a technology? Let us first look at what technology is. At its most basic level, technology is the application of science. An automobile and airplane are both technologies, everyone will agree. Computers, microwave ovens, radios, space shuttles, and even cigarette lighters are also technologies.
Must a technology, then, be a machine? Matches are the application of the knowledge of chemistry, as is soap. Pharmaceuticals are the application of the fields of both chemistry and medicine. A bridge is the result of engineering knowledge, an extension of physics, and even metallurgy. These are all, therefore, technologies as well, and need not be machines.
Must a technology, then, be an object? Brain surgery, or a heart transplant is the application of medical knowledge learned from anatomy, or neurology. Some diets are based on medical knowledge gained from the study of nutrition, which is a specialization of human biology, as are physiotherapy programs. Various psychotherapeutic techniques are based on the study of psychology, and can involve only the use of the right words spoken in a certain tone of voice. Here we see that a technology can also be a process, a program, or a technique, and need not be an object at all.
As in the case of physiotherapy, it is learned that for certain kinds of injuries, specific exercises in a certain order will generally obtain the best results, that of increased movement and mobility. This technique, like the others mentioned, all contain an order or pattern that is the result of the observation and experimentation that occurs during the process of scientific investigation. Science itself is a very specific set of rules for observing phenomena and for handling conclusions based on those phenomena. While I will not go into these rules here, it should be noted that each of the technologies mentioned were developed strictly with science, and nothing else. Neither philosophy, personal opinion and taste, religion, nor doctrine were responsible for their design, and it is on this same basis that Technocracy must also be judged.
Technocracy was developed in response to research conducted by a group called the Technical Alliance. Their job was to survey the impact of high technology on human society and its environment following World War I. They examined the state of industry, economics, society, and the environment using nothing but the tools of science as their instruments. Nowhere once did they base any of their observations or conclusions on the precepts of economic theory, so-called “political science”, or philosophy. Their personal views on fascism, communism, capitalism, and democracy were irrelevant. The only things they studied were the things that science could objectively observe, and measure. Rather than judging whether human beings were basically good or evil, they instead studied human behaviour under various economic and environmental conditions. Rather than debating whether machines were dangerous or not, they studied the rate of expending and transforming energy, and the productive output of industry. Instead of declaring that man is the superior animal and therefore has dominion over all of nature, they measured the impact of industrial waste on the environment, and the rate of depletion of forests due to logging concerns.
All these things they studied and more, and not only did they study these many parts, but their relationships as well, not unlike the field of ecology. Once done, their conclusions were as unique and far-reaching as was their investigation. They had learned things, given this unique perspective, that no one had ever known before. They had, in essence, been the first to “see the forest for the trees,” as far as modern technology was concerned. Their conclusions also lead them to some amount of foresight of where North American society was headed, and the picture did not look good.
The importance of these discoveries demanded a solution, in much the same manner as the discovery of a new disease demands a treatment. And by using those same scientific tools that had led them to those conclusions in the first place, the Technical Alliance spent years forging a new technology based on those conclusions. This new technology was an operating system for all the other technology that was installed on the continent. It was a design, much like the design of a house, that would allow the people of this continent to enjoy fully the benefits of both our rich natural resources, and our vast scientific knowledge. It was not a way of dictating how people should live their lives, nor was it a judgement about social order. It was instead a design for a new continent, like the blueprints of a house, that included all the resources and technology available, with ideas on how to design a new and improved continent.
Of course, the machines that would allow this amazingly comfortable and abundant lifestyle would need to be operated, and machines, being what they are, need to be operated a certain way. Training would need to be given, and a system of continental operation planned for maximum efficiency, standard of living, freedom, and leisure. While there would be no room for altering this system, this is by no means a sacrifice of freedom on the part of the public, no more than an injured patient must utilize the most effective techniques of physiotherapy in order to achieve the quickest and fullest recovery. No more than a driver must drive his car in a specific way in order to get to his/her destination the quickest and most safely possible. The driver must use the gas pedal to accelerate, and the brake pedal to slow down. No choice is possible here, yet the freedom of destination is enhanced greatly by using the vehicle properly. The freedom of movement of our physiotherapy patient is similarly enhanced, but only if they perform the prescribed exercises that science has observed aid their condition. These are not constraints of morality, philosophy, or ethics. Political standpoints, criminal law, and peer pressure have no influence in this domain. These are simply physical limitations, and as such must be observed, or the consequences dealt with.
Outside of these constraints, and indeed even because of them, the people of North America, and later the rest of the world, will enjoy far more freedom than they ever have under any scarcity based social system. While this may appear as a boast, it is no more so than a scientist who has successfully discovered the cure for a life-threatening disease. The only thing that remains is the test.
