OK, here I'm going to lay out the position that I (effectively) have been arguing

against - even though no-one has actually specifically articulate it. This is a long

page - sorry.

Firstly, let me state a position that I think is entirely consistent. It's a sort of

exaggerated Guillaumist view (although he may have changed his mind - and he

certainly takes too many plane flights to be living up to the view ;) ).

The Guillaumist View

The 'Guillaumist' view is that humans are addicted to technology in a delusional way.

The technology that we have today is unsustainable, but we shouldn't trick ourselves

into believing that future technology is going to be any better.

We therefore must convince (or force) everyone around the world to downsize

their lifestyle until we get to the point where we are all living a long term

sustainable lifestyle that could be shared by everyone in the world.

I would content that this means:

Even those considered 'on the poverty line' in the UK are probaly living in more luxury than is globally sustainable with our current technology.

We'd have to stop using most modern transport - cars, planes and most trains that are powered by unsustainable sources of electricity.

ALL farming and manufactured goods would have to be produced locally - with much greater levels of manual labour.

Consequently:

We'd all have to work significantly harder - primarily undertaking manual labour jobs.

The efficiency (and reliability) of food production would be so low that we'd almost certainly see a return to famines in many regions of the world (we certainly couldn't sustainably fly grain in as food aid - as we currently do)

The technological basis of our medical healthcare would be undermined. In time this would lead to a rise in diseases.

... actually .. I don't need to go any further. The bottom line is that we'd be back

to a largely pre-industrial world - back to the middle ages. We should be

inspired by the Amish self-sufficiency.

So, the Guillaumist view is that we should de-industrialise the world until we're

back to a sustainable lifestyle - and accept the social consequence.

I think this is a consistent approach (in terms of a way to save the environment),

except for two 'minor' details.

I don't believe any nation would be able to convince it's people to go down this route willingly. Even though people want to make a 'better' world - this kind of 'sacrafice' is just too much. Therefore the approach would require the end of liberal democracies - instead you likely need to force the masses to comply. But I think people who believe in this route would see forceful co-ersion as a potentially necessary evil for the sake of saving the planet, and making a 'better' society.

Technology underpins armies. Even if we got all the nations of the earth back to a pre-industrial world - there'd be very very rich military pickings for any nation that decided to revert back to using the tools of the modern world. (The Amish are protected by the might of the US army!!) An arms race would therefore be inevitable - bringing the army (at least) back to the point of using modern technology. The army and all of its generals would therefore be living in a completely elite modern way alongside a pre-industrial world. (So it certainly wouldn't be an 'equal' society).

So, the Guillaumist view is ecologically consistent - but is (in my view) politically

impossible. Indeed I would hate to be forced down this route in my lifetime - forced

to go back to doing manual labour in the fields. I would vote against it.

But this wasn't the position that I was arguing against. I have some grudging

respect for the Guillaumist viewpoint. The position that I was arguing against is

what I'll call the We're oppressed viewpoint.

The 'We're Oppressed' View

The We're oppressed viewpoint states that:

Big business and government are oppressing the masses into in-humane working conditions

We should stop this by radically re-ordering the way in which wealth is distributed in our society.

The result of this is that everyone should be able to either do a job that they like or choose to not work at all

The result should also wipe out poverty and radically reduce in-equality.

This will release the creative spirit and truely 'free' humanity for the first time in history

This should be a global change - because all humans are equal.

Sounds beautiful - how on earth could anyone object to such a political movement ??

I object because such a political agenda would be completely disasterous. The

unfortunately ugly fact of the matter is that:

most people across the world only keep working with their current job because they need the money.

it is us - society as a whole - that oppresses the poor into working in jobs that the middle classes wouldn't do. Blaming government or big business is avoiding each and every one of our moral responsibility - our complicity in the social order.

The fact of the matter is that if we 'freed' the poor from working in these low paid jobs - our society (as it functions today) would simply collapse. The train drivers and bus drivers would go off and do something more fulfilling. The super market checkout tills would grind to a halt, the coffee wouldn't get served, the public toilets wouldn't be cleaned. The trucks driving our food into our supermarkets wouldn't budge. The old people in rest homes would be left un-fed and un-cleaned. The grapes would wilt on the vine Our economy would collapse.

Our economy collapsing wouldn't just be an 'inconvenience'. If it happens fast it could lead very rapidly to mass shortages of food - and therefore mass starvation. Many people would die. I believe the Roman empire collapsed because their economy collapsed - leading to the 'dark ages'. Our society and culture as it stands today would cease to exist.

