Monday, September 19, 2016

Better People

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- I want to go back to what you said last time: 
Satire works by adjusting the relative power of roles in the imagination of the audience, makes the audience feel more in control, more comfortable living in a world with what they've satirized so they end up doing nothing.*
Our political freedom has greatly increased in the last century, but has that has made us into better people?
- Do we lead better lives as individuals? 
- Yes.
- I doubt it. 
- Isn't that strange? Going back a year**, you were talking about the atrophy of good: like our muscles the minute we stop exercising them start being weakened, when we stop being good we start being bad. Apparently the opposite is not true: When we stop being bad we don't start being good. Satire reminds us not to be bad, but that reminder doesn't help us become good, in fact it can make us worse. Why do you think that is? Is it that we never lose the ability to be bad, so when good declines we immediately become more bad. But we do lose the ability to be good, so when bad lessons we simply are less bad, but no more good? 
- Something like that must be right.
- But why? Why do we forget how to be good, but not how to be bad? Are we bad by instinct which never leaves us and good only by education?
- Wouldn't the difficulty of recovering good be accounted for if we have it in us to be both good and bad, but our education is unrelenting towards the bad?
- Then the reminder to be good would be the exception, which when it ends leaves us chained to the bad influence of our social education.
___________________
* Puppy & Puppets
** The Atrophy Of Good

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Puppy & Puppets



- I don't know. It's so abstract. When's the last time you were at Starbucks?
- Why do you ask?
- Things happen to you there. You probably tried out these ideas on someone. Did you?
- I did.
- Let's hear it. The conversation.
- Three characters, four including me. A woman in her early twenties, a man somewhat older, and the woman's dog, a Pomeranian, who stood impressively still on his four legs to his full six inches of height. The man I'd talked to before. He made angry, raging videos about prejudice against his race.
- Which was?
- Black. First asking and receiving permission I went to make friends with the dog. He remained quiet, not sure if I was worth noticing. I asked the young woman if as often the case with dogs and their masters he got his manners from her. She said unfortunately she wasn't so calm. She was busy day and night. Busy with what? She tended bar, and the rest of the time, like the young black man, made YouTube videos. And they were about?
- My generation. We're different. We're organized.
- Organized to do what?
- To make a difference. Your generation made a mess. We're trying to clean it up.
- Do you think you can?
- Yes. We have the internet. We're connected to each other. There are millions of us. I'll show you someone I like. He has millions of followers and he's still a teenager.
- What's his subject? Political satire?
- Yes. He makes people laugh telling the truth.
- What about you? Are you satirical?
- Sometimes.
- Your generation entertain each other, put on shows for each other. Do you think shows change anything?
- I think artists and creators are the only one's that change the world. We're serious about what we do. Entertaining we build an audience.
- You expose injustice, the criminality, stupidity of your opponents. Yet satire works by adjusting the relative power of roles in the imagination of the audience, makes the audience feel more in control, more comfortable living in a world with what they've satirized so they end up doing nothing.
- We elected a black president for the first time.
- Elected another artist, a talker, a creator of an image, a role to be played out, not something real. And consequently nothing much changed.
- A lot changed. The country's perception of itself changed.
- Do you agree? I asked the black YouTuber. He took out a vintage micro-cassette recorder and placed it on the table. This time around, he said, he chose to listen and get a recording. For this he asked and was given our permission.
- You two are very polite with your permissions.
- Have to be. Everyone is touchy about other's treatment of their image, especially those whose business it is to make images of themselves. I continued to the YouTuber:
- You're not silent like your dog, but maybe he takes after you in another way.
- What?
- As a puppet.
- People often make the mistake. He's little, but almost four, he's not a puppy.
- Not puppy, puppet: little figure of a person or animal moved around on strings. In Plato's allegory of the cave puppets are moved on top of a wall built inside the cave, a fire behind them projecting their shadows upon the back wall. Between the puppets and the back wall prisoners are chained so that all they can see are the shadows. For them, the shadows are the only world they know. They make predictions of which shadow will follow another, and this is their knowledge. If the prisoners could escape and leave the cave and see the world outside, they would at first be blinded by the light, and not understand what they see of the real world, and prefer to go back to the cave and watch the shadows of the puppets. It seems to me your generation of performers are alike in making shows of yourselves, are alike in moving puppets casting shadows in the cave. You make the show, move the puppets along the wall, fight with the other puppeteers for precedence, but your audience sees only the show, your shadow, only your words and gestures, knows nothing of why you do it or the techniques you apply to hold your audience's attention.
- If our videos are shadows, that's for the best. Our generation are not dogmatists and ideologists. We know anything anyone makes is partial, one view of the truth. Nothing is the whole truth. Get used to it. We avoid fanaticism of all kinds including Plato's idealism, his religion that in some other world ideas live eternally. We live in the real world, I think we live in a more real world than the older generation. We have to deal with global warming, nuclear weapons, economic collapse. That we don't hide that our ideas are shadows, that makes them more not real and truthful, not less.  
- What did you say to that?
- I said:
- Here's my experience of the past 24 hours. Listen, and then tell me if role play brings people together or separates them. The night before at midnight I was at FedEx's office on Wilshire sending off the memory book* to the Washington Holocaust Museum. The young man on the other side of the counter, making small talk, asked me where Washington was. There were two of them, he knew. Up near Oregon? This was going to the other one. Oh. he said. 'D.C'. Did I know what 'D.C'. stood for? Didn't he? I asked. No. Where, I asked, was the capital of the U.S? He didn't know. And you, our sound recorder, you told me you were working towards revolution. And is it true or not that when I brought up the recent wave of revolutions in the Middle East, that was the first you'd heard of them? Still recording this? And at Ralphs supermarket, where a guard lurks at the exit all night, stationed there glaring at all who come and go just to have the opportunity to catch people like this one, a mad man I often see wandering in filthy rags by the L.A. Country Club. He was cleaned up, in new clothes, but still mad, holding aloft a plastic tray with day old rolls, now after midnight, 2 days old not legally to be sold. The guard stop him, says, Where do you think you are going! He says, What? The guard says, You can't take that. He says, Oh? The manager comes over, says to him, You have to pay. You have to pay! He says, What? He moves more towards the door at which point a customer waiting and watching at check-out says he'll pay the two dollars for the two day old rolls, saving the madman from arrest and possible a week locked up in a mental hospital before being returned to the streets.
- I listened. What conclusion you draw?
- Our friend here wants to play revolutionary. He's not interested in what revolution is enough to study it, not even in very recent history. And the FedEx kid, old enough to vote, identifies himself to himself and others by his tattoos. For him that is enough, he has his role and not an idea in his head. Consequently no politics either, not curiosity enough to know where the capital is. And the corporate supermarket, those who work there are forced into slavery and most abject role practice, no humanity or reasonableness allowed.
- If roles separate us, what brings us together?
- You know your Plato, the analogy of the sun.
- Sure:
As goodness stands in the intelligible realm to intelligence and the things we know, so in the visible realm the sun stands to sight and the things we see.**
- Politics requires ideas. Ideas are shared, bring us together. Roles separate.
- Roles are based on ideas too.
- But they are not good ideas, not drawn out from a shared human nature that strives toward good. The playing out of roles and protection of roles, those made up things, is done in the dark, unilluminated by the good.

Further Reading:
How To Read Plato's Republic
__________________________
* The Memory Book
** The analogy of the sun is found in the sixth book of Plato's 'The Republic' (507b–509c)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Life Is A Machine For Creating Freedom



- "Life is a machine for creating freedom."
- Who said that? You?
- In the course of conversation.
- How can machines, which are our image of lack of freedom, of determined outcome, produce freedom?
- In the use of language there are an infinite number of statements possible composed of a finite number of words. This is because we pile them on top of each other, hierarchically, a single word about all the rest being a new never before spoken statement. As the world acts on us, we respond by attempting to maintain our form and functioning.
- And that is Varela,* his definition of life.
- Yes. You see the machine: clear, logical, repetitive. But in how it operates in each moment there is as it were a new word spoken about all that has preceded.
- Why?
- Because the world, being responded to, is perceived, is known, becomes part of us as living things.
- I understand this is some sort of metaphor. But doesn't the plant that is doing the talking, keeping up its daily functioning, need to remember for the new response to be new and free?
- Yes.
- Do plants remember?
- Why not?
- We know we remember because we make use of our memories to make changes in how we live. Plants don't do that.
- They do.** But even if they didn't, isn't the best part of your home life with the people, and also the animals and plants, you live with, just on this basis? Things happen, you adapt, with no change in basic way of life, in fact striving to avoid change as everything is loved as it is.
- We create a certain feeling out of the machine of life? Who is 'we' here? It can't be the life as machine used to create the feeling.
- Don't you know?
- But it's not life?
- No.
- And not a machine?
- No.
- What else is there? Alright, I know the answer to my question. Spirit. The soul. Soul operates - not the body - but life? The difference between the two views being that operating life means running a relation between body and the world, not just managing the body.
- Yes.
- And the spirit, the soul, is not life?
- No.
- What is it?
- I don't know.
- Asking this question using language, that machine, am I creating freedom?
- Yes. The soul in a way is what we see, what we add on top of our experience, when we make these kind of statements about life.
- We don't see the soul when we don't make these statements?
- No. Do you disagree?
- No. When I don't ask the question I'm aware of life, not anything else.
- But soul or spirit is there, whether you ask the question or not?
- There where?
- In your relation to the world.
- The world, responding to us, is talking about soul, its soul, even when we are silent. Maybe in the there, nowhere, where our soul is, the world's soul keeps ours going? Or maybe it remembers our soul so we can find it again when we want to return to speaking?
- We can't really say anything about that there, nowhere.
- Why not?
- There is no word for it. There is no world we see to respond to. Life we see. Life is a machine for creating freedom. We have freedom to see that there, nowhere, but not to talk about it. We can see a relation between the world and life, and call it soul, but we can't see a relation between soul and the world, between freedom and the world, a place where soul meets soul. That relation is not a machine. There is nothing fixed to be said, no word to be added to what is already there.
____________________
See: Francisco Varela (with Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch), The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. 1991, MIT Press
** Plant Talk

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Killer At Starbucks

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Starbucks, West Hollywood. The tables outside. 1 a.m.

