Inclusiveness and technology

A technological society naturally favors inclusiveness. In such a society:

  • Mass media, mass markets, mass education, the welfare state, and other large impersonal arrangements simplify the principles of social relations. The social order comes to seem a straightforward universal structure, like an organizational chart, to be judged and reconfigured by reference to universal standards.
  • Easy travel, mass tourism, and global markets dissolve stable local patterns in favor of individual choice within a universal abstract order that treats everything as interchangeable with everything else.
  • Mass electronic communications fragment experience, put every fragment on a par, and let everyone reassemble it however he wants. The ability to do so becomes the background of public discussion.

Under such circumstances, every social connection and status seems arbitrary. TV helped bring on the civil rights revolution by putting blacks and whites in the same living room and making social issues seem a matter of adjusting domestic grievances. The Internet, which makes everything in the world equally present to everything else, goes farther, eliminating privacy and separation and dissolving distinctions of sex and nationality.

The changed understanding of social relations has led to the discrediting of old norms. Traditional sexual standards are an obvious example. What were once understood as standards that established who we were and supported stable local patterns that facilitated individual and local self-government are now considered irrational violations of a universal abstract structure that favor some and burden others for no good reason.

The current conception of tolerance illustrates the resulting view of social life. Tolerance originally meant putting up with people who transgress norms. It was a practical virtue, required because the world is not perfect and attempts to force perfection are generally destructive. Now it means celebrating such people, because they champion freedom from norms now viewed as illegitimate. Failure to celebrate them would even be an act of oppression: it would put transgressors at a disadvantage because of residual effects of traditional norms. No well-intentioned person, it is thought, could accept such a result.

The resulting form of society weakens human connections and so isolates people and puts them at the mercy of large impersonal structures. Under such circumstances it is natural for them to want security against abuse, and to look to government to provide it. The guarantee of equal treatment seems to do the job. Any other standard seems unreliable, because it would be at odds with the nature of a society that denies all substantive principles of social cohesion.

The connection between political outlook and personal connectedness indicates the strength of such influences. The political divisions in American society are mostly a matter of differences in outlook between the married and unmarried, churchgoers and the secular, professionals and non-professionals, and big-city (“Blue State”) people and their somewhat more contrified cousins. In each case those who view themselves primarily as part of a universal rational order are on the left, those who define their lives by reference to particular connections on the right.

Although inclusiveness thus assuages worries brought on by the nature of present-day life, it makes the underlying problem worse. By abolishing the relevance of traditional components of identity, it increases the impersonality of institutions, the pervasiveness and inhumanity of bureaucracy, and the isolation of individuals and their total dependence on state and market. The stability of inclusiveness, like that of modern social organization generally, is that it feeds on the problems it creates. It is like a black hole that we have fallen into and cannot escape. Unlike black holes in astronomy, though, it is one that outside thought cannot enter rather than one from which information inside cannot escape.

5 thoughts on “Inclusiveness and technology”

  1. More to come I hope
    I hope we shall see more in due course. There was a steady stream of posts for a while.

    A few questions relative to this post: Do you see an end either to the advance of the sort of technology you describe or to the fragmenting power of technology, generally? A third option, perhaps: a mode of techology that resists the destructive tendencies in present modes?


    • I’ll be putting up more soon
      On your other questions—what can’t go on won’t go on. Technology is an intensely analytical way of approaching things and as such is intrinsically fragmenting. To exist though it needs a functional human society, and the latter can’t be technological through and through. So at some point something’s gotta give.

      It’s not clear what that will be. It’s conceptually possible that people will come to see technology as a subordinate part of an overall art of living so it stops being disruptive because people get in the habit of putting other considerations first.

      Life usually isn’t that rational. I would expect though that one way or another technological progress will slow down a great deal at some point and stop being disruptive. That could happen in several ways:

      1. There may be intrinsic limits on what technology can do. People seem willing to admit there are limits to how much can be known scientifically, and it appears that the pace of fundamental scientific advancement has already slowed down a great deal. Maybe there are also limits to how far technology can advance that are relevant to this issue.