Therefore, until we have alternative ways to get this manual work done - until we improve our technology - the middle classes will never choose to 'free' the poor from long hours of undignified work.

Indeed, all the indications are that rich countries like the UK are desparately short of poor people to do work that requires cheap manual labour. Thus we 'import' poor people to keep our economy functioning properly!!

Economic Slavery

It's the very ugly truth. Our society only functions because poor people need money. Take that away and the whole pack of cards comes down. Our economy, our

whole social order, depends on 'EconomicSlavery'.

And then - then I take objection to the idea that in recognising my complicity in

this - that I'm any more morally tainted by this ugly truth. I challenge any one of

you to give up the middle class lifestyle you are able to live because of

EconomicSlavery.

It's so interwoven into the web of our economy that extracating ourselves from being

involved is almost impossible. That's not because of some 'grand evil design' to

taint us all. That's just the way that our economy has organically evolved as an

improvement on what came before it. EconomicSlavery is much better than the

complete slavery that proceeded it. To extract yourself from this web you'd have to

extract yourself from the modern society. You'd have to live a lifestyle similar do

the Amish. So it is possible - it's what the Guillaumists think we should do - and as

I say I have some respect for this position.

Alternatively you must face the fact that We are not oppressed - we are the oppressors !!!

My only way of dealing with this moral dilema is to ensure (as I've said before) that

I'll dedicate at least some of my life to inventing better technology that can free

more people from EconomicSlavery. I fully believe that the less our economy

fundamentally depends on people doing low paid work - the easier it will be to create

a fairer society.

Remove the economic need for cheap labour and your remove the social need for

poverty!!

The dynamics just cannot work the other way around :(

But, as I've said many times healthy politics is essential in order to spread the benefits of new technology. So, I was very wrong to ever suggest that this is not

also about people, politics and how we share the benefits of our economy. We must

constantly push for a higher minimum wage, for better social welfare - for raising

the bar of 'acceptible poverty'. But here, quite frankly, the issues are NOT in the

UK - the issues are global. The real poverty is not in the UK.

Some poverty around the world today is the direct result of shamefully unfair politics. We should all be campaigning against policies that lead to extreme levels of poverty. However, the significant barrier today to how far we can raise the 'acceptible poverty'

bar today is NOT political motivation - it is, again, technological constraints on

our economy. Globally there are many countries who's politics could be significantly

improved - but this will only 'solve' the problem up to a point. It will only remove the shameful extremes of poverty.

The ONLY other position that I think fairly deals with the moral dilema of

EconomicSlavery head on is the Guillaumist position (as mentioned above). In my view we either

'go back' to a fairer / greener subsistence lifestyle - or we 'go forward' by

inventing new technology and spreading the benefits.

So who was I arguing against?

So, finally, I've defined the position that I was arguing against as the "We're

oppressed" viewpoint above. This was unfair as no-one had explicity said this group

of things together.

... but does anyone want to defend the "We're oppressed" viewpoint???

–OliSharpe

OK, here we go ;-)

I'm not going to defend the whole "we're oppressed" position because it's a StrawMan due to your inclusion of 3 ("The result of this is that everyone should be able to either do a job that they like or choose to not work at all") But I'll have a go at defending a package of some version of 1,2,4,5,6.

The first thing to point out is that you're helping yourself to an insinuation : that we radicals are crazy enough to try to change the whole system in one catastrophic revolution. That's understandable given past revolutionary rhetoric from some progressive movements, but it's not going to stick to me : I'm a radical, but I certainly agree that trying to stop the whole system we have now in one catastrophic act would fail dismally and probably lead to a great deal of unnecessary suffering. And to the best of my knowledge, no-one here has called for revolution.

Once that's dispensed with, we should look carefully at your two explicit claims :

  • that we are necessarily dependent on keeping people oppressed, so society would collapse without oppression.
  • we (wealthy, middle-class Westerners) are the oppressors, and as there's no way to end oppression, we should stop feeling guilty about it.

These two claims pretty much fit the pattern I describe in MovingToTheRight : "it's natural and inevitable, so it can't really be wrong." All the arguments from Darius and Steve there might be relevant here. And remember, one of the reasons I created that page and discussion was because I felt the force of this pull and wanted to investigate and understand it better. In doing so, I've been able to arrest and reverse that trend in myself by identifying assumptions and arguments to look at in more detail.