- They're closed. What are you doing sitting out here late at night? You shouldn't be here. What happened to you?
- Just luck. Doesn't mean anything. What brings you here?
- Where am I?
- You're in West Hollywood. At the border of Beverly Hills. Those were Beverly Hills police you were taunting.
- F^%&#^*ing police. Why are they harassing you and me, a couple of white guys?
- Are they harassing me?
- They talk bad about you. I say you're a *f&*&%ing genius.
- I get that a lot.
- You look good.
-  I do? I don't see how. Where are you from?
- Buffalo.
- What have you been doing tonight? Where are you going now?
- I'm going to kill someone.
- Who?
- You maybe.
- Why would you want to kill me? What do you do? What is your profession?
- I kill people.
- Why would you want to kill people?
- I eat them. I'll eat your face. What do you say to that?
- I don't think it is a good idea. I have things left to do in life.
- I love you. You know? You're in danger.
- I know.
- There's my guy. Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Be My Guest

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12 a.m. Starbucks Cafe, West Hollywood

- What are you reading?
- An email from my friend the graduate student at UCLA.
- The one that got thrown out.
- Yes. He's back home now.
- What does he write?
- Greek Orthodox Christianity appeals to him at the moment.
- At the moment?
- Before it was Sufi mysticism that appealed to him.
- And before that? I can't believe how loud those policemen are. Do they come here every night?
- Yes. The Beverly Hills Police and the West Hollywood Sheriffs both are here in force.
- I count four cars, seven men sitting at the tables. They don't seem to have anything to do with the customers.
- They don't. They talk shop with each other. Laugh at the stories people tell when stopped by them innocently going about their lives.
- Is that what you do? Innocently go about your life?
- I try to. I'll tell you a story about the innocent, or rather, if you let me, I'll tell you several stories about the innocent and not so innocent.
- I'm listening. But talk a little louder, I can't hear with all the laughing coming from over there. Why do you go to this place?
- I'm convinced there's something to be learned from the people here. The guy you see sleeping across the street, wrapped in a blanket at the bus shelter, he's a regular customer.
- What can we learn from him?
- Our own future if we don't change our ways. If we're still here half hour after closing the crazy rich women will come sit outside with us. She'll start an argument with you which will end in her calling the police and accusing you of one crime or another: stealing her things, harassment, or disturbing the peace. She once, sitting outside here, cleared absolutely everyone off the terrace after calling the police and promising to accuse one and all. The Starbucks staff won't let her inside if they see her; sometimes she sneaks in. Another edifying person to be found here is the paparazzo trying to make himself famous as the unauthorized photographer of famous people. He gets angry and shouts at anyone who interrupts him.
- What can we learn from him?
- He asked me last time I saw him if I knew the book 'Catcher in the Rye'. Why did he ask? The liner notes of a CD from a rock band he's a fan of says one song is about Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of 'Catcher In The Rye'. Did I know the book?
- I've read it many times.
- Why? What's so good about it?
- It's a work of genius.
- Really? Should I read it?
- It's not for you.
- It's only for geniuses like you. What do you know about me? Nothing. The CD notes say 'protagonist': What's a protagonist?
- The main character. Holden Caulfield is a teenager having trouble deciding whether or not to give in and conform to the expectations of the adult world. He gets upset, breaks down. He can't stand 'phoneys', people who are false.
- That's me! I'm just like him, I get angry just like him. I knew it!
- You've managed to truly shock me with that claim. Holden gets riled up at the demand of phoneys that innocence be corrupted, you get angry when people challenge your phoniness you couldn't be happier with.
- Yeah? Better watch what you say.
- Or you'll do what, Mr. Innocent?
He wags his finger, enacting a parent reprimanding a child, gathers up his cameras and computer and goes off seeking better company. What do all these people hanging out in this neighborhood have in common?
- What?
- First let me tell you about more of these characters. They're not just here. The neighborhood is crowded with them. I encounter them as I make my way late night west to east through quiet streets of Beverly Hills. We'll start from here, a tour like we did in Westwood* but this time you don't  have to leave your seat. Before you arrived there was a guy sitting where you are now who confessed to me he'd just come from getting a two girl Tantric massage. Prostitution? Yep. The oldest profession. Next, where West Hollywood borders Beverly Hills, at the ultra expensive Bristol Farms supermarket, there's often this big tough guy who chants, 'Help an elderly Vietnam Vet'. If you pass on by without giving him money he shouts out at you, 'You're EVIL!' Last time, hoping to slip by unnoticed on my bike, I was honored by being told my mother is a Nazi and he hopes she dies soon.
- What's there to be learned from him? That we're evil?
- Some of us.
- What about the guy before, the one with the prostitutes? Evil too?
- You better believe it.** Down at where Santa Monica meets Wilshire, if you're there at around three in the morning you sometimes can see the crazy young gymnast who does jumps in the middle of the street when there appears a gap in the traffic, and when cars approach, does a kind of bull fight approach and confrontation at them and jumps away at the last moment. I forgot: before you get to that corner, there's the 60 year old Harvard educated lawyer who can be met outside the cigar smokers' bar closed up for the night, enjoying in solitude one last smoke. Yesterday I got off my bike to say hello. When I'd just come back from my disastrous trip to visit my brother in Thailand I'd been introduced to him by the deal-maker I told you about.*** Remember?
- Yes. You met at the drug store.
- Right. He got me over to his place, a luxury penthouse apt. He wanted me to know both his past wealth, the decades he was spending $100,000 a month, and his present state of jeopardy in which if he didn't come up with cash soon everything would be lost. He showed me his bill for the month's rent, $3800, told me the cost of all his furnishings. Pointed out his pictures of himself, usually shirtless, with celebrities from the time he was a muscle man TV star. In fact I remembered his TV appearances, was reminded how as I kid I was annoyed by his bandit's drooping mustache. Now he'd fallen on hard times, the investment deals he'd been doing since his TV days stopped working in our times' changed economy. The past five years he put his all into a final gigantic project for a golf course and residential suburb to be financed by the Chinese. It fell through, a complete loss. Not giving up, he'd set to doing something new, packaging together a mass of internet start ups for investment. That was how I came to be at his place. I'd had some start up ideas myself. He liked one of them a lot, and wanted me to pitch the idea to his lawyer friend who was also inviting over. The friend had the 5,000 cash he needed this month to cover rent and expenses and might loan him the money if he thought the idea was promising.
- Did he?
- No. I asked the lawyer if the deal maker had been thrown out of his penthouse. No, somehow the deal maker was paying his rent. How? Doing his deals. In fact, the lawyer tells me, he just came from there. And he, I ask, how was he doing? The deal maker had told me some things about him. Before Harvard Law he'd studied Chinese poetry. He'd fallen on hard times, was sleeping on his mother's couch, working at evicting people from their houses for a demonic real estate speculator, carrying around $50,000 in money orders because his bank accounts had all been attached. This night he tells me he things have gotten so bad for him he keeps losing all his cases. The judges don't listen to anything, even read arguments, they simply decide for the side that is richest and biggest and that's not his. Ok. Want to ask what we can learn from him? No? Let's keep going west. The day before yesterday, around the same early morning hour, I saw a man a block away rapidly approaching me. This proved to be an extremely well dressed, handsome man about thirty-five who evidently knows me though I don't know him. He asks me how the writing is going, tells me he's reading my work on the internet. I'm a genius, he says. He also says I'm dead.
- 'You're dead'. What did he mean?
- Dead to the material enticements of the world. I ask him where he is going, all the while trying to remember who he is. He's going to meet his girl. Where's your girl? At her apartment. Where's that? That way. He points opposite to the way he was going. Who was this guy? A drug dealer? A gigolo? I don't know. Want to know what you can learn from him?
- No!
- Continuing. At Holmby Park, on the other side of the L.A. Country Club. late nights you can meet a middle aged Russian man dressed all in black, a bulky man a little overweight, projecting belly encased in a tight fitting shirt. With him is a little dog he'd warned me against approaching. The dog loves only him, he says, no one else. He was abandoned: I could imagine what happened to him, he tells me. As Kant and Hegel said life is about power, everything else was a lie. Kant and Hegel said that? Yes, do you know the names? He was looking after the dog, it was his son's ex-girlfriend's. His son is a big time drug dealer. His son always takes care of his girls when he breaks up with them. He sends them to school, he buys them a house. His son lives in a two million dollar house in the Hollywood Hills. He, the father, himself also is a millionaire, though he still gets up at five in the morning to go over to his eighty plus year old parents' place he bought them. He went there to wash his father, who's alone while his mother vacations in Alaska. From his parents' place every morning he then goes to the apartment buildings he owns and sweeps out the hallways. From apartment building sweeping he then goes to the pawn shop his son bought but doesn't have time to manage. The life of a millionaire, he sighs. He was a millionaire because he was willing to do what it takes, whatever it takes, to get ahead. My problem, he says, is I'm not willing. That is correct. Like one Salinger character says of another, I thought of myself as 'intricately calibrated', my adjustments easily disrupted. I could like he did do the anything required of me to do, but I couldn't do it without losing calibration. I was in agreement with employers who by their use of profiles reveal their assumption some types of person have greater capacities than other types for some things, for if not, why profile?
- What abilities were you unwilling to risk losing?
- The ability to stay innocent,
- I'll call you Holden from now on.
- In response to which argument of my intricate calibration the Russian says '#!%-#!' I'm a spoiled American man. He was in prison in Siberia. His first job in L.A. was as an apartment manager. He stole supplies from the apartment's storage which he used setting himself up as a painter. His business grew, he took on employees, he bought apartment buildings, became a millionaire. But his drug dealing son was much richer than he was. He ran the pawn shop as a favor to his son. But not as a normal business man. He was a Russian, he had a heart. He asked the story of everyone who brought something in to pawn. He did everything he could to help them out, made extensions of the loan period before he sold. I ask him to tell me one story. This is the story. There was this dentist who started taking all his things to the pawn shop. What had happened? Well, a patient came in one day, asked for a cleaning. He did his usual inspection, found a few cavities, asked the patient if she wanted them filled. Yes. So he does the work, presents his bill, three hundred dollars. But, the patient protests, the ad she saw said 'introductory special, $39.95'. That was for a first cleaning, not cavities, the dentist explains. But he didn't tell her that, she protests. The discussion gets more and more animated, the dentist raises his voice. The patient runs out without paying and the next day goes over to the office of the dentistry board and files a complaint. They call him in, ask him to give his side of the story. He tells the story, getting angrier and angrier, getting angry finally at the board members for not understanding him. The board suspends his license until he competes an anger management course. He finds a special all weekend intensive course, sits through it, and on the Monday following goes to the school office for his certificate of completion. That will be $5,000, he's told. He explodes in anger at the anger management coarse leader, leaves without paying and without the certificate, and goes directly to the office of the dentistry board and complains to them about this school they'd sent him to. When they ask why he didn't ask the price first just like his patient he got angry at didn't ask him his charge, he gets furious at them and storms out of their office. They suspend his licence indefinitely. With nothing to do all day he takes to drink. With no income he has to sell his possessions to pay his rent and so comes into the pawn shop.
- Do you believe that story?
- No. It's much too neat. I don't believe any of it in fact, not the son the soft-hearted gangster, not the five apartment buildings. For all these people I'm telling you about life's all a big show, strangely sad in their cases because they don't have anyone to show off to except me, and I'm not on anyone's stage.
- You're Holden Caulfield, a fictional character.
- Their isolation makes it easier to see the meaningless of their vanity. They are ridiculous doing their part on the stage without the other players, in having to talk about themselves to me, who isn't even allowed on any stage. When others are playing complementary roles on stage up with them, the meaninglessness of their role play is there but our sight is distracted by the drama between roles of who wins whatever is being fought over in the script. The police and sheriffs laughing it up at midnight in the West Hollywood Starbucks you'd think would be right in their element in today's police state, but they too are fish out of water when they climb onto a stage other than that their job is performed on. This is dangerous situation, you have to watch out, be careful you don't change role from being the superfluous other cafe customer to becoming their work. You better not look too long at them or appear to guiltily look away when they have their eyes on you. You know Marshalls, the discount store over across from the Beverly Center? See these jeans?
- What about them?.
- The alternatives were going naked or buy a pair of pants. I gave in. I went over to the superstore, grabbed off the rack the first pair my size, and went to wait my turn in line to pay. A cashier beckons me forward, callling out, 'Next guest!' I ask him:
- I'm your guest?
- Yes.
- So I don't have to pay?
- Yes, you have to pay.
- But if I invited you to my house, I mean if I had a house, if I invited you over to be my guest for dinner I wouldn't ask you to pay.
- Here guests have to pay. Would you like a bag?
- As your guest or customer?
- You're funny. The bag is free.
After this conversation I went on the internet to research this important matter. Found in seconds a New York Times story right on topic, the decision of stores to begin calling their customers guests. The Times found that a small chain of stores in the mid-west was the pioneer in this change, which didn't really get going until the Disney conglomerate took it up. The chain store and Disney conglomerate claimed calling people guests is friendlier that calling them customers.
- Sure it is. But it's not true customers are their friends. They have to pay.
- Of course it's not true. I don't think it's true either that the businesses' intention was to be friendlier.
- What was their intention then?
- To confuse the distinction between what is done for money and what is done out of friendship. If you go to the public library in Beverly Hills you'll see a big sign hanging over the checkout counter that says 'Customer Service'.****
-. So at big business outlets paying visitors become guests, but at the public library, visitors who used to be called patrons, because as members of the public they are owners of public institutions and are entitled to free passage, are now treated like they have to pay for the right to visit, are customers.
- On one side, paying-visits invades the territory of non-paying visits, on the other side, non-paying visits are treated like paying-visits.
- Do you think the obscuring of the difference between paying- and non-paying visits is intentional?
- Yes. And far from being friendly, the goal is to deprive the word 'friend' and what it represents of clear meaning by confusing it with what is done for money.
- Because people whose lives are more about spending money than being with friends make better customers.
- Yes.
- And the police and sheriffs at Starbucks are there, in this new conspiracy against friendship you've invented, to make sure even cafes are no longer places for friends to meet but are places you consume and if you don't watch out you'll be a consumable offered to the forces of law and order hanging out there. As happened to your friend the Greek Orthodox Christian thrown out of UCLA, who didn't think such things were possible. What do you think, by the way, of his advocacy of Greek Orthodoxy?
- I sympathize with the idea that the messiah has already arrived, no need to make the earth again a paradise, the other world awaits. But why must I be subject to that particular story? There are many other stories with the same message. For example there's Holden Caulfield's message. He wants to get away from the world of phonies and do something good, wait in the field of rye below the place where children are at risk of falling and be there to save them. Why if this world is only instrumental to getting to the other world should there be any privileged story in this world? Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, Buddhist, Sufi, etc. Each thinks it has the privilege, yet the way I see it none should have it. It doesn't matter at all which should have it so long as religion too should share the status of everything else in this world of only instrumental meaning, the world worth living in and talking about only to figure out the best way of getting out of it.
- What does your friend say to that?
- I'll have to ask him. I'll let you know.

