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Science and Technology, the Real Engines of Social Progress

R.E. Landridge 1996 Published in: The Northwest Technocrat, 3rd quarter 1996, No. 344

The story of humanity is best characterized by the almost total lack of social progress throughout our history. We have, since our appearance on this planet, moved from small groups of individuals living predominantly on whatever was close at hand and sheltering in whatever was available, into larger groups sharing dwellings and a food supply made more stable by the utilization of cereal grains and domesticated animals.

This close proximity necessitated the development of both spoken and written communications. As communications became more universal, the collective experience of humankind became accessible to more and more of the populace. The written word, or pictographic representation of the human experience, was now available to future generations. Much of what we now know of past civilizations is based upon this historical record.

As humankind gradually expanded outward from different areas of habitation, knowledge was interchanged between the various groups. This expansion, although slow, was persistent enough to see most of the world populated to a greater or lesser degree by the late 1700s.

However, neither the life expectancy nor the standard of living had changed much for the average person. Life was still a day-to-day struggle for the necessities, and the small amount of extra production that could be managed by the individual was expropriated by those in power. However, a new era was dawning. The scientific method gradually took hold. Logical thought, powered by intuitive insight, brought new understanding to life processes. Every field of endeavor saw a blossoming of knowledge followed by the application of this knowledge to productive activities. The energy inherent in fossil fuels was released in a controlled manner allowing the building of prime movers harnessing hundreds and then thousands of horsepower. The industrial revolution had begun.

The resulting increase in the technological ability to produce had the potential of destroying scarcity and made it necessary to allow individuals to partake in this abundance. For the first time in history, a major shift in the consumption of goods had taken place, and although very uneven, an increase in the standard of living had arrived. This ability to substitute extraneous energy for human energy is the only reason for our increased standard of living.

Unfortunately however, our method of distributing this increase in production has not seen the same progress. Born in the dark recesses of our ancient past, this monetary-debt system that we are still using to distribute today’s abundance is about as functional and makes about the same amount of sense as it would be to use the pony express to move our daily communications instead of with the integrated high-speed voice and data links now in service. No one will argue against the benefits that have accrued to civilization since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Our education system has been available to a larger percentage of the population than in any previous time, as has health care, housing, transportation, food and entertainment.

But, the other side of the coin is much darker. As with any quest for knowledge, you cannot restrict your research to areas or directions that allow only benevolent results. The negative aspects of any research, particularly when corrupted by economic and political considerations, can be used to develop both programs and hardware that are not only unnecessary, but socially destructive. Past and current weapons development is part of this equation. The current problems with both chemical and nuclear waste, is also a result of this interference.

As we continue to amass knowledge at an exponential rate, the industrial revolution, now called the information revolution is providing an acceleration of our ability to substitute extraneous energy for human energy. If we carefully examine the implications of this knowledge explosion with an eye to past trends, we discover that what we are facing is not new at all, but simply an acceleration of a unidirectional series of events that will lead to a state of chaos.

The economic ramifications of the increased substitution of extraneous energy for human energy; the continuous introduction of new technology with its increase in output and concurrent decrease in man-hours required for each unit produced, was well documented in the early 1900s. The Wall Street debacle of 1929 and the consequent depression of the “dirty thirties” was a result of those factors acting in concert with an economic system that demands continuous expansion of investment or debt in order to function. This operative condition of our economic system has not changed.

The price, or monetary system that is currently in place in North America, cannot distribute the production of our industrial plant. This trend was slowed somewhat by the nonproductive (i.e. consumer goods) war years and the subsequent expansion of our industrial plant during that period when we rebuilt a badly damaged world at the expense of our resources. But the trend did not stop, and what we are now witnessing is an acceleration of the same circumstances that first arose earlier in this century.

The current unemployment, underemployment, and more significantly, disemployment problems, foreshadow dislocations unheard of even during the great depression. As the powers-that-be attempt to hold on to the system to maintain their position of privilege, the distribution of goods and services will become fractionalized and spasmodic for an ever greater number of dislocated Techno-peasants; and while the peasant of the pre-industrial revolution at least had the land to provide their food, even that possibility will be denied the unemployed today on our overpopulated and denuded continent.

There is no economic answer to the problems of today. The problems are inherent in the system itself. If we are to move into the future with any hope of maintaining a high standard of living, we must do it now. Every day that we procrastinate we reduce our chances that we will have the resources and environment to ensure a standard of living that we will be able to enjoy for a long period of time. Only Technocracy with its functional design for production and distribution based on energy accounting, has the blueprint for the future. Your support for Technocracy is your ticket to the future.

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