So let's go back to the assertions : how far it's plausible to change society away from being so oppressed? How much is any society we'd desire to live in dependent on the exploitation of the poor?

I think that's a pretty open question, limited only by our creativity (which I have a lot of faith in). How smart are the intervenions? Dumb interventions will make things worse. Intelligent ones will make things better.

TO BE COMPLETED, DISCUSSION ON HOW SOCIETY COULD WORK WITH SIGNIFICANTLY LESS EXPLOITATION!

Are we the oppressors? Of course we are. Oppression and exploitation is woven throughout every economic transaction (and many of our personal interactions) On my EmpiricalSocialism page I point out that the problems are "systemic" ie. implicit in everything we do. Marx banged on about "ideology" (ie. how the economic forces interweave with and construct our mentality) so much that he's now only taken seriously in cultural studies departments. Hilan, who's the most radical person here, keeps repeating the mantra that "the personal is the political" and beats-up on nobody more than himself.

So should you feel "guilt"? I'm not so sure. I don't see guilt as very productive. I don't feel guilt. I suspect that it can force you into the kind of "for us or against us" dilemma that you might be reacting to. Basically, you're so scared of feeling guilty that you end-up denying there's any reason to feel guilt, and then ignore the problems altogether. So I say, don't indulge guilt and don't be tricked into thinking that if you don't want to feel it, you have to deny that there are systemic problems which you're part of.

On the other hand, this could be a recipe for complacency. So I suppose it's necessary to have some strategy to act to make the interventions you can and think will help. Personally I support your aim of dedicating some time and energy to develop technologies which will help. As a technology developer myself that's what I suppose I'm (kind of, maybe) good at. And that might be a sufficient contribution to make.

But at the same time, it's strange to put this together with a refusal to think politically, because if you're in denial about the problems, how on earth can you think through what technologies are going to help solve them?

This may be the real argument we have over TechnologicalDeterminism and SecondIndustrialRevolution. It still sounds like you are appealing to technology to avoid thinking about solving the problem. You can't possibly believe that any technology is as good as any other to reduce inequality, and that therefore it doesn't matter which you work on! So it's not an either-or choice. Understanding what's wrong and developing technologies are necessarily complementary to your strategy.

Right now we're in a golden age of hacker-driven inventions which are improving society : obvious examples are FreeSoftware, PersonalCryptography and WebLogs. But notice that they are not merely technological. The technological innovativeness is fairly simple, and the ideas are well understood. What makes them different is that they were explicitly created with political motivations.

Ok, back to 1,2,4,5,6

  • 1) Big-business are government are oppressing us ...

: Not exactly. We've already agreed that "we" are all part of the systemic oppression. But the important thing is to recognise that the oppression exists and that something should be done about it.

  • 2) We need to radically re-organize society to do something about this.

: Yep. Because, as you've pointed out, our current system is pretty "robust" in the face of minor fluctuations. So only something fairly fundamental is likely to perturb it enough to force it into a different basin of attraction. This still doesn't mean it has to be a revolution or "shock therapy". But it must be strong. A sustained and dedicated political will might also be part of it. But things have to become very different.

  • 3) Ignored
  • 4) That's pretty much the point. You can only disagree if you think poverty can't in-principle be eradicated. (Perhaps on some Malthusean argument) But even you're SecondIndustrialRevolution party doesn't believe that. And there's no argument in principle. Just an acknowledgement that it's difficult.
  • 5) Not quite. I think many of the social improvements in society have had the effect of increasing creativity and freedom. (Capitalism and democracy are good examples.) We just need to go further. (Also, I'm a bit down on the word "creativity" which I think you deliberately used because it's a bit vague and meaningless. But taking it loosely, it's a good thing. I'm willing to back down if we have a tighter definition. (See also OnCreativity)
  • 6) You mean do I want to bring social improvements globally, rather than define a sub-population who are necessarily condemned to exploitation? Yep. Is this because "all humans are equal"? No, just that I think they should have equal rights.