Further Reading:
The Two Worlds
Listening:
No One Is Coming
________________
* Indifference
** Prostitution & Torture
*** While You've Been Gone
**** A Visit To The Library

Friday, August 19, 2016

Freedom, Brand New

Great Seal of the US Icon by clandrigan757
                 Not a government publication

Part 2, Kant & Compromise

- I've done a little research. According to Kant, because ability to be free develops slowly and is limited by present conditions, we have no choice but to accept present political conditions, in his case a more or less benevolent dictatorship, in ours oligarchy, and talk our way into more and more enlightenment which will in time change the present political circumstances. Correct?
- Yes.
- As incredible as it may seem, my research shows that present conditions may not be a restraint for us much longer. Want to know why?
- Why?
- A few years ago you talked about throwing out the existing Congress and electing a whole new one.* There now is a political movement called Brand New Congress** for doing just that in 2018 when all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be up for grabs. You also talked about criminal prosecution and taxing of the rich to fund economic freedom for the majority of the people. The charity Oxfam, hardly a radical organization, in 2013 calculated that half of the income of the world's hundred richest people would be enough to save the lives of millions dying every year of starvation.*** Existing law in the United States makes it a crime to fail in the "duty to save".**** Putting this research together I come up with the surprising conclusion that in 2018 it is not impossible to elect a Brand New Congress with the exclusive mandate of criminally prosecuting and confiscating the wealth of our country's richest citizens for gross negligence of duty to save.
- Save from what?
- Poverty, conditions of violence and social injustice, all of which can be directly laid to the door of their hoarding of wealth, not to mention their bribery of the government in the service of that hoarding. Two years ago you wrote all this should happen.
- I did. And it is true, we have the wealth, we have the law, we have the political organization necessary for change. But part of the restraining conditions are the use of advertising and political speech to convince people change like this is impossible. Voters are allowed to choose only between images of leaders that make them feel better about themselves.
- Even if in public life they are told about other possibilities, they won't be able to act on them because in their personal lives they have been made idiots by advertising, movies, TV, music. I'm not so sure.
- Why not?
- Because as statistics tell us Americans are some of the most religious people on the planet, and really all we are talking about here is the golden rule: act with others as you would like them to act with you. Right now Americans are being told, Let those guys be billionaires as they like to be billionaires, because wouldn't you like to be a billionaire too and act as you like with your billions? But Americans haven't had the opportunity to see that those billions were acquired and maintained by criminality that costs million of lives every year, many of them in their own communities.
- They haven't had the opportunity to see because their minds are controlled by those same rich people who are criminals under current law.
- But Kant's theory of the enlightenment, and despite all our faults we are creatures of the enlightenment, predicts that that control can't indefinitely be maintained against public talk of new political parties, the world's increasing wealth, and existing law.

Further Reading:
Be My Guest
______________________
A Spiritualist Campaigns For Congress, An Anarchist Attends
** Brand New Congress
*** Oxfam report
**** Duty To Save 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Kant & Compromise

Image result for kant immanuel

1.

- We're told it's unreasonable to expect we'll ever have someone represent us in government who is not
a sociopath or clinical narcissist, (who has) failed to be the target of fraud lawsuits, sexual-harassment claims, or federal criminal investigations...(who hasn't) the capacity for unspeakable evil that is generally considered necessary to win higher office.*
We're told we have to vote for Clinton to make sure we don't get Trump. We have to choose the lesser of two evils. Do we?
- We don't.
- Why not?
- Because it is a compromise that is sure to have drawbacks and is sure not to have benefits.
- How can that be? The benefit is to save the world from Donald Trump, who with nuclear launch codes in hand can basically end the world.
- Aldous Huxley's 'Ends And Means'** argues that the only end we could choose bad means to reach was there being greater charity in the world. Choosing any other end we'd be doing certain bad for the sake of uncertain good, at the cost to both ourselves and others, losing our integrity and becoming a bad example.
- We'll have our integrity while the nuclear bombs are exploding over our heads.
- In the 18th Century Immanuel Kant wrote an essay,*** drawing on Plato's allegory of the cave,**** that argued that people are weakened by dependence on others and don't dare to take back their independence. But once they do,
free thought gradually reacts back on the modes of thought of the people, and men become more and more capable of acting in freedom. At last free thought acts even on the fundamentals of government and the state finds it agreeable to treat man, who is now more than a machine, in accord with his dignity.
- And what if there is no time?
- Kant advocated freedom only in public speech, not in personal life:
Thus it would be very unfortunate if an officer on duty and under orders from his superiors should want to criticize the appropriateness or utility of his orders. He must obey. But as a scholar he could not rightfully be prevented from taking notice of the mistakes in the military service and from submitting his views to his public for its judgment.
- Then Kant advocated compromise too.
- He advocated obeying the rules in our personal lives when combined with free speech in public life, because that was he believed sure to result eventually in change for the better in our lives. If we merely call on each other to compromise in our personal lives, without the free speech in public life, our compromise will cost us our integrity and our good example and get us nothing.
- Except maybe not having nuclear bombs falling on our heads.
- Wouldn't that risk be better taken care of by people coming out and talking to each other, looking to another candidate or another political party rather than voting for the lesser of two evils?
- If there is time and if you can get people to talk to each other.
______________________
* From the Borowitz Report, July 24, 2016 issue, The New Yorker Magazine
** Ends And Means, (An Enquiry into the Nature of Ideals)
*** What Is Enlightenment?
**** The Allegory Of The Cave


2.

- I've done a little research. According to Kant, because ability to be free develops slowly and is limited by present conditions, we have no choice but to accept present political conditions, in his case a more or less benevolent dictatorship, in ours oligarchy, and talk our way into more and more enlightenment which will in time change the present political circumstances. Correct?
- Yes.
- As incredible as it may seem, my research shows that present conditions may not be a restraint for us much longer. Want to know why?
- Why?
- A few years ago you talked about throwing out the existing Congress and electing a whole new one.* There now is a political movement called Brand New Congress** for doing just that in 2018 when all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be up for grabs. You also talked about criminal prosecution and taxing of the rich to fund economic freedom for the majority of the people. The charity Oxfam, hardly a radical organization, in 2013 calculated that half of the income of the world's hundred richest people would be enough to save the lives of millions dying every year of starvation.*** Existing law in the United States makes it a crime to fail in the "duty to save".**** Putting this research together I come up with the surprising conclusion that in 2018 it is not impossible to elect a Brand New Congress with the exclusive mandate of criminally prosecuting and confiscating the wealth of our country's richest citizens for gross negligence of duty to save.
- Save from what?
- Poverty, conditions of violence and social injustice, all of which can be directly laid to the door of their hoarding of wealth, not to mention their bribery of the government in the service of that hoarding. Two years ago you wrote all this should happen.
- I did. And it is true, we have the wealth, we have the law, we have the political organization necessary for change. But part of the restraining conditions are the use of advertising and political speech to convince people change like this is impossible. Voters are allowed to choose only between images of leaders that make them feel better about themselves.
- Even if in public life they are told about other possibilities, they won't be able to act on them because in their personal lives they have been made idiots by advertising, movies, TV, music. I'm not so sure.
- Why not?
- Because as statistics tell us Americans are some of the most religious people on the planet, and really all we are talking about here is the golden rule: act with others as you would like them to act with you. Right now Americans are being told, Let those guys be billionaires as they like to be billionaires, because wouldn't you like to be a billionaire too and act as you like with your billions? But Americans haven't had the opportunity to see that those billions were acquired and maintained by criminality that costs million of lives every year, many of them in their own communities.
- They haven't had the opportunity to see because their minds are controlled by those same rich people who are criminals under current law.
- But Kant's theory of the enlightenment, and despite all our faults we are creatures of the enlightenment, predicts that that control can't indefinitely be maintained against public talk of new political parties, the world's increasing wealth, and existing law.
______________________
A Spiritualist Campaigns For Congress, An Anarchist Attends
** Brand New Congress
*** Oxfam report
**** Duty To Save 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Time's Up!


