The Technological Paradigm

Few people deny that technological change has political consequences; yet equally few people seem to realize that the present "system," in the widest sense, is the product of technology and cannot be significantly changed unless technology is changed.

“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities ... has agglomerated population, centralized means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands.”

If the bourgeoisie did all this, what enabled it to do so? The answer cannot be in doubt; the creation of modern technologies.

Once a process of technological development has been set in motion it proceeds largely by its own momentum, irrespective of the intentions of its originators. It demands an appropriate "system," for inappropriate systems spell inefficiency and failure. Whoever created modern technology, for whatever purpose, this technology or, to use the Marxian term, these modes of production, now demand a system that suits them, that is appropriate to them.

Maybe what is most wrong is that which has been and continues to be the strongest formative force - the technology itself.

If our technology has been created mainly by the capitalist system, is it not probable that it bears the marks of its origin, a technology for the few at the expense of the masses, a technology of exploitation, a technology that is class-orientated, undemocratic, inhuman, and also unecological and nonconservationist?

I never cease to be astonished at the docility with which people - even those who call themselves Socialists or Marxists - accept technology uncritically, as if technology were a part of natural law.

The implicit assumption is that you can have a technological transplant without getting at the same time an ideological transplant; that technology is ideologically neutral; that you can acquire the hardware without the software that lies behind it, has made the hardware possible, and keeps it moving.

People still say: It is not the technology; it is the "system." Maybe a particular "system" gave birth to this technology; but now it stares us in the face that the system we have is the product, the inevitable product, of the technology. As I compare the societies which appear to have different "systems," the evidence seems to be overwhelming that where they employ the same technology they act very much the same and become more alike every day. Mindless work in office or factory is equally mindless under any system.

I suggest therefore that those who want to promote a better society, achieve a better system, must not confine their activities to attempts to change the "super-structure” rules, agreements, taxes, welfare, education, health services, etc. The expenditure incurred in trying to buy a better society can be like pouring money into a bottomless pit. If there is no change in the base - which is technology - there is unlikely to be any real change in the superstructure.

In other words, the new technologies will be in the image of the system that brings them forth, and they will reinforce the system. If the system is ruled by giant enterprises - whether privately or publicly owned - the new technologies will tend to be "gigantic" in one way or another, designed for "massive breakthroughs," at massive cost, demanding extreme specialization, promising a massive impact - no matter consequences." The slogan is "A breakthrough a day keeps the crisis at bay."

[E.F. Schumacher]
Good Work, p. 38-44

"The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord: the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist."

And it was not only the mill-owner but also the working population brought into being within and around the mills which seemed to contemporaries to be "new". "The instant we get near the borders of the manufacturing parts of Lancashire," a rural magistrate wrote in 1808, "we meet a fresh race of beings, both in point of manners, employments and subordina­tion…”; while Robert Owen, in 1815 , declared that "the general diffusion of manufactures throughout a country gener­ates a new character in its inhabitants . . . an essential change in the general character of the mass of the people."

The steam-engine had "drawn together the population into dense masses" and already Gaskell saw in working-class organisations an " 'imperium in imperio' of the most obnoxious descrip­tion"

“The steam-engine had no precedent, the spinning-jenny is without ancestry, the mule and the power-loom entered on no prepared heritage : they sprang into sudden existence like Minerva from the brain of Jupiter.”

“The manufacturing population is not new in its forma­tion alone: it is new in its habits of thought and action, which have been formed by the circumstances of its condition, with little instruction, and less guidance, from external sources…”

For Engels, describing the Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 it seemed that "the first proletarians were engendered by it … the factory hands, eldest children of the industrial revolution, have from the beginning to the present day formed the nucleus of the Labour Movement.”

The physical instruments of production were seen as giving rise in a direct and more-or-Iess compulsive way to new social relationships, institutions, and cultural modes.

[E.P. Thompson]
The Making of the English Working Class, p.208

People form warped conclusions because they [make-]believe worldviews begin and end with content, however content (e.g., "meaning") is just a secondary effect of human organisation.

All content lives within a pre-established organisational paradigm. In other words, the distance between people, the rate at which people communicate and the number of people communicating *determines* the content they produce.

We'll express frustration about the incoherence of anti-racism content, but it's futile because we're mistaking a competitive or organisational effect for incoherence.

Yes, much of it *is* incoherent, but incoherence isn't a content problem, it's an organisational problem.

This is why I increasingly retreat from online debates. I see the same effects in the context of moral debates (ie, they mistake a motive problem for an idea/truth problem). Modern "morality" isn't a content problem, it's an organisational problem.

People's problems with my views often begin at a failure to understand we're speaking from diff. vantage points: they're fixated on content, I'm speaking about prior [organisational] effects that determine content.

For example, while you're talking about "what is compassion?" or "is this compassionate?" (content), I'm talking about the organisational paradigm which precedes "compassion".

In other words, how does rate of communication, population size and proximity affect "compassion"?

Population size obviously determines the trajectory and strength of compassion. Compassion will be stronger and more authentic in a proximate population of five (eg, a family) than a widely dispersed population of 1B (social network).

The competitive effects are also different. The population of 1B is naturally more competitive than the population of five (or even a small tribe), which precipitates "competitive compassion".

Remote "compassion" is also significantly more likely to be falsified.

Lastly, is "compassion" even scalable in a population of 1B? There must be a saturation point because we can't be infinitely compassionate.

For me, this (scalability) is the real breaking point of the modern organisational paradigm imposed by mass comm.

I speak about this a lot, but inclusion is the trajectory of dissolution. No category can include in perpetuity without stripping itself of its raison detre.


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