Sunday, August 21, 2011

Machine Analogy of Industrial Society

Society has a split personality. To talk of capitalist society is something of a contradiction of terms. The advocates of capitalism, often cite how the system more closely represents the natural world with competition and the survival of fitess: it is also why many nations have problematic legislation which protects competition rather than protecting diversity and security of supply. Such regulation implies a certain mechanical analogy to society. That society is a designed and planned machine with specific purpose. When people complain about the state of the health care system, and long waiting queues, there is an inference the machine is broken. When people complain about the state of the roads and the quality of service from public transport, there is an implication that the machine is broken. When people complain about the failure of the education system once again an implication that the machine is broken. The supply of water the disposal of waste. Financing the unemployed, the sick and the retired. Every subsystem is defective, and the machine is broken.

But if the machine is broken, then at some point in time the machine had to have been fully operational and fullfilling its function properly. Whilst some people may refer back to better times, those better times as with now, were only better for some people not all. The machine has never been fully operational, for it has never been fully built. The construction of the machine is a work in progress, but that is not what the educators imply to their pupils. Educators teach as if the machine was fully operational. There is confusion has to whether we have to fight to survive in the wilderness of the concrete jungle, or whether we are simply cogs within the machinery of industrial society.

Some people think they are not cogs: but isolate them entirely from industrial society and see how well they can survive. They are analogous cogs, because they drive and are driven by the industrial machine, from one cog to the next. As drive system or power supply, they are still component parts of the machine: represented by cogs. They are not outside of the machine, and they cannot walk away from the machine. In this respect we are certainly inferior to our ancestors reaching out into the unknown, a pioneering colony on the Moon, or Mars or a space station beyond Pluto is all a constrained possibility because of an unrealistic desire for a perfectly safe machine.

Except that we do not currently operate in a perfectly safe machine, simply travelling to and from place of work is a major risk: likely to result in death. This risk we desire to remove, to perfect the machine, and yet we don't want to be cogs in the machine. Everybody else is expected to be a highly regulated cog with in the machine but not ourselves: everyone tends towards unlimited freedom for themselves and shackles for everyone else. Legislation, regulations and law are all part of the technology of the machinery of industrial society. The laws and regulations are the software that controls the operation of the machine.

The machine operates in a dynamic environment. The environment is changed by many causes, but the very presence of the machine in the environment changes the environment. The machine therefore has to be dynamically adaptive: the environment that the machine is being built in, is not the same environment it will operate in, and the environment it operates in today is not the environment it will operate in tomorrow. If there is no feedback system and no adaptation, then the machine fails in its intended function. It grows, ages, decays and dies. If we adopt a living organism analogy for a city, then the city is a plant not an animal. The plant has to build an extensive root system to draw resources from ever distant locations, resources are wasted on transporting back to the core. Animals however can move closer to the resources, and reduce repetitive transportation distances. Animals can take risks and seek out new resources in as yet unknown places, and do so without a life line back to a point of origin. Many of the problems humans currently face are because the political machine as turned them into plants. Industrial cities and their mechanical plant are stationary engines.

Thoughts interrupted will return to this later.