              D-Wave's Quantum Computer

1.
There's this theory I've been reading about. As communications that once were controlled by monopolies at high profits are now produced and consumed directly by people at no cost on the Internet, so energy and transport will go the same way. Everyone will have solar panels on their rooftops and everyone will share transport rather than own a car. The production of the tools of communication and energy production and transportation are getting cheaper and cheaper through automation, approaching the point where the tools can manufacture themselves and repair themselves. Only the raw materials the tools are made from need be provided, but they can be recycled. Sounds good, right?
- Do you remember the conversation?* Last year, I think?
- Yes.
- From what I've been reading we are now within five or ten years of the point where the tools can manufacture themselves and repair themselves. We have already functioning 'machine learning' with neural network computing. Its weak point is the immense power of computation required to connect more and more 'neural' nodes to each other. However quantum computing is developing fast, and is poised to provide almost unlimited computation power. And then...
- Then?
- The head guys involved in both machine learning and quantum computing don't neglect issuing the usual warnings about technology being a tool that can be used for good or evil. Their job is to develop the technology, the society at large has to take care of the problem how to use it safely.
- There are whole institutions dedicated to this question.
- Staffed by technicians.
- Should they be staffed with philosophers who don't understand the technology?
- Perhaps they should, if this warning from 50 years ago, the ideas developed 30 years before that, turns out to be true:
The danger to democracy does not spring from any specific scientific discoveries or electronic inventions. The human compulsions that dominate the authoritarian technics of our own day date back to a period before even the wheel had been invented. The danger springs from the fact that, since Francis Bacon and Galileo defined the new methods and objectives of technics, our great physical transformations have been effected by a system that deliberately eliminates the whole human personality, ignores the historic process, overplays the role of the abstract intelligence, and -- makes control over physical nature, ultimately control over man himself, the chief purpose of existence.**
- Lewis Mumford. His astonishing idea that technology, before it constructed machines of metal, made machines out of people, organizing them in massive armies for constructing monuments to their leaders or to fight wars.
- From the same 1963 essay:
Let us fool ourselves no longer. At the very moment Western nations threw off the ancient regime of absolute government, operating under a once-divine king, they were restoring this same system in a far more effective form in their technology, reintroducing coercions of a military character no less strict in the organization of a factory than in that of the new drilled, uniformed, and regimented army....
And, towards the conclusion:
Again: do not mistake my meaning. This is not a prediction of what will happen, but a warning against what may happen. 
- So with machine learning here and quantum computing on its way: time's up.
- Slaves provided the human material to ancient civilizations to construct their technology, so as Mumford put it there was no need for 'inorganic' material and to develop metal based technology. Once, however, all our inorganic machines are making and taking care of themselves, immense supply of organic material - we human beings - will be available for use to serve the 'human compulsions' that were behind the drive to construct the first social, organic technologies, and are already a dominant element in present day social organization.
- What are those human compulsions?
- Doing for the sake of doing. Endless production. The more times you can successfully repeat an action, the safer you feel in your power to perform that action, and others related to it.
- A question of safety then. How are we ever going to get past that?
- Find security in our knowledge.
- Technology is knowledge and it is in the service of this power madness.
- The wrong kind of knowledge. We have the most perfect myth to express this: Adam and Eve,*** expelled from the garden of Eden for acquiring knowledge, become mortal. They can apply their knowledge to their work, but they are punished by work and reproduction being a pain to them and by being confined within their social roles of master and slave. Work is to do what you don't want to do, that you don't have a personal reason to do. Reproduction is a pain. Put these ideas together, and you get doing for the sake of doing, production without end never without pain. You have to do what your role tells you to do and you have to do it for no reason outside itself and you have to keep doing it forever. It is the only thing that makes you feel safe in your state of mortal uncertainty and fear.
- So you end up doing it more and more because the more you do it the safer you feel you can continue to do it. If you have the chance, you make yourself into a pyramid building pharaoh or modern day prince of finance or industry.
- Yes. Adam and Eve are out and can't get back in to Eden, but their descendants have a way back if they use knowledge right.
- Which is?
- For the sake of getting back to Eden.
- Which is where exactly?
- In the company of the people we love. Or perhaps you want a more technical answer? Here's Mumford:
The reconstitution of both our science and our technics in such a fashion as to insert the rejected parts of the human personality at every stage in the process. This means gladly sacrificing mere quantity in order to restore qualitative choice, shifting the seat of authority from the mechanical collective to the human personality and the autonomous group, favoring variety and ecological complexity, instead of stressing undue uniformity and standardization, above all, reducing the insensate drive to extend the system itself, instead of containing it within definite human limits and thus releasing man himself for other purposes. We must ask, not what is good for science or technology, still less what is good for General Motors or Union Carbide or IBM or the Pentagon, but what is good for man: not machine-conditioned, system-regulated, mass-man, but man in person, moving freely over every area of life.


2.

- Do you know what I find most interesting in this?
- What?
- Mumford warned that control over physical nature and over man himself had already become the chief purpose of existence. If that is true, we should be seeing the two acting together.
- How do you mean?
- We should be seeing people treated as property and defined and distinguished from each other by their relation to property. We should be seeing all parts of the human personality outside of these definitions being rejected, both by threat of exclusion from social participation and by outright violence upon those whose present social position is an irritant to the efficient practice of accepted social roles. I have some personal experience of this happening.
- Tell me.
- So far, all rather ridiculous stuff. On my way back to Westwood late at night I'm often trailed at walking pace by Beverly Hills police cars. I've been approached by the University police and asked to inform them of any suspicious people (like myself) I see on campus.
-What did you say?
- That there was already too much spying going on and I didn't want to be approached again.
- They must have thought you were crazy.
- They must have. To continue. My single valuable possession, a 17 year old Italian racing bicycle, regularly suggests to bike thieves who are out in force late at night that as it was too good for somebody like me it would be better in their hands than mine. Earlier this month a man was gesturing crazily across the street as I was coming towards him. When I passed he exclaimed, 'That's a nice bike', and ran after me, grabbed hold of the bike seat and tried to pull me to a stop.
- He didn't?
- No. The benefit of a fast bike. At Starbucks in Westwood a twitchy drug addict told me his story. A poet and filmmaker, he was also a biker. He had gotten into drug dealing with one of the numerous bike gangs that group-ride late at night in L.A. They demanded of him that he steal a bike for them as sort of an initiation. When he refused, his story goes, one of the leader's friend's asked to try out his bike, and rode away never to return. Whereupon the gang leader with suitable menace sends him on the way home on foot: an all night walk from Burbank to West L.A. As I got up to leave he repeated his observation, what a nice bike I had, placed his hands on the handlebars, asked couldn't he take it for a ride?
- You didn't let him?
- No. The ridiculousness reached a new level a couple days ago. I was sitting at the tables outside of Trader Joes market in Westwood, eating lunch and reading, when a strong wind rose and blew the large garden unbrella down on top of the woman at the next table. She got up and left, and I tried but failed to steady it so it wouldn't fall next on me. I was unlocking my bike to leave when a man approached me, crying out, "What are you doing to our property?" I asked,
- Who are you?
- I work for the association. We got a call that a strange man was breaking our umbrella.
- The Westwood Community Association. Who called you?
- The manager of Trader Joe's.
- Hard to believe.
- Are you calling me a liar?
- Let's go inside and talk to the manager. If he denies he called you, then I'll call you a liar.
- No.
- No what?
- I won't go inside. I'm here because a strange man was damaging our property. You admit that strange man is you.
- Your property fell on the head of the woman sitting at the next table. She left and I attempted to set it straight so it wouldn't fall on me.
- You have no right to touch our property. You have to leave.
- What?
- You have to leave. Right now.
- Who are you?
- I work for the association. I'm protecting our property.
- Your property is a public hazard. And your property is on public property.
- No. This is our property.
- It's public property.
- It's ours.
- Possibly it's Trader Joe's property which you've been given the authority to manage.
- No it's not.
- Let's go in and ask them..
- No.
- Then I'll go in. But here's the manager now.
- What's going on?
- This idiot from the Westwood Association claims he manages this area outside the store for you. Is this your property?
- No.
- No. Did you call him to come here?
- No.
- No. You're a liar, idiot.
- You can't call me an idiot.
- I can't? Is this your property?
- Yes.
- Idiot.
- Don't call me idiot! Leave right now!
- You leave. If you choose to stay I'll conclude you're such an idiot you want to be called an idiot many more times.
- You can't talk to him like that.
- I can't? Is this your property, manager of Trader Joe's?
- No.
- Then you can't control what I say.
- But you're not right to ...
- Nothing's keeping you here. You can go back into your store.
- Tell this man he has to leave.
- Look, idiot...
- Don't talk to him that way!
- Idiot, you leave, go back the way you came, and you, manager of Traders Joes, if you don't like the conversation go that way back to your store.
- Wow. The manager went back into the store?
- Yes. And the association man also went away.
- Without either community association representative or market manager showing the slightest concern about the dangerous garden umbrella.
- But showing, which is why I'm telling the story, plenty of menacing authority.

                                                          * * *

P.S. 'The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.' - Albert Einstein

_______________________
Something To Look Forward To
** Authoritarian and Democratic Technics
*** Eve In The Garden Of Eden

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Authoritarian and Democratic Technics, by Lewis Mumford, 1963

"Democracy" is a term now confused and sophisticated by indiscriminate use, and often treated with patronizing contempt. Can we agree, no matter how far we might diverge at a later point, that the spinal principle of democracy is to place what is common to all men above that which any organization, institution, or group may claim for itself? This is not to deny the claims of superior natural endowment, specialized knowledge, technical skill, or institutional organization: all these may, by democratic permission, play a useful role in the human economy. But democracy consists in giving final authority to the whole, rather than the part; and only living human beings, as such, are an authentic expression of the whole, whether acting alone or with the help of others.

Around this central principle clusters a group of related ideas and practices with a long foreground in history, though they are not always present, or present in equal amounts, in all societies. Among these items are communal self-government, free communication as between equals, unimpeded access to the common store of knowledge, protection against arbitrary external controls, and a sense of individual moral responsibility for behavior that affects the whole community. All living organisms are in some degree autonomous in that they follow a life-pattern of their own; but in man this autonomy is an essential condition for his further development. We surrender some of our autonomy when ill or crippled: but to surrender it every day on every occasion would be to turn life itself into a chronic illness. The best life possible -- and here I am consciously treading on contested ground -- is one that calls for an ever greater degree of self-direction, self-expression, and self-realization. In this sense, personality, once the exclusive attribute of kings, belongs on democratic theory to every man. Life itself in its fullness and wholeness cannot be delegated.

In framing this provisional definition I trust that I have not, for the sake of agreement, left out anything important. Democracy, in the primal sense I shall use the term, is necessarily most visible in relatively small communities and groups, whose members meet frequently face to face, interact freely, and are known to each other as persons. As soon as large numbers are involved, democratic association must be supplemented by a more abstract, depersonalized form. Historic experience shows that it is much easier to wipe out democracy by an institutional arrangement that gives authority only to those at the apex of the social hierarchy than it is to incorporate democratic practices into a well organized system under centralized direction, which achieves the highest degree of mechanical efficiency when those who work it have no mind or purpose of their own.

The tension between small-scale association and large-scale organization, between personal autonomy and institutional regulation, between remote control and diffused local intervention, has now created a critical situation. If our eyes had been open, we might long ago have discovered this conflict deeply embedded in technology itself.

I wish it were possible to characterize technics with as much hope of getting assent, with whatever quizzical reserves you may still have, as in this description of democracy. But the very title of this paper is, I confess, a controversial one; and I cannot go far in my analysis without drawing on interpretations that have not yet been adequately published, still less widely discussed or rigorously criticized and evaluated. My thesis, to put it bluntly, is that from late Neolithic times in the Near East, right down to our own day, two technologies have recurrently existed side by side: one authoritarian, the other democratic, the first system-centered, immensely powerful, but inherently unstable, the other man-centered, relatively weak, but resourceful and durable. If I am right, we are now rapidly approaching a point at which, unless we radically alter our present course, our surviving democratic technics will be completely suppressed or supplanted, so that every residual autonomy will be wiped out, or will be permitted only as a playful device of government, like national balloting for already chosen leaders in totalitarian countries.

The data on which this thesis is based are familiar; but their significance has, I believe, been overlooked. What I would call democratic technics is the small scale method of production, resting mainly on human skill and animal energy but always, even when employing machines, remaining under the active direction of the craftsman or the farmer, each group developing its own gifts, through appropriate arts and social ceremonies, as well as making discreet use of the gifts of nature. This technology had limited horizons of achievement, but, just because of its wide diffusion and its modest demands, it had great powers of adaptation and recuperation. This democratic technics has underpinned and firmly supported every historic culture until our own day, and redeemed the constant tendency of authoritarian technics to misapply its powers. Even when paying tribute to the most oppressive authoritarian regimes, there yet remained within the workshop or the farmyard some degree of autonomy, selectivity, creativity. No royal mace, no slave-driver's whip, no bureaucratic directive left its imprint on the textiles of Damascus or the pottery of fifth century Athens.