How does one test a social system? This is a good question. Most of the time, when confronted with a new idea for social organization, people feel the need to debate the feasibility and ethics of such a system. This can continue ad infinitum as your position is based on your personal views and opinions, your choice, as it were. Yet, confronted with a life-threatening disease and the desire to live, and only one cure, no choice is possible. No opinion matters. You either take the cure and live, or refuse and die. This is the type of “choice” facing North Americans today.
So how does one judge the veracity of Technocracy's statements? Only a fool would blindly follow any such “radical” ideas without first having some assurance that it is not merely some fanciful idea that will never work. In fact, an entire nation could be destroyed if it was! Yet, if Technocracy's claims are factual, then the whole continent could suffer greatly if they are not listened to. What is the average citizen to do?
First of all, Technocracy claims to be based purely on science. This is a good start, because this automatically sets the stage by which we can determine if Technocracy is valid or not. In fact, is has the added bonus of having the possibility of being either “proved” or “disproved.” Think for a moment on previous claims of the achievement of cold fusion. Once any researcher had claimed this feat, other researchers, using the rigours of science, put the scientist's new “technology” to the test. Since no one has yet been able to duplicate these experimental results, the technology has been “dis-proven”. Thus we can say, beyond opinion or choice, that each of these cold fusion technologies do not work.
But how do we do this with Technocracy? We cannot simply set up a new country and “try it out,” as we could with the cold fusion experiments. What is the solution? In the tradition of Technocracy, we will first look to see if this problem has already been addressed and a solution already developed, and indeed, it has. A person or team who has produced a new design for say, a water dam, could also be seen in the same predicament. They obviously cannot simply build it themselves, but must get workers to do the job, as well as obtain the permission of those people it will affect (who might otherwise stop or impede them), in this case through the government. The government must then make two decisions: 1) is this a good idea? And 2) is this the best way to go about it? Obviously the government cannot simply go ahead and build such a dam to see if it works, for a mistake could be disastrous. Also, any small-scale model built is certainly not going to yield useful results, as the behaviour of a small amount of water is quite different than that of a huge quantity. Any quantity large enough to yield useful results would also carry with it the same risks as building a full-scale model, and we are back at square one.
So what is the solution then? The government would hire a team of scientists and engineers who are proficient in the field to look at the design and see if it is sound. The methods they use to determine this are the same used in designing it. The same physical principles are used, the same universal constants, as are the same equations and figures. And, if in the end, after much checking and double-checking, possibly even by multiple teams, the results are the same as those of the original designers (in science called repeatable results), then the idea is considered sound and the project is approved.
How then, do the people of North America “prove” Technocracy's design? While there are many people who are well trained in many of the areas that Technocracy covers, no one is an expert in all of them, nor would it be possible for someone to be. However, it was for this reason that the Technical Alliance dissolved, and in its wake created a new organization dedicated to the purpose of “training” the North American public so that they may make their own decision as to the veracity of the design made by the Alliance. This is not as harrowing as it may sound, since this new organization, called Technocracy Inc., and made up of the same great minds who developed the plan originally, along with some additional help, began work on a “design” for teaching citizens the essentials of Technocracy without the need for several post-graduate degrees. The result was the Technocracy Study Course, a twenty-two lesson program that could, if rushed, be finished in the matter of two months. In it is contained all the background material important to understanding Technocracy's design, and how it operates. Each field of science is briefly introduced as is the part it plays in the design. The observations, analysis, and conclusions of the impact of high technology on our society, all in confirmable, scientific data, is then addressed. Finally, the course culminates in a step-by-step look at the process for designing a technological solution for North America's unique dilemma.
The course is also specifically designed to be as easy to understand as possible, so one need not even have scientific inclinations in order to understand it. Only a concern for the well-being of our society and environment, coupled with a willingness to learn, is required. A critical mind is, of course, an asset. Technocracy does not seek blind followers and clueless supporters. It wants a well-educated and informed public, knowledgeable about the problems they face together, and the solution that they must also enact together, for Technocracy can no more put the plan into action than an architect can build a skyscraper. Only those trained in the areas of operation of this continent's industrial and service equipment, as well as other critical areas (such as medicine, health care, and entertainment), along with the support of an informed populous, can make a Technocratic society a reality. The politicians are not going to do it, neither are the leaders of business enterprises. Only you have the power to make this design real, like the family that wishes to see its dream home come alive from detailed blueprints.
A better life awaits all North Americans, and indeed all of humanity. But it begins with you making yourself informed about the problems, and the solution. You can start this by looking at Technocracy no longer as a social system, philosophy, or political idea. Instead, examine it as a new technology, as anyone would be critical of a new machine or drug. You can then rest satisfied either that the future Technocracy envisions is not possible, and therefore not worth worrying about, or that it is factual, and desirable. Then you can begin to become part of that new vision, and hopefully soon, that bright, new future.
February 9, 2003 (3:25am)