PhilJones

Could someone define "oppression" for me? To me, it means something like "do what I say or I'll shoot you" rather than "do what I say or I won't give you any money, and you'll have to find some other way to get stuff". –BillSeitz (coming out as the resident LibertarIan, or at least OpenSociety defender)

The "oppression" here is the being forced to work for low wages and long hours in a job you don't like because you need money to survive in this society kind of oppression - rather than guns in your face kind. –OliSharpe

As in my point on WhatsWrongWithInequality, I think equating "working for long hours" with "waiting for the sound of jackboots coming up the stairs" is a sloppy basis for designing social systems. –BillSeitz

Well, they aren't the same, but that doesn't mean they aren't both undesirable and eliminable. Bill, presumably you'd accept that there are working conditions so bad that we should seek to eliminate them even though there are people so desperate that they accept them. And I'd agree there are people who are workshy malingerers who complain about perfectly acceptable work requirements. The only question is where you draw the line of acceptability, and how many people are currently in situations that fall below that line. (And Oli's question, of course. How many people we need to keep below the line.) – PhilJones

They are both undesirable. I'm not sure about eliminable, except that extreme cost (in various dimensions). They are separate conditions, and need to be discussed (and designed-against) separately. –BillSeitz

Phil I think we're edging towards agreement. In many ways the strawman (the "We're oppressed" view above) is all about 'moving too fast'. So if you drop that - then we're probably agreeing.

Your strawman version of me is that I ignore the importance of politics. Read the above again and I stress it - read the 'manifesto' again and you'll see that I stress the importance of politics. I freely admit that ever giving the impression that politics was not important was my biggest mistake in this discussion.

You've also picked a strawman version of my position by suggesting that I wasn't taking who controls the the goals of research to be fundamental to our chances of success. Hence the vital part of the manifesto that states that governments should make a step change increase in funding for research to solve the big problems the world faces today. So we're not arguing on this point (and the interesting detail here is the whole issue of the role of intellectual property - maybe private ownership of IP should be banned - or at least better regulated)

It's also unfair to suggest that I don't feel guilt about my complicity in economic slavery - or indeed that I don't think we should feel guilty / lucky for the position in the world that we find ourselves. I take this issue very seriously indeed - I'm not just interested in politics for 'intellectual sport' (or 'intellectual masturbation' as Berna likes to put it.) So we shouldn't be arguing over which position has greater moral authority.

Indeed, as I've said above I think we're actually at the point where we're largely agreeing.

For us to still be disagreeing you would have to say that technological changes were not fundamentally important to us being able to move towards a fairer and environmentally sustainable future. My point is always that whilst politics is obviously fundamental, far too many people think technology is 'part of the problem' rather than also being fundamental to any possible 'solution'.

If you think we can improve the world without improving our technology - no more inventions needed - just politics. Then we are still disagreeing.

–OliSharpe

Good. We're getting very close.

So if you drop that - then we're probably agreeing.

Like I was holding that, huh? ;-)

It's also unfair to suggest that I don't feel guilt about my complicity in economic slavery - or indeed that I don't think we should feel guilty / lucky for the position in the world that we find ourselves.

Quite the opposite. I think we shouldn't feel guilty as that leads to a kind of paralysis. But I'm not accusing you of any moral failings. (Sorry if I gave that impression.)

Your strawman version of me is that I ignore the importance of politics.

<quote> However, the significant barrier today to how far we can raise the 'acceptable poverty' bar today is NOT political motivation - it is, again, technological constraints on our economy.</quote>

My point is you do seem to be consistently pitching your estimate of the capability of political action very low. And I would disagree with that estimate.

In fact it seem you think politics works. But not much.

<quote>Globally there are many countries who's politics could be significantly improved - but this will only 'solve' the problem up to a point. It will only remove the shameful extremes of poverty. </quote>

In one sense, I'd be quite happy to just remove the shameful extremes of poverty by the political means which you seem accept are already available. (Though maybe our notion of shameful extreme is different.)

The real question is whether the emphasis on technology becomes an excuse not to act politically, because only technological solutions are real solutions. If you aren't saying that, then we can pretty much agree. I certainly think technological improvement and innovation is essential.

Well, almost agree ... :-)

If you think we can improve the world without improving our technology - no more inventions needed - just politics. Then we are still disagreeing.

Yes, I think we could improve the world without improving technology. Right now! We could increase taxes and direct the money towards more generous welfare provisions. We could stop government subsidies to the arms trade. We could be more active in breaking up monopolies to ensure the market actually works. We could place absolute restrictions on the emission of pollutants from factories (thereby forcing industry to do some of the R&D into AlternativeEnergy). We could demand better working-conditions in foreign suppliers, demand monitoring of those conditions, and fine importers who brought in stuff from sweat-shops. We could put more money into UN development projects. Allow anyone to produce commoditized anti-AIDS drugs and get them distributed in Africa ...