If this democratic technics goes back to the earliest use of tools, authoritarian technics is a much more recent achievement: it begins around the fourth millennium B.C. in a new configuration of technical invention, scientific observation, and centralized political control that gave rise to the peculiar mode of life we may now identify, without eulogy, as civilization. Under the new institution of kingship, activities that had been scattered, diversified, cut to the human measure, were united on a monumental scale into an entirely new kind of theological-technological mass organization. In the person of an absolute ruler, whose word was law, cosmic powers came down to earth, mobilizing and unifying the efforts of thousands of men, hitherto all-too-autonomous and too decentralized to act voluntarily in unison for purposes that lay beyond the village horizon.

The new authoritarian technology was not limited by village custom or human sentiment: its herculean feats of mechanical organization rested on ruthless physical coercion, forced labor and slavery, which brought into existence machines that were capable of exerting thousands of horsepower centuries before horses were harnessed or wheels invented. This centralized technics drew on inventions and scientific discoveries of a high order: the written record, mathematics and astronomy, irrigation and canalization: above all, it created complex human machines composed of specialized, standardized, replaceable, interdependent parts -- the work army, the military army, the bureaucracy. These work armies and military armies raised the ceiling of human achievement: the first in mass construction, the second in mass destruction, both on a scale hitherto inconceivable. Despite its constant drive to destruction, this totalitarian technics was tolerated, perhaps even welcomed, in home territory, for it created the first economy of controlled abundance: notably, immense food crops that not merely supported a big urban population but released a large trained minority for purely religious, scientific, bureaucratic, or military activity. But the efficiency of the system was impaired by weaknesses that were never overcome until our own day.

To begin with, the democratic economy of the agricultural village resisted incorporation into the new authoritarian system. So even the Roman Empire found it expedient, once resistance was broken and taxes were collected, to consent to a large degree of local autonomy in religion and government. Moreover. as long as agriculture absorbed the labor of some 90 per cent of the population, mass technics were confined largely to the populous urban centers. Since authoritarian technics first took form in an age when metals were scarce and human raw material, captured in war, was easily convertible into machines, its directors never bothered to invent inorganic mechanical substitutes. But there were even greater weaknesses: the system had no inner coherence: a break in communication, a missing link in the chain of command, and the great human machines fell apart. Finally, the myths upon which the whole system was based -- particularly the essential myth of kingship -- were irrational, with their paranoid suspicions and animosities and their paranoid claims to unconditional obedience and absolute power. For all its redoubtable constructive achievements, authoritarian technics expressed a deep hostility to life.

By now you doubtless see the point of this brief historic excursus. That authoritarian technics has come back today in an immensely magnified and adroitly perfected form. Up to now, following the optimistic premises of nineteenth century thinkers like Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, we have regarded the spread of experimental science and mechanical invention as the soundest guarantee of a peaceful, productive, above all democratic, industrial society. Many have even comfortably supposed that the revolt against arbitrary political power in the seventeenth century was causally connected with the industrial revolution that accompanied it. But what we have interpreted as the new freedom now turns out to be a much more sophisticated version of the old slavery: for the rise of political democracy during the last few centuries has been increasingly nullified by the successful resurrection of a centralized authoritarian technics -- a technics that had in fact for long lapsed in many parts of the world.

Let us fool ourselves no longer. At the very moment Western nations, threw off the ancient regime of absolute government, operating under a once-divine king, they were restoring this same system in a far more effective form in their technology, reintroducing coercions of a military character no less strict in the organization of a factory than in that of the new drilled, uniformed, and regimented army. During the transitional stages of the last two centuries, the ultimate tendency of this system might be in doubt, for in many areas there were strong democratic reactions; but with the knitting together of a scientific ideology, itself liberated from theological restrictions or humanistic purposes, authoritarian technics found an instrument at hand that h as now given it absolute command of physical energies of cosmic dimensions. The inventors of nuclear bombs, space rockets, and computers are the pyramid builders of our own age: psychologically inflated by a similar myth of unqualified power, boasting through their science of their increasing omnipotence, if not omniscience, moved by obsessions and compulsions no less irrational than those of earlier absolute systems: particularly the notion that the system itself must be expanded, at whatever eventual cost to life.

Through mechanization, automation, cybernetic direction, this authoritarian technics has at last successfully overcome its most serious weakness: its original dependence upon resistant, sometimes actively disobedient servomechanisms, still human enough to harbor purposes that do not always coincide with those of the system.

Like the earliest form of authoritarian technics, this new technology is marvellously dynamic and productive: its power in every form tends to increase without limits, in quantities that defy assimilation and defeat control, whether we are thinking of the output of scientific knowledge or of industrial assembly lines. To maximize energy, speed, or automation, without reference to the complex conditions that sustain organic life, have become ends in themselves. As with the earliest forms of authoritarian technics, the weight of effort, if one is to judge by national budgets, is toward absolute instruments of destruction, designed for absolutely irrational purposes whose chief by-product would be the mutilation or extermination of the human race. Even Ashurbanipal and Genghis Khan performed their gory operations under normal human limits.

The center of authority in this new system is no longer a visible personality, an all-powerful king: even in totalitarian dictatorships the center now lies in the system itself, invisible but omnipresent: all its human components, even the technical and managerial elite, even the sacred priesthood of science, who alone have access to the secret knowledge by means of which total control is now swiftly being effected, are themselves trapped by the very perfection of the organization they have invented. Like the Pharoahs of the Pyramid Age, these servants of the system identify its goods with their own kind of well-being: as with the divine king, their praise of the system is an act of self-worship; and again like the king, they are in the grip of an irrational compulsion to extend their means of control and expand the scope of their authority. In this new systems-centered collective, this Pentagon of power, there is no visible presence who issues commands: unlike Job's God, the new deities cannot be confronted, still less defied. Under the pretext of saving labor, the ultimate end of this technics is to displace life, or rather, to transfer the attributes of life to the machine and the mechanical collective, allowing only so much of the organism to remain as may be controlled and manipulated.

Do not misunderstand this analysis. The danger to democracy does not spring from any specific scientific discoveries or electronic inventions. The human compulsions that dominate the authoritarian technics of our own day date back to a period before even the wheel had been invented. The danger springs from the fact that, since Francis Bacon and Galileo defined the new methods and objectives of technics, our great physical transformations have been effected by a system that deliberately eliminates the whole human personality, ignores the historic process, overplays the role of the abstract intelligence, and -- makes control over physical nature, ultimately control over man himself, the chief purpose of existence. This system has made its way so insidiously into Western society, that my analysis of its derivation and its intentions may well seem more questionable -- indeed more shocking -- than the facts themselves.

Why has our age surrendered so easily to the controllers, the manipulators, the conditioners of an authoritarian technics? The answer to this question is both paradoxical and ironic. Present day technics differs from that of the overtly brutal, half-baked authoritarian systems of the past in one highly favorable particular: it has accepted the basic principle of democracy, that every member of society should have a share in its goods. By progressively fulfilling this part of the democratic promise, our system has achieved a hold over the whole community that threatens to wipe out every other vestige of democracy.

The bargain we are being asked to ratify takes the form of a magnificent bribe. Under the democratic-authoritarian social contract, each member of the community may claim every material advantage, every intellectual and emotional stimulus he may desire, in quantities hardly available hitherto even for a restricted minority: food, housing, swift transportation, instantaneous communication, medical care, entertainment, education. But on one condition: that one must not merely ask for nothing that the system does not provide, but likewise agree to take everything offered, duly processed and fabricated, homogenized and equalized, in the precise quantities that the system, rather than the person, requires. Once one opts for the system no further choice remains. In a word, if one surrenders one's life at source, authoritarian technics will give back as much of it as can be mechanically graded, quantitatively multiplied, collectively manipulated and magnified.

"Is this not a fair bargain?" those who speak for the system will ask. "Are not the goods authoritarian technics promises real goods? Is this not the horn of plenty that mankind has long dreamed of, and that every ruling class has tried to secure, at whatever cost of brutality and injustice, for itself?" I would not belittle, still less deny, the many admirable products this technology has brought forth, products that a self-regulating economy would make good use of. I would only suggest that it is time to reckon up the human disadvantages and costs, to say nothing of the dangers, of our unqualified acceptance of the system itself. Even the immediate price is heavy; for the system is so far from being under effective human direction that it may poison us wholesale to provide us with food or exterminate us to provide national security, before we can enjoy its promised goods. Is it really humanly profitable to give up the possibility of living a few years at Walden Pond, so to say, for the privilege of spending a lifetime in Walden Two? Once our authoritarian technics consolidates its powers, with, the aid of its new forms of mass control, its panoply of tranquillizers and sedatives and aphrodisiacs, could democracy in any form survive? That question is absurd: life itself will not survive, except what is funneled through the mechanical collective. The spread of a sterilized scientific intelligence over the planet would not, as Teilhard de Chardin so innocently imagined, be the happy consummation of divine purpose: it would rather ensure the final arrest of any further human development.

Again: do not mistake my meaning. This is not a prediction of what will happen, but a warning against what may happen.

What means must be taken to escape this fate? In characterizing the authoritarian technics that has begun to dominate us, I have not forgotten the great lesson of history: Prepare for the unexpected! Nor do I overlook the immense reserves of vitality and creativity that a more humane democratic tradition still offers us. What I wish to do is to persuade those who are concerned with maintaining democratic institutions to see that their constructive efforts must include technology itself. There, too, we must return to the human center. We must challenge this authoritarian system that has given to an underdimensioned ideology and technology the authority that belongs to the human personality. I repeat: life cannot be delegated.

Curiously, the first words in support of this thesis came forth, with exquisite symbolic aptness, from a willing agent -but very nearly a classic victim! -- of the new authoritarian technics. They came from the astronaut, John Glenn, whose life was endangered by the malfunctioning of his automatic controls, operated from a remote center. After he barely saved his life by personal intervention, he emerged from his space capsule with these ringing words: "Now let man take over!"

That command is easier to utter than obey. But if we are not to be driven to even more drastic measures than Samuel Butler suggested in Erewhon, we had better map out a more positive course: namely, the reconstitution of both our science and our technics in such a fashion as to insert the rejected parts of the human personality at every stage in the process. This means gladly sacrificing mere quantity in order to restore qualitative choice, shifting the seat of authority from the mechanical collective to the human personality and the autonomous group, favoring variety and ecological complexity, instead of stressing undue uniformity and standardization, above all, reducing the insensate drive to extend the system itself, instead of containing it within definite human limits and thus releasing man himself for other purposes. We must ask, not what is good for science or technology, still less what is good for General Motors or Union Carbide or IBM or the Pentagon, but what is good for man: not machine-conditioned, system-regulated, mass-man, but man in person, moving freely over every area of life.

There are large areas of technology that can be redeemed by the democratic process, once we have overcome the infantile compulsions and automatisms that now threaten to cancel out our real gains. The very leisure that the machine now gives in advanced countries can be profitably used, not for further commitment to still other kinds of machine, furnishing automatic recreation, but by doing significant forms of work, unprofitable or technically impossible under mass production: work dependent upon special skill, knowledge, aesthetic sense. The do-it-yourself movement prematurely got bogged down in an attempt to sell still more machines; but its slogan pointed in the right direction, provided we still have a self to do it with. The glut of motor cars that is now destroying our cities can be coped with only if we redesign our cities to make fuller use of a more efficient human agent: the walker. Even in childbirth, the emphasis is already happily shifting from an officious, often lethal, authoritarian procedure, centered in hospital routine, to a more human mode, which restores initiative to the mother and to the body's natural rhythms.