      2. Failing that, it seems likely that the social conditions for the continuing advance of technology will disappear at some point. That could happen because of rampant scientific fraud, PC science going berserk, the Islamification of the world, formal social institutions becoming generally nonfunctional, world government squashing science because new knowledge causes management problems, or whatever.

      3. You could also have a sort of Darwinian evolution of society in which the only surviving social groups that are coherent and functional enough to maintain technology recognize some principle that trumps technology. Strictly Orthodox Jews seem to be able to use technology while subordinating it to non-technological purposes. So do people like the Amish, although in a much more cautious way (if it turns out they can’t get by without using e.g. electricity for some purpose their bishops agree on some way of using it that doesn’t wreck the rest of their way of life).

      Of course, the Haredim and still more the Amish don’t add much to technology. So if their approach to things wins out and the only functional social groups are like them then maybe technology will stop being technology and become a bunch of cookbook techniques. Eventually though they might start extending it again. Who knows?

  2. Inclusiveness and Technology
    Hello Jim. It has been too long for me. Just real busy, as if that were an excuse. I hope I am doing this right and not creating a new thread.

    It seems the same technology that threatens traditionalism is being underused and under-promoted by traditionalists to fight back. Traditionalists could use the Web to have regular programming but are in a rut despairing about the domination of liberal programming on TV and in film. For example, the Web is how I watch a lot of my favorite college baseball games (and EWTN since my cable company decided to charge extra for it instead of charging extra for one of the useless foreign channels).

    Satellite and Web conferencing of conservative conferences is also possible. Why fly across the country to attend a conference when it can be attended locally alone or in a local conference hall? Netflix delivers entire movies over the Web. Why are traditional entertainers and moviemakers not being used? I suppose there could be practical obstacles I am unaware of.

    These technologies could unite like-minded people worldwide, which may become more and more necessary as potential revolutionaries like Gerrt Wilders (in Holland) are being oppressed. The endless ways of using technology to fight back include basic ideas. One idea is boycotting liberal technology such as Google (as I do) and using an alternative search engine.

  3. Technology requires inclusiveness? bull
    In World War 2, Germany had a significant advantage in several fields of weapons technology. The German advantage was particularly noticeable at the beginning of the war, and towards the end of the war, with a diverse series of innovative weapons, commonly referred to as German secret weapons by The Allies, and Wonder Weapons by the Germans.

    The German advantage in weapons technology was not a coincidence. It was the result of three main factors:

    * Germany was one of the most scientifically advanced nations. It had a history of military innovation, and in the decades before World War 2 its science and technology leadership in many fields was at its peak.

    * Since 1933, when Adolf Hitler became dictator of Germany, with a firm and declared intention to go to war, Germany was making a maximum national effort to re-prepare to a major war. The German military industry, already a leader in many fields, was given enormous budgets and other national resources, in a major national effort to equip the German military with the most advanced weapons possible. Such an effort was bound to produce results, and did.
    At those same pre-war years, the western technology leaders were led by nationwide post-WWI pacifism which preferred to ignore the rapidly rising threat, and their defense budgets were miserably low. Stalin’s Russia was also preparing to war, but had a bigger gap to close, and Stalin’s centralist terror regime almost eliminated free innovation. So there’s no wonder that in 1933-1939 Germany achieved a significant advantage in military technology over its future enemies, an advantage it partially lost during the war.

    * When the war began, the over-confident Hitler ordered to slow down German weapons development projects which were not expected to become operational within an 18 months time frame. But towards the end of the war, outnumbered and facing defeat, Germany did the opposite, and desparately invested in highly advanced new weapons development, with impressive results, but mostly at the expense of greatly needed mass production of available mature weapons, and too late to save Germany from defeat.

    • I didn’t say “requires”
      We’re more technological now than they were then, and it takes time for all the effects to develop. If you look at the bullet points and discussion above you’ll see that some of it applies to Germany during the Nazi period and some does not. They emphasized doing away with inherited class and regional distinctions, for example, not to mention discrediting old norms, expanded administrative control of society and reconfiguration of social relations. And it appears they were alarmed by a tendency toward breaking down all barriers. Hence their fanaticism on the point.


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