Sunday, January 25, 2015

Who Created the Spark that Made a Monster out of Competition?

From the moment individuals began the effort to transmute lead into gold, and other individuals, who were desperate to accumulate not only it, but the various forms of sharp and pointy things, in combination with skilled wielders of same, to hold accumulated power, there has been the relationship of supreme leaders supporting inquiring minds. It would take a while to call it Science, of course, as the intricacies of empiricism, as well as the discipline inherent therein, took time to workout, but all the same, Science and its patrons in power have been an important aspect of history.

Fortunately, enlightenment rubbed off at least to a certain extent to the concepts of how power should be better distributed, and so science was able to get the vox populi as a whole employed as a further patron. That this was also required as a practical matter should not be ignored either. Recruiting the numbers of minds necessitated by the explosion of scientific disciplines went a long way towards convincing whatever was the power system dejour that universal education was an essential.

I mention this now because it reflects on an important aspect of why we have the current huge disconnect between science and a large segment of our population; a disconnect that is now expressed in grid locked government, and self destructive social behavior. And this is so in no small part because we have not only significant groups of the merely ignorant, but also those who are willfully ignorant.

I certainly consider myself in the first group; even though I make at least some effort to ameliorate the situation, I remain not fully cognizant of very important concepts and processes. Others, whether out of ordinary cussedness, cultural inertia, theological intransigence, or various combinations of all of these, now apply themselves with determined effort to push back against what our empiricists have concluded via objective testing and observation. The question then becomes: What is to be done?

The problem as I see it is that science has allowed itself to become too disconnected from not only the ordinary working people who keep the country going, but also from the practicalities of how power ought to be distributed. And it is, in my opinion, mostly to do with the fact that science has once again gotten too wound up with the patrons of power. Unfortunately, in this case, it isn't simply the individuals of power any more that they are so tied to, but to the power of information itself; especially as information and money now are the same thing.

That last distinction is important because it serves to underlay why so many in science hardly ever stop to ask the question: “Just because we can do a thing, and even allowing that it might return a great deal more in what we can do next, is it really such a good idea?” Where “good idea” in this context speaks to the collateral damage that is either quite apparent, or totally unexpected. A situation where you hear one luminary or another saying things like “it's inevitable that this will be used.”

What happens here, whether they are aware of it or not, is that all of this “able to do more in what we do next” feeds into the monster that has become of commercial competition. One might even imagine the electrode laden laboratory, arc flashes everywhere, earth rumbling hums of power coils surging and receding, and some insanely animated individual crying out “It's alive... It's alive...”

The upshot of competition becoming a monster is that not only does the speed with with new things become known increase, scaring the normally peaceful villagers, living below the wild goings on atop the mountain; there is also the more than troubling aspect of who is responsible for educating more than simply more replacements for the “It's alive” guy and his minions, who you know are going to be eaten, or burned out, or whatever, by the monster they have created. Competition after all, and the need to acquire ever greater amounts of net gain, are why Big Money doesn't want to have to pay for anything more than the bare minimum to keep whatever translative node they have going operative.

Perhaps if the villagers had been a good deal more informed in the first place, not to mention being in a position to tell that guy and his minions to go take a hike before they even got started on making the big coils and power switches, there might be the opportunity to engage in a more reasonable discussion on what facts are in the first place, as well as what their larger implications might be in various usage scenarios.

From this, then, it should be reasonable to conclude that science in general has not only an obligation, but a very real requirement for its own preservation, to be heavily involved in progressive political change. And even more to the point, that they should also be on the forefront of recognizing that Capitalism is indeed quite obsolete.

This is also, in fact, another example of one specialized skill/task group getting too separated from that which sustains it. Those who work to advance knowledge must be a great deal more integrated into not only what keeps the community that supports them going, but also in how what is already known is passed along to successive generations. Just as ordinary working parents should be more integrated with that same process.

The bottom line here is as Marshall McLuhan said several decades ago. That education cannot hope to continue effectively if it remains just one more assembly line factory, isolated away from the rest of daily life, along with all of the other aspects of what keeps us all going. Such isolation is diametrically opposed to what is needed when information is moved and translated with the speed of light within a complex matrix of processing nodes. Holistic thinking and integration are the only things that are going to allow us to survive, and if we don't recognize that we will all become monsters of one sort or another.