The replenishment of democratic technics is plainly too big a subject to be handled in a final sentence or two: but I trust I have made it clear that the genuine advantages our scientifically based technics has brought can be preserved only if we cut the whole system back to a point at which it will permit human alternatives, human interventions, and human destinations for entirely different purposes from those of the system itself. At the present juncture, if democracy did not exist, we would have to invent it, in order to save and recultivate the spirit of man.

Further Reading:
Time's Up!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Future Of Science

Image result for bertrand russell

1.

- Tell me what you think:
Men sometimes speak as though the progress of science must necessarily be a boon to mankind, but that, I fear, is one of the comfortable nineteenth-century delusions which our more disillusioned age must discard. Science enables the holders of power to realize their purposes more fully than they could otherwise do. If their purposes are good, this is a gain; if they are evil, it is a loss. In the present age, it seems that the purposes of the holders of power are in the main evil, in the sense that they involve a diminution, in the world at large, of the things men are agreed in thinking good. Therefore, at present, science does harm by increasing the power of rulers. Science is no substitute for virtue; the heart is as necessary for a good life as the head.
 And:
Science has not given men more self-control, more kindliness, or more power of discounting their passions in deciding upon a course of action. It has given communities more power to indulge their collective passions, but, by making society more organic, it has diminished the part played by private passions. Men's collective passions are mainly evil; far the strongest of them are hatred and rivalry directed towards other groups. Therefore at present all that gives men power to indulge their collective passions is bad. That is why science threatens to cause the destruction of our civilization.
The quotes are from Bertrand Russell's 1924 book, Icarus Or The Future Of Science.
- Russell thought if we could get to a communism that respected the heart, getting there by the way of worldwide democracy, we'd be safe, but clearly there was a problem. 
- We might destroy ourselves first.
- Yes. Russell accepted the reality of both mystical experience and the world of science, allowing them each their separate worlds. Perhaps if he'd tried to reconcile religious experience with the world of science he'd have come up with an answer.
- Can religious experience advise us on how to use our technology? Can technology be applied to religious experience?
- Yes, both. We've talked about this. 
- We've talked about so many things.
- The problem Russell raises is keeping our communities from killing us while we allow our better natures learn to remake and advance those communities. Being able to see the warning signs that our communities are about to crush our attempts at understanding might, if not solve the problem in itself, at least be a step in the right direction.
- It might.
- The worst, most dangerous form of government is not dictatorship, which can be benevolent, but totalitarianism. Totalitarianism has many varieties, some atheist, some religious, some socialist, some capitalist; generally totalitarianisms have in common advocacy of violence, hatred of strangers, and claim to total control of society. Do you recognize these three elements?
- You mean how they fit together?
- Yes.
- There is always the old fall-back to explain human stupidity: we get together to enact the story of an old god, representing our present world, in battle with a new god, representing our future world. Ritual. We look forward to its conclusion in which our violence has eliminated our enemy and brought into being a new world. Enmity, violence, totally new world. Here the story to the ritual is 'remaking the nation'.
- Ritual is a kind of social technology. Our experience with kindness, love, with everything good tells us this machine of ritual blocks them from coming to be.* Technology applied to religious experience is the identifying of social models. Religious experience applied to world of science is doing something about the wrong social technologies when we see them coming. 
- The power of science will still be in the hands of rulers who'll use it to kill their enemies and take total control of the lives of their own people. You might have reconciled religious experience with technology by identifying a model, but what can we do with a mere model against that power?
- In trying to bring the world of good into the world of science, models that bring together both worlds help us stay focused, reach consensus on what kind of social behaviors are dangerous.
- As for example violence, total control, hatred of strangers.


2.

- I know you like, or rather are in love with your model bringing the good of the world into science. I have some doubts.
- About what?
- Your and Russell's good is kindness, love, and the rest of the qualities we say we feel in religious experience. But scientists are also making models bringing together with the world of science, not religious experience, but consciousness. According to some all the world, from our thinking to the orbits of planets, is an ongoing computation, and consciousness is the computer that the program doing the computation runs on.
- It's no more than an interesting metaphor. One variation has it that consciousness is a machine of endlessly computing self reflection: self aware of self that is aware of self that is aware of self.... But religious experience of an unmoving whole without parts doesn't fit with a counting that adds up to infinite parts and infinite movement.
- They deny the reality of religious experience.
- Russell's response:
It is obvious that a man who can see knows things which a blind man cannot know; but a blind man can know the whole of physics. Thus the knowledge which other men have and he has not is not a part of physics.**
Consciousness has tasks much larger than computing.


Further Reading:
The United States & Totalitarianism
The Technology Of Good 
_________________
* Noam Chomsky & Mental Things
** Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Matter, 1954

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Icarus or The Future of Science, by Bertrand Russell, 1924


Image result for bertrand russell icarus

Science has not given men more self-control, more kindliness, or more power of discounting their passions in deciding upon a course of action. It has given communities more power to indulge their collective passions, but, by making society more organic, it has diminished the part played by private passions. Men's collective passions are mainly evil; far the strongest of them are hatred and rivalry directed towards other groups. Therefore at present all that gives men power to indulge their collective passions is bad. That is why science threatens to cause the destruction of our civilization.

I. Introductory

Mr. Haldane's Daedalus has set forth an attractive picture of the future as it may become through the use of scientific discoveries to promote human happiness. Much as I should like to agree with his forecast, a long experience of statesmen and government has made me somewhat sceptical. I am compelled to fear that science will be used to promote the power of dominant groups, rather than to make men happy. Icarus, having been taught to fly by his father Daedalus, was destroyed by his rashness. I fear that the same fate may overtake the populations whom modern men of science have taught to fly. Some of the dangers inherent in the progress of science while we retain our present political and economic institutions are set forth in the following pages.

This subject is so vast that it is impossible, within a limited space, to do more than outline some of its aspects. The world in which we live differs profoundly from that of Queen Anne's time, and this difference is mainly attributable to science. That is to say, the difference would be very much less than it is but for various scientific discoveries, but resulted from those discoveries by the operation of ordinary human nature. The changes that have been brought about have been partly good, partly bad; whether, in the end, science will prove to have been a blessing or a curse to mankind, is to my mind, still a doubtful question.

A science may affect human life in two different ways. On the one hand, without altering men's passions or their general outlook, it may increase their power of gratifying their desires. On the other hand, it may operate through an effect upon the imaginative conception of the world, the theology or philosophy which is accepted in practice by energetic men. The latter is a fascinating study, but I shall almost wholly ignore it, in order to bring my subject within a manageable compass. I shall confine myself almost wholly to the effect of science in enabling us to gratify our passions more freely, which has hitherto been far the more important of the two.

From our point of view, we may divide the sciences into three groups: physical, biological, and anthropological. In the physical group I include chemistry, and broadly speaking any science concerned with the properties of matter apart from life. In the anthropological group I include all studies especially concerned with man: human physiology and psychology (between which no sharp line can be drawn), anthropology, history, sociology, and economics. All these studies can be illuminated by considerations drawn from biology; for instance, Rivers threw a new light on parts of economics by adducing facts about landed property among birds during the breeding season. But in spite of their connection with biology --- a connection which is likely to grow closer as time goes on --- they are broadly distinguished from biology by their methods and data, and deserve to be grouped apart, at any rate in a sociological inquiry.

The effect of the biological sciences, so far, has been very small. No doubt Darwinism and the idea of evolution affected men's imaginative outlook; arguments were derived in favour of free competition, and also of nationalism. But these effects were of the sort that I propose not to consider. It is probable that great effects will come from these sciences sooner or later. Mendelism might have revolutionized agriculture, and no doubt some similar theory will do so sooner or later. Bacteriology may enable us to exterminate our enemies by disease. The study of heredity may in time make eugenics an exact science, and perhaps we shall in a later age be able to determine at will the sex of our children. This would probably lead to an excess of males, involving a complete change in family institutions. But these speculations belong to the future. I do not propose to deal with the possible future effects of biology, both because my knowledge of biology is very limited, and because the subject has been admirably treated by Mr. Haldane. *

The anthropological sciences are those from which, a priori, we might have expected the greatest social effects, but hitherto this has not proved to be the case, partly because these sciences are mostly still at an early stage of development. Even economics has not so far had much effect. Where it has seemed to have, this is because it advocated what was independently desired. Hitherto, the most effective of the anthropological sciences has been medicine, through its influence on sanitation and public health, and through the fact that it has discovered how to deal with malaria and yellow fever. Birth-control is also a very important social fact which comes into this category. But although the future effect of the anthropological sciences (to which I shall return presently) is illimitable, the effect up to the present has been confined within fairly narrow limits.

One general observation to begin with. Science has increased man's control over nature, and might therefore be supposed likely to increase his happiness and well-being. This would be the case if men were rational, but in fact they are bundles of passions and instincts. An animal species in a stable environment, if it does not die out, acquires an equilibrium between its passions and the conditions of its life. If the conditions are suddenly altered, the equilibrium is upset. Wolves in a state of nature have difficulty in getting food, and therefore need the stimulus of a very insistent hunger. The result is that their descendants, domestic dogs, over-eat if they are allowed to do so. When a certain amount of something is useful, and the difficulty of obtaining it is diminished, instinct will usually lead an animal to excess in the new circumstances. The sudden change produced by science has upset the balance between our instincts and our circumstances, but in directions not sufficiently noted. Over-eating is not a serious danger, but over-fighting is. The human instincts of power and rivalry, like the dog's wolfish appetite will need to be artificially curbed, if industrialism is to succeed.


II. Effects of the Physical Sciences

Much the greatest part of the changes which science has made in social life is due to the physical sciences, as is evident when we consider that they brought about the industrial revolution. This is a trite topic, about which I shall say as little as my subject permits. There are, however, some points which must be made.

First, industrialism still has great parts of the earth's surface to conquer. Russia and India are very imperfectly industrialized; China hardly at all. In South America there is room for immense development. One of the effects of industrialism is to make the world an economic unit: its ultimate consequences will be very largely due to this fact. But before the world can be effectively organized as a unit, it will probably be necessary to develop industrially all the regions capable of development that are at present backward. The effects of industrialism change as it becomes more wide-spread; this must be remembered in any attempt to argue from its past to its future.

The second point about industrialism is that it increases the productivity of labour, and thus makes more luxuries possible. At first, in England, the chief luxury achieved was a larger population with an actual lowering of the standard of life. Then came a golden age when wages increased, hours of labour diminished, and simultaneously the middle-class grew more prosperous. That was while Great Britain was still supreme. With the growth of foreign industrialism, a new epoch began. Industrial organizations have seldom succeeded in becoming world-wide, and have consequently become national. Competition, formerly between individual firms, is now mainly between nations, and is therefore conducted by methods quite different from those contemplated by the classical economists.

Modern industrialism is a struggle between nations for two things, markets and raw materials, as well as for the sheer pleasure of domination. The labour which is set free from providing the necessaries of life tends to be more and more absorbed by national rivalry. There are first the armed forces of the State; then those who provide munitions of war, from the raw minerals up to the finished product; then the diplomatic and consular services; then the teachers of patriotism in schools; then the Press. All of these perform other functions as well, but the chief purpose is to minister to international competition. As another class whose labours are devoted to the same end, we must add a considerable proportion of the men of science. These men invent continually more elaborate methods of attack and defence. The net result of their labours is to diminish the proportion of the population that can be put into the fighting line, since more are required for munitions. This might seem a boon, but in fact war is now-a-days primarily against the civilian population, and in a defeated country they are liable to suffer just as much as the soldiers.

