The two recent posts about non-smoking caterpillars annoying the Jobsworth in Blackburn and the non alcoholic rum’n'raisin ice cream which gave the geeks at Facebook a fit of the vapours are the lighter, more amusing results of sticking to the rules.
But the adherence to rules or procedures or the system can have a darker side. What if the bureaucratic machine decided that you were dead?
The case of Donald Miller who went to court over the issue and the Judge told him “You’re dead and you have to stay dead.”
But if you’ve been declared dead while still alive, taxes may be the least of your worries. It’s impossible to get a loan or a mortgage – or government benefits like Social Security. Your bank account might be closed. You can’t get a driver’s license. It can be literally, a living nightmare.
Having my own recent bother with the bank, and its inflexibility, caused me to ponder the current way of the world.
And I came across this:In a very long (too long in my view) essay there is included the quote-
“….. self-confidence, self-esteem and a sense of power come from making an autonomous effort in attaining our goals, but when we work for big corporations, we don’t select our own goals, and our efforts are not autonomous. The goals are chosen for us and the actions we take in the service of those goals are determined and coordinated by people we don’t know and will likely never meet.
Our job roles are strictly defined and our interactions with other people are scripted for us, and only the most trivial decisions are left up to us.
We know that when we stop doing the job, which eventually we will, that the operation will continue without us.
We know that nothing that is unique about us… nothing about the parts of ourselves that we value most, is at all necessary to the performance of our job.
We operate as interchangeable and replaceable parts in a vast and anonymous machine.”
The writer has been summarising the theories/musings of Theodore Kaczynski who is better known as the Unabomber.
It is a rather chilling vision of the world of today, but……Can you see anything in that essay you disagree with? Not a lot, I bet.
Everyone must obey; it is built into the system with the increasing use of and reliance on computer technology. The people operating those machines, at the check-out, in the bank, in call centres, or where ever they rely on digitally stored information, have to follow the procedures programmed into those machines.
If we do not ask the ‘right questions’ there is no answer to our enquiry. The machine operator, or in my case above the teller behind the counter at the bank, is not allowed to think, is not allowed to use initiative or imagination to work out an answer to whatever my query might be. They must follow the rules, follow the correct procedure or nothing will happen. They must obey!
But there are unintended consequences of this ‘rules is rules’ society we have become.
The Luddites are always portrayed as industrial vandals, machine wreckers because they lost their work. But in fact their objection was the soul destroying nature of the new style of working. Craftsmanship was discarded, artisans had become cogs in the industrial machine. Creative energies, previously channelled into hand/eye/brain co-ordination and the satisfaction of producing something worthwhile, became destructive energies.
This is in defence of the Luddites but apart from a speech in Parliament by Lord Byron (yes, that Lord Byron) there is little reference to the central issue.
However this book by Brian Keeble explains very eloquently the reasoning of the Luddites
The history of the 20th century has been an entrenchment of the Mechanical Philosophy of the modern world, an entrenchment which now sees houses as machines for living in as in the ideas of the Bauhaus and in particular Le Corbusier.
It is an entrenchment which now sees people as mere machines, meat machines; an idea enthusiastically endorsed by Nikola Tesla-
Whenever he [Tesla] was asked for his philosophy of life, he would elaborate a theory that the human body is a meat machine which responds to external forces.
One evening in New York, as Tesla and the author sat in the lobby of the Hotel Governor Clinton, the inventor discussed his meat-machine theory. It was a materialistic philosophy typical of the Victorian era.
We are, he held, composed of only those things which are identified in the test tube and weighed in the balance.
We have only those properties which we receive from the atoms of which our bodies are constructed. Our experiences, which we call life, are a complex mixture of the responses of our component atoms to the external forces of our environment.
Such a philosophy has the virtue of simplicity and brevity of presentation; and it lends itself readily to being propounded with a positiveness that reacts on the propounder, and transforms his attitude into one of dogmatism in which emphatically expressed opinion is often confused with and substituted for factual evidence.
An entrenchment which sees our brains and our minds as mere machines, as computers.
Neuroscientists have been seduced by this idea that the brain is a computer and they all, or most of them, think along those lines; they are wrong. Believe me, I know they are wrong.
We are not computers, the brain may be similar in structure but the ‘operating system’ of the brain (the mind) is nothing like a computer.
We are not machines and cannot be treated as machines which can be diagnosed and repaired.
The adverse reaction to the machine age in the early 19th century will be repeated in this, the computer age.
If all decision making has been transferred to computerised systems with ‘The machine says no!’ and those operating the machines left helpless, unable to resolve issues without approval from above, the likely result will be the same as before; rage against the machine.