Basically there are hundreds of things that could be done to make the world better. All without a single new invention. None of these things would produce a perfect world, or eliminate poverty. But they'd push certain trends in the right direction. Nor would they be the end of civilization. A lot of stuff would get more expensive. People would get new stuff less frequently. They'd mend things more. And use EBay to buy more stuff second-hand. Models of digital camera wouldn't change every six months. But generally things would carry on pretty much as we expect.

That doesn't mean I don't think we put more effort into invention and innovation than we do now. I think we should and I think it should happen at every level of society from governments to lone-hackers or self-organizing teams on the net. But look. You and I are techies. We love technology. I think developing new technology is part of the "spiritual" quest of humanity. We should have a space-project and try to send women to Mars. We should invest in AlternativeEnergy, faster computers, more basic science. All of these are ends in themselves.

But the question is, do we ignore the political things which aren't proverbial rocket science because they aren't glamourous enough for us?

PhilJones

Damn !! Sloppy writing has let you through the hook AGAIN !!

I said: If you think we can improve the world without improving our technology - no more inventions needed - just politics. Then we are still disagreeing.

I should have said: If you think we can make our society both fairer and fully environmentally sustainable for the 6 billion people on this planet without improving our technology - no more inventions needed - just politics. Then we are still disagreeing.

Not just improve - of course we can make significant improvements on where we are today without changing our technology.

But here you are right - I believe that political improvements alone would not be able to bring us anywhere near a fully environmentally sustainable and fair world for 6 billion people - unless we take a Guillaumist approach.

I think to reach a truly fair and sustainable global society we'll have to do more than just tinker with our existing technology. In saying this I don't think I'm fetishizing technology in a glamorous way at all. I'm not interested (here) in the next generation of digital cameras or sending people to the moon - these are totally luxury items - not the issue at hand by a long way.

We need technology like robot helpers that can gently clean the shit off incontinent elderly people. We're about to experience a demographic explosion of elderly people with very little (or no) pension. Even with very cheap immigrant labour the UK will have a problem providing all of the services that a civilized nation hopes to offer its elderly citizens. I dread to think what kinds of conditions elderly people live in less wealthy nations - I guess most of the time they just don't get that old.

I would imagine that even a ten-fold increase the the numbers of volutary helpers for the aged would not be nearly enough to replace the work done by badly paid 'poor' people. Finding any form of automated replacement of the human capabilities here is very very tall order. It's the kind of AI problem that appears today to be way over the horizon. Clever lateral thinking and major research projects would be needed to make any headway here - not just tinkering with what we've got today. Some level of automation is the only way to provide a civilized existence to the millions of elderly people around the world.

And, as we all know, our days of cheap oil are relatively soon to be over. Finding a replacement that is environmentally friendly and can be sustainably used by 6 billion people is not going to be easy. And we're not going to arrive at answers just by tinkering with today's technology.

We also need new ways to deal with all of the toxic waste we generate - old electronic gadgets, PCs and circuit boards for example. Maybe we can find greener, better ways to produce the electronic gadgets in the first place - and, as you say encourage more repairing and longer term usage of existing goods - but at the very least we need to find ways to re-cycle the disused goods to efficiently recover (or render harmless) the heavy metals. Indeed, I'd imagine that all of our manufacturing processes will require major improvements if they are going to scale up to be fairly used by 6 billion people without destroying the planet.

So you're right. I see the technology as the major hurdle and the politics as the minor hurdle towards a fairer world for 6 billion people living in harmony with the planet. We need a radical improvement in our technology and some improvements to national politics and some improvements to global politics.

For example the WTO and world bank should be connected with the UN (I don't think they are at the moment) - but at least we have these global instruments. Also the policies of these global institutions should be improved to help spread the wealth across the globe better - but that's exactly what current trade talks are meant to enable. It's not that we have to invent proceses that are not yet happening. We have the institutions for a loose form of global governance - we now need to improve their policies and their effectiveness.

Indeed there's lot of tinkering with politics that we should be doing to improve the world - but don't need to make radical changes to our political systems. (e.g. reducing the length of time patents stay valid could be a good thing - but it's hardly a radical political change).

So of course we can improve the world without improving technology. But minor improvements are not nearly enough for me.

Do you really believe that political changes and minor tinkering with our existing technology would enable us to sustainably scale up our economy to support 6 billion people in a middle class lifestyle roughly similar to ours today?

Actually I've just re-read your bits earlier and spotted you saying this:

I certainly think technological improvement and innovation is essential.

So, I guess you do agree that tinkering with technology is not 'enough'. All of this argument boils down to a matter of emphasis. We both agree that improvements in politics and technology are fundamental to making a 6 billion person society fairer and sustainable. I'd say the technology needs a radical overhaul whereas the politics (on the whole) needs tinkering and regular improvements. I worry about the scale of technological improvements necessary much more than the scale of political improvements.

OliSharpe

Yep, now we're pretty much diametrically opposed again. :-) Although we both agree technological development and political reorganization are necessary elements. I don't believe technology needs a radical overhaul because I think we're already pretty good at it. We have a variety of institutions both private and public, from universities to VentureCapitalists which support it in various ways. We've just invented the internet which is a mind-blowing step-change in the rate of sharing and bisociating information and organizing interest groups. The majority of nations and cultures support freedom of speech and research and allow scientists and engineers to immigrate. Etc.

It's the political / social / economic which needs the radical overhaul, because this is where we know things aren't working properly.

I would imagine that even a ten-fold increase the the numbers of volutary helpers for the aged would not be nearly enough to replace the work done by badly paid 'poor' people.

Maybe HureaiKippu can help.

Do you really believe that political changes and minor tinkering with our existing technology would enable us to sustainably scale up our economy to support 6 billion people in a middle class lifestyle roughly similar to ours today?

No. But I don't believe revolutionary technology and minor tinkering with our political system can, either.

Update : Another thought. Imagine we were having this argument in the 1950s. And we could look ahead to the technology we have now : micro-processors, the internet, a huge increase in the flexibility and subtle control of machinery. Far more energy efficient manufacturing processes. Far less need for humans to work on production lines. Far more efficient SupplyChainManagement.

We'd think about the level of consumption in our 50s world, imagine these new technologies applied to it, and then say "surely, once all these improvements kick in, that's going to do something to really help distribute this increased quality of life throughout the world." But the reality is, 50 years later, PovertyIsIncreasing, environmental degradation is accelerating, and the majority of those technological wins have gone towards helping a wealthy minority consume more resources and energy, faster and more easily. So quickly and easily we don't even notice.

Why did that happen? What processes made this the natural distribution of the benefits of the technology? And if those processes exist now and aren't dealt with, why isn't it most likely that they'll have channeled and concentrated the next 50 years of technological improvement in the same way?

PhilJones

Great! Now that we're back to being diametrically opposed again I'm curious for some substance to go with your rhetoric. What kinds of political changes do you think are necessary - and are reasonably classified as more than just tinkering?

For example, extending the tobacco advertising ban to also be a ban on advertising unhealthy childrens food is what I would consider 'tinkering'. It's the kind of policy that is being actively debated in the mainstream media and taken as a serious possibility. Its the kind of policy that our politics has proven quite capable of adopting (c.f. tobacco ads ban).

Also, let's stick as far as possible away from any Chris Morrisian 'we need better politics' - (how much better? |- -| this much, ... or |- - - - - - -| this much ??) Let's get specific. And there's no need to diagnose the problem any more (for our purposes here) - we all agree that the situation is bad and needs improving. Let's talk in terms of concrete policies that really ought to be on the political agenda but aren't; or aren't taken seriously by the mainstream but should be; or would never be adopted given our current systems of liberal democracy, but must.

What are these essential policies that are MoreThanJustTinkering ??

–OliSharpe

Thanks Phil for alerting me. I am being portrayed as an Amish, here! I really think you took my position a couple of steps too far to still associate it with my name, Oli.

But of course I am definitely with Phil on this argument. I believe that more technology without changing the culture and the politics is not going to generate much improvement. In fact Oli seems to ignore the fact that the technology that is produced is shaped by the politics and the culture. He speaks of technological progress as if it was a linear thing pointing necessarily in the right direction.

My view, and Phil's as well I think, is that as long as the politics don't change, we will only be generating more of the same alienating technology which focusses largely on stimulating the spoilt brat in every adult by giving him new toys all the time, producing more and more sofisticated weapons, and producing stuff that requires an always increasing concentration of capital to be produced and that can't be fixed by anyone but the manufacturer when it breaks. All of it without much concern for the long-term consequences of these "improvements" because the people who invent those things are not paid to think about that.

I think that Phil's idea of going back to the 50s to look at the situation today makes the point pretty well. What better example than the last 50 years to show that technology can change radically with altering the social order?

I don't deny that technology can have an effect on politics/economics. But I think the reverse causality is much more significant.

Having said that I wish I was doing more to push politics and culture in the right direction. I feel more qualified to produce alienating technology :-(

–Guillaume Barreau