It is science above all that has determined the importance of raw materials in international competition. Coal and iron and oil, especially, are the bases of power, and thence of wealth. The nation which possesses them, and has the industrial skill required to utilize them in war, can acquire markets by armed force, and levy tribute upon less fortunate nations. Economists have underestimated the part played by military prowess in the acquisition of wealth. The landed aristocracies of Europe were, in origin, warlike invaders. Their defeat by the bourgeoisie in the French Revolution, and the fear which this generated in the Duke of Wellington, facilitated the rise of the middle class. The wars of the eighteenth century decided that England was to be richer than France. The traditional economist's rules for the distribution of wealth hold only when men's actions are governed by law, i. e. when most people think the issue unimportant. The issues that people have considered vital have been decided by civil war or wars between nations. And for the present, owing to science, the art of war consists in possessing coal, iron, oil, and the industrial skill to work them. For the sake of simplicity, I omit other raw materials, since they do not affect the essence of our problem.

We may say, therefore, speaking very generally, that men have used the increased productivity which they owe to science for three chief purposes in succession: first, to increase the population; then, to raise the standard of comfort; and, finally, to provide more energy to war. This last result has been chiefly brought about by competition for markets, which led to competition for raw materials, especially the raw materials of munitions.


III. The Increase of Organization

The stimulation of nationalism which has taken place in modern times is, however, due very largely to another factor, namely the increase of organization, which is of the very essence of industrialism. Wherever expensive fixed capital is required, organization, on a large scale is of course necessary. In view of the economies of large scale production, organization in marketing also becomes of great importance. For some purposes, if not for all, many industries come to be organized nationally, so as to be in effect one business in each nation.

Science has not only brought about the need for large organizations, but also the technical possibility of their existence. Without railways, telegraphs and telephones, control from a centre is very difficult. In ancient empires, and in China down to modern times, provinces were governed by practically independent satraps or proconsuls, who were appointed by the central government, but decided almost all questions on their own initiative. If they displeased the sovereign, they could only be controlled by civil war, of which the issue was doubtful. Until the invention of the telegraph, ambassadors had a great measure of independence, since it was often necessary to act without waiting for orders from home. What applied in politics applied also in business: an organization controlled from the centre had to be very loosely knit, and to allow much autonomy to subordinates. Opinion as well as action was difficult to mould from a centre, and local variations marred the uniformity of party creeds.

Now-a-days all this is changed. Telegraph, telephone, and wireless make it easy to transmit orders from a centre: railways and steamers make it easy to transport troops in case the orders are disobeyed. Modern methods of printing and advertising make it enormously cheaper to produce and distribute one newspaper with a large circulation than many with small circulations; consequently, in so far as the Press controls opinion, there is uniformity, and, in particular, there is uniformity of news. Elementary education, except in so far as religious denominations introduce variety, is conducted on a uniform pattern decided by the State, by means of teachers whom the State has trained, as far as possible, to imitate the regularity and mutual similarity of machines produced to standard. Thus the material and psychological conditions for a great intensity of organization have increased pari passu, but the basis of the whole development is scientific invention in the purely physical realm. Increased productivity has played its part, by making it possible to set apart more labour for propaganda, under which head are to be included advertisement, the cinema, the Press, education, politics, and religion. Broadcasting is a new method likely to acquire great potency as soon as people are satisfied that it is not a method of propaganda.

Political controversies, as Mr. Graham Wallas has pointed out, ought to be conducted in quantitative terms. If sociology were one of the sciences that had affected social institutions (which it is not), this would be the case. The dispute between anarchism and bureaucracy at present tends to take the form of one side maintain that we want no organization, while the other maintains that we want as much as possible. A person imbued with the scientific spirit would hardly even examine these extreme positions. Some people think that we keep our rooms too hot for health, others that we keep them too cold. If this were a political question, one party would maintain that the best temperature is the absolute zero, the other that it is the melting point of iron. Those who maintained any intermediate position would be abused as timorous time-servers, concealed agents of the other side, men who ruined the enthusiasm of a sacred cause by tepid appeals to mere reason. Any man who had the courage to say that our rooms ought to be neither very hot nor very cold would be abused by both parties, and probably shot in No Man's Land. Possibly some day politics may become more rational, but so far there is not the faintest indication of a change in this direction.

To a rational mind, the question is not: Do we want organization or do we not? The question is: How much organization do we want, and where and when and of what kind? In spite of a temperamental leaning to anarchism, I am persuaded that an industrial world cannot maintain itself against internal disruptive forces without a great deal more organization than we have at present. It is not the amount of organization, buts its kind and its purpose, that causes our troubles. But before tackling this question, let us pause for a moment to ask ourselves what is the measure of the intensity of organization in a given community.

A man's acts are partly determined by spontaneous impulse, partly by the conscious or unconscious effects of the various groups to which he belongs. A man who works (say) on a railway or in a mine, is, in his working hours almost entirely determined in his actions by those who direct the collective labour of which he forms part. If he decides to strike, his action is again not individual, but determined by his Union. When he votes for Parliament, party caucuses have limited his choice to one of two or three men, and party propaganda has induced him to accept in toto one of two or three blocks of opinions which form the rival party programmes. His choice between the parties may be individual, but it may also be determined by the action of some group, such as a trade union, which collectively supports one party. His newspaper-reading exposes him to great organized forces; so does the cinema, if he goes to it. His choice of a wife is probably spontaneous, except that he must choose a woman of his own class. But in the education of his children he is almost entirely powerless: they must have the education which is provided. Organization thus determines many vital things in his life. Compare him to a handicraftsman or peasant-proprietor who cannot read and does not have his children educated, and it becomes clear what is meant by saying that industrialism has increased the intensity of organization. To defines this term we must, I think, exclude the unconscious effects of groups, except as causes facilitating the conscious effects. We may define the intensity of organization to which a given individual is subject as the proportion of his acts which is determined by the orders or advice of some group, expressed through democratic decisions or executive officers. The intensity of organization in a community may then be defined as the average intensity for its several members.

The intensity of organization is increased not only when a man belongs to more organizations, but also when the organizations to which he already belongs play a larger part in his life, as, for example, the State plays a larger part in war than in peace.

Another matter which needs to be treated quantitatively is the degree of democracy, oligarchy, or monarchy in an organization. No organization belongs completely to any one of the three types. There must be executive officers, who will often in practice be able to decide policy, even if in theory they cannot do so. And even if their power depends upon persuasion, they may so completely control the relevant publicity that they can always rely upon a majority. The directors of a railway company, for instance, are to all intents and purposes uncontrolled by the shareholders, who have no adequate means of organizing an opposition if they should wish to do so. In America, a railroad president is almost a monarch. In party politics, the power of leaders, although it depends upon persuasion, continually increases as printed propaganda becomes more important. For these reasons, even where formal democracy increases, the real degree of democratic control tends to diminish, except on a few questions which rouse strong popular passions.

The result of these causes is that, in consequence of scientific inventions which facilitate centralization and propaganda, groups become more organized, more disciplined, more group-conscious and more docile to leaders. The effect of leaders on followers is increased, and the control of events by a few prominent personalities becomes more marked.

In all this there would be nothing very tragic, but for the fact, with which science has nothing to do, that organization is almost wholly national. If men were actuated by the love of gain, as the older economists supposed, this would not be the case; the same causes which have led to national trusts would have led to international trusts. This has happened in a few instances, but not on a sufficiently wide scale to affect politics or economics very vitally. Rivalry is, with most well-to-do energetic people, a stronger motive than love of money. Successful rivalry requires organization of rival forces; the tendency is for a business such as oil, for example, to organize itself into two rival groups, between them covering the world. They might, of course, combine, and they would no doubt increase their wealth if they did so. But combination would take the zest out of life. The object of a football team, one might say, is to kick goals. If two rival teams combined, and kicked the ball alternately over the two goals, many more goals would be scored. Nevertheless no one suggest that this should be done, the object of a football team being not to kick goals but to win. So the object of a big business is not to make money, but to win in the contest with some other business. If there were no other business to be defeated, the whole thing would become uninteresting. This rivalry has attached itself to nationalism, and enlisted the support of the ordinary citizens of the countries concerned; they seldom know what it is that they are supporting, but, like the spectators at a football-match, they grow enthusiastic for their own side. The harm that is being done by science and industrialism is almost wholly due to the fact that, while they have proved strong enough to produce a national organization of economic forces, they have not proved strong enough to produce an international organization. It is clear that political internationalism such as the League of Nations was supposed to inaugurate, will never be successful until we have economic internationalism, which would require, as a minimum, an agreement between various national organizations dividing among them the raw material and markets of the world. This, however, can hardly be brought about while big business is controlled by men who are so rich as to have grown indifferent to money, and to be willing to risk enormous losses for the pleasure of rivalry.

The increase of organization in the modern world has made the ideals of liberalism wholly inapplicable. Liberalism, from Monteqsuieu to President Wilson, was based upon the assumption of a number of more or less equal individuals or groups, with no differences so vital that they were willing to die sooner than compromise. It was supposed that there was to be free competition between individuals and between ideas. Experience has shown, however, that the existing economic system is incompatible with all forms of free competition except between States by means of armaments. I should wish, for my part, to preserve free competition between ideas, though not between individuals and groups, but this is only possible by means of what an old-fashioned liberal would regard as interferences with personal liberty. So long as the sources of economic power remain in private hands, there will be no liberty except for the few who control those sources.

Such liberal ideals as free trade, free press, unbiased educated, either already belong to the past or soon will do so. One of the triumphs of early liberalism in England was the establishment of parliamentary control of the army; this was the casus belli in the Civil War, and was decided by the Revolution of 1688. It was effective so long as Parliament represented the same class from which army officers were drawn. This was still the case with the late Parliament, but may cease to be the case with the advent of a Labour Government. Russia, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Bavaria have shown in recent years how frail democracy has become; east of the Rhine it lingers only in outlying regions. Constitutional control over armaments must, therefore, be regarded as another liberal principle which is rapidly becoming obsolete.

It would seem probable that, in the next fifty years or so, we shall see a still further increase in the power of governments, and a tendency for governments to be such as are desired by the men who control armaments and raw materials. The forms of democracy may survive in western countries, since those who possess military and economic power can control education and the press, and therefore can usually secure a subservient democracy. Rival economic groups will presumably remain associated with rival nations, and will foster nationalism in order to recruit their football teams.

There is, however, a hopeful element in the problem. The planet is of finite size, but the most efficient size for an organization is continually increased by new scientific inventions. The world becomes more and more of an economic unity. Before very long the technical conditions will exist for organizing the whole world as one producing and consuming unit. If, when that time comes, two rival groups contend for mastery, the victor may be able to introduce that single world-wide organization that is needed to prevent the mutual extermination of civilized nations. The world which would result would be, at first, very different from the dreams of either liberals or socialists; but it might grow less different with the lapse of time. There would be at first economic and political tyranny of the victors, a dread of renewed upheavals, and therefore a drastic suppression of liberty. But if the first half-dozen revolts were successfully repressed, the vanquished would give up hope, and accept the subordinate place assigned to them by the victors in the great world-trust. As soon as the holders of power felt secure, they would grow less tyrannical and less energetic. The motive of rivalry being removed, they would not work so hard as they do now, and would soon cease to exact such hard work from their subordinates. Life at first might be unpleasant, but it would at least be possible, which would be enough to recommend the system after a long period of warfare. Given a stable world-organization, economic and political, even if, at first, it rested upon nothing but armed force, the evils which now threaten civilization would gradually diminish, and a more thorough democracy than that which now exists might become possible. I believe that, owing to men's folly, a world-government will only be established by force, and therefore be at first cruel and despotic. But I believe that it is necessary for the preservation of a scientific civilization, and that, if once realized, it will gradually give rise to the other conditions of a tolerable existence.


IV. The Anthropological Sciences

It remains to say something about the future effects of the anthropological sciences. This is of course extremely conjectural, because we do not know what discoveries will be made. The effect is likely to be far greater than we can now imagine, because these sciences are still in their infancy. I will, however, take a few points on which to hang conjectures. I do not wish to be supposed to be making prophecies: I am only suggesting possibilities which it may be instructive to consider.

Birth-control is a matter of great importance, particularly in relation to the possibility of a world-government, which could hardly be stable if some nations increased their population much more rapidly than others. At present, birth-control is increasing in all civilized countries, though in most it is opposed by governments. This opposition is due partly to mere superstition and desire to conciliate the Catholic vote, partly to the desire for large armies and severe competition between wage-earners, so as to keep down wages. In spite of the opposition of governments, it seems probable that birth-control will lead to a stationary population in most white nations within the next fifty years. There can be no security that it will stop with a stationary population; it may go on to the point where the population diminishes.

The increase in the practice of birth-control is an example of a process contrary to that seen in industrialism: it represents a victory of individual over collective passions. Collectively, Frenchmen desire that France should be populous, in order to be able to defeat her enemies in war. Individually, they desire that their own families should be small, in order to increase the inheritance of their children and to diminish the expense of education. The individual desire has triumphed over the collective desire, and even, in many cases, over religious scruples. In this case, as in most others, the individual desire is less harmful to the world than the collective desire: the man who acts from pure selfishness does less damage than the man who is actuated by ``public spirit.'' For, since medicine and sanitation have diminished the infant death-rate, the only checks to over-population that remain (apart from birth-control) are war and famine. So long as this continues to be the case, the world must either have a nearly stationary population, or employ war to produce famine. The latter method, which is that favoured by opponents of birth-control, has been adopted on a large scale since 1914; it is however somewhat wasteful. We require a certain number of cattle and sheep, and we take steps to secure the right number. If we were as indifferent about them as we are about human beings, we should produce far too many, and cause the surplus to die by the slow misery of under-feeding. Farmers would consider this plan extravagant, and humanitarians would consider it cruel. But where human beings are concerned, it is considered the only proper course, and works advocating any other are confiscated by the police if they are intelligible to those whom they concern.

It must be admitted, however, that there are certain dangers. Before long the population may actually diminish. This is already happening in the most intelligent sections of the most intelligent nations; government opposition to birth-control propaganda gives a biological advantage to stupidity, since it is chiefly stupid people who governments succeed in keeping in ignorance. Before long, birth-control may become nearly universal among the white races; it will then not deteriorate their quality, but only diminish their numbers, at a time when uncivilized races are still prolific and are preserved from a high death-rate by white science.

This situation will lead to a tendency --- already shown by the French --- to employ more prolific races as mercenaries. Governments will oppose the teaching of birth-control among Africans, for fear of losing recruits. The result will be an immense numerical inferiority of the white races, leading probably to their extermination in a mutiny of mercenaries. If, however, a world-government is established, it may see the desirability of making subject races also less prolific, and may permit mankind to solve the population question. This is another reason for desiring a world-government.

Passing from quantity to quality of population, we come to the question of eugenics. We may perhaps assume that, if people grow less superstitious, government will acquire the right to sterilize those who are not considered desirable as parents. This power will be used, at first, to diminish imbecility, a most desirable object. But probably, in time, opposition to the government will be taken to prove imbecility, so that rebels of all kinds will be sterilized. Epileptics, consumptives, dipsomaniacs and so on will gradually be included; in the end, there will be a tendency to include all who fail to pass the usual school examinations. The result will be to increase the average intelligence; in the long run, it may be greatly increased. But probably the effect upon really exceptional intelligence will be bad. Mr. Micawber, who was Dickens's father, would hardly have been regarded as a desirable parent. How many imbeciles ought to outweigh one Dickens I do not profess to know.

Eugenics has, of course, more ambitious possibilities in a more distant future. It may aim not only at eliminating undesired types, but at increasing desired types. Moral standards may alter so as to make it possible for one man to be the sire of a vast progeny by many different mothers. When men of science envisage a possibility of this kind, they are prone to a type of fallacy which is common also in other directions. They imagine that a reform inaugurated by men of science would be administered as men of science would wish, by men similar in outlook to those who have advocated it. In like manner women who advocated votes for women used to imagine that the woman voter of the future would resemble the ardent feminist who won her the vote; and socialist leaders imagine that a socialist State would be administered by idealistic reformers like themselves. These are, of course, delusions; a reform, once achieved, is handed over to the average citizen. So, if eugenics reached the point where it could increase desired types, it would not be the types desired by present-day eugenists that would be increased, but rather the type desired by the average official. Prime Ministers, Bishops, and others whom the State considers desirable might become the fathers of half the next generation. Whether this would be an improvement it is not for me to say, as I have no hope of ever becoming either a Bishop or a Prime Minister.

If we knew enough about heredity to determine, within limits, what sort of population we would have, the matter would of course be in the hands of State officials, presumably elderly medical men. Whether they would really be preferable to Nature I do not feel sure. I suspect that they would breed a subservient population, convenient to rulers but incapable of initiative. However, it may be that I am too sceptical of the wisdom of officials.

The effects of psychology on practical life may in time become very great. Already advertisers in America employ eminent psychologists to instruct them in the technique of producing irrational belief; such men may, when they have grown more proficient, be very useful in persuading the democracy that governments are wise and good. Then, again, there are the psychological tests of intelligence, as applied to recruits for the American army during the war. I am very sceptical of the possibility of testing anything except average intelligence by such methods, and I think that, if they were widely adopted, they would probably lead to many persons of great artistic capacity being classified as morons. The same thing would have happened to some first-rate mathematicians. Specialized ability not infrequently goes with general disability, but this would not be shown by the kind of tests which psychologists recommend to the American government.

More sensational than tests of intelligence is the possibility of controlling the emotional life through the secretions of the ductless glands. It will be possible to make people choleric or timid, strongly or weakly sexed, and so on, as may be desired. Differences of emotional disposition seem to be chiefly due to secretions of the ductless glands, and therefore controllable by injections or by increasing or diminishing the secretions. Assuming an oligarchic organization of society, the State could give to the children of holders of power the disposition required for command, and to the children of the proletariat the disposition required for obedience. Against the injections of the State physicians the most eloquent Socialist oratory would be powerless. The only difficulty would be to combine this submissiveness with the necessary ferocity against external enemies; but I do not doubt that official science would be equal to the task.

It is not necessary, when we are considering political consequences, to pin our faith to the particular theories of the ductless glands, which may blow over, like other theories. All that is essential in our hypothesis is the belief that physiology will in time find ways of controlling emotion, which it is scarcely possible to doubt. When that day comes we shall have the emotions desired by our rulers, and the chief business of elementary education will be to produce the desired disposition, no longer by punishment or moral precept, but by the far surer method of injection or diet. The men who will administer this system will have a power beyond the dreams of the Jesuits, but there is no reason to suppose that they will have more sense than the men who control education to-day. Technical scientific knowledge does not make men sensible in their aims, and administrators in the future, will be presumably no less stupid and no less prejudiced than they are at present.


Conclusion

It may seem as though I had been at once gloomy and frivolous in some of my prognostications. I will end, however, with the serious lesson which seems to me to result. Men sometimes speak as though the progress of science must necessarily be a boon to mankind, but that, I fear, is one of the comfortable nineteenth-century delusions which our more disillusioned age must discard. Science enables the holders of power to realize their purposes more fully than they could otherwise do. If their purposes are good, this is a gain; if they are evil, it is a loss. In the present age, it seems that the purposes of the holders of power are in the main evil, in the sense that they involve a diminution, in the world at large, of the things men are agreed in thinking good. Therefore, at present, science does harm by increasing the power of rulers. Science is no substitute for virtue; the heart is as necessary for a good life as the head.

If men were rational in their conduct, that is to say, if they acted in the way most likely to bring about the ends that they deliberately desire, intelligence would be enough to make the world almost a paradise. In the main, what is in the long run advantageous to one man is also advantageous to another. But men are actuated by passions which distort their view; feeling an impulse to injure others, they persuade themselves that it is to their interest to do so. They will not, therefore, act in the way that is in fact to their own interest unless they are actuated by generous impulses which make them indifferent to their own interest. This is why the heart is as important as the head. By the ``heart'' I mean, for the moment, the sum-total of kindly impulses. Where they exist, science helps them to be effective; where they are absent, science only makes men more cleverly diabolic.

It may be laid down as a general principle to which there are few exceptions that, when people are mistaken as to what is to their own interest, the course they believe to be wise is more harmful to others than the course that really is wise. There are innumerable examples of men making fortunes because, on moral grounds, they did something which they believed to be contrary to their own interests. For instance, among early Quakers there were a number of shopkeepers, who adopted the practice of asking no more for their goods than they were willing to accept, instead of bargaining with each customer, as everybody else did. They adopted this practice because they held it to be a lie to ask more than they would take. But the convenience to customers was so great that everybody came to their shops and they grew rich. (I forget where I read this, but if my memory serves me it was in some reliable source.) The same policy might have been adopted from shrewdness, but in fact no one was sufficiently shrewd. Our unconscious is more malevolent than it pays us to be; therefore the people who do most completely what is in fact to their interest are those who, on moral grounds, do what they believe to be against their interest.

For this reason, it is of the greatest importance to inquire whether any method of strengthening kindly impulses exists. I have no doubt that their strength or weakness depends upon discoverable physiological causes; let us assume that it depends upon the glands. If so, an international secret society of physiologists could bring about the millennium by kidnapping, on a given day, all the rulers of the world, and injecting into their blood some substance which would fill them with benevolence towards their fellow-creatures. Suddenly M. Poincare would wish well to Ruhr miners, Lord Curzon to Indian nationalists, Mr. Smuts to the natives of what was German South West Africa, the American government to its political prisoners and its victims in Ellis Island. But alas, the physiologists would first have to administer the love-philtre to themselves before they would undertake such a task. Otherwise, they would prefer to win titles and fortunes by injecting military ferocity into recruits. And so we come back to the old dilemma: only kindliness can save the world, and even if we knew how to produce kindliness we should not do so unless we were already kindly. Failing that, it seems that the solution which the Houynhnms adopted towards the Yahoos, namely extermination, is the only one; apparently the Yahoos are bent on applying it to each other.

We may sum up this discussion in a few words. Science has not given men more self-control, more kindliness, or more power of discounting their passions in deciding upon a course of action. It has given communities more power to indulge their collective passions, but, by making society more organic, it has diminished the part played by private passions. Men's collective passions are mainly evil; far the strongest of them are hatred and rivalry directed towards other groups. Therefore at present all that gives men power to indulge their collective passions is bad. That is why science threatens to cause the destruction of our civilization. The only solid hope seems to lie in the possibility of world-wide domination by one group, say the United States, leading to the gradual formation of an orderly economic and political world-government. But perhaps, in view of the sterility of the Roman Empire, the collapse of our civilization would in the end be preferable to this alternative.


Further Reading:
The Future Of Good
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* See his Daedalus, or Science and the Future. (Russell's note.)