Social Change Through New Technology

I have long thought the Internet should be changing the way we live more.  In fact, all the technology seems to be making us globally parochial.  We buy a lot of stuff though Ebay, Ebuyer and Amazon (etc.) – but substantial change would come by breaking the consumerist mode.  If I needed smalltalk, baby pictures and so on I guess the Net has them in plenty.  I suspect such need, even in my form, is more biological.

I’m not much impressed by human emotion – machines can more or less provide art, literature and so on.  The Greeks had rules for tragedy and comedy and such rules on human emotional engagement do transfer to machines that can replicate the colours, shapes and patterns that ‘turn us on’.  The soap opera and art system is such a machine and the knowledge can be embodied as surely in a computer and robot arm as a welder’s skill.  We can even sweep Twatter, Faceflop and the rest to find out what’s in fashion and churn out the next action movie tragedy with human avatars like Stalone to fit.

You can check out the rules of Greek tragedy here if you don’t know them –  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humor/ – under 6. comedy

The embodiment of knowledge is an old theme.  The Luddites had some clue about it.  Much artisan skill has been embodied in machines – we’ve had less apparent success with professional skills and I suspect this is because professional people are smart enough to protect their competitive advantage better.

We can already buy programmes that will turn a photograph into a Caravaggio – with a 3-d printer we might even make replicas as good as the originals.  It’s not hard to think of putting the brains of a few soap opera constructors in non-human substrate and letting that churn out the dross.

At the non-numpty end of telepresence 90% of US prostrate operations are now done by a remote surgeon.  The change is with us.  Some of us now teach without ever seeing a student.  This is particularly good for my health – I haven’t been plagued with cold and flu-like agonies since leaving the face-to-face disease ridden job.

Deep questions on what originality is are arising and business models are collapsing.  The £50K debts of non-science higher education students are now indefensible – all this work could be done Open University style on something like day-release and networked tutoring – classrooms would be about action and thinking.  Pretty much any supply chain could have the bloat of retailing, finance, marketing and the rest of the ‘middle men taken out.  This has long been the manufacturing model.

The ideology of work for wages (vast bonuses and the rest) is under challenge.  The Internet is mostly global-parochial gossip at the moment.  More people would tune in to watch my dog chase pigeons or the hoover than read this.  In principle it crashes the old rules – but at the moment is merely extending the non-modern simulacrum.  In principle it brings public scrutiny that should change politics – but really we can’t do Panorama ourselves as yet and most postings are gossip not evidence (as in the UK’s paedophile scandal).

I’m struck that the possibilities (and occasional real effect) of the Net already expose the non-modern ideologies we live by.  Our societies are full of gatekeepers (television channels, financiers, corporations, religions) – all could be replaced by nodes.  Currently I might watch ‘The Pope’s Toilet‘ (Uruguay) and mention it in a group or blog – a few friends might thus watch and laugh because I was up late watching BBC4.  Enough of us interested in foreign films could form a node to get them instead of Sky Movies – a new form of marker segmentation.  I could have a cricket and rugby league feed without paying for Premier League soccer.  Trivia in comparison, say, with a history channel that built an analysis of the world wars around the British invasion of Iraq (with mostly Indian troops) and Eurasian adventure, the use of international finance to promote the Nazis and the exploitation of middle eastern oil to command against worker democracy in coal and the oil industry elsewhere.  Bits of this last are about the Net and literature (Timothy Mitchell‘s ‘Carbon Democracy’ is a start if interested).

The practicalities of getting anything going probably  re-write managerial dross on resistance to change and what the barriers to genuine innovation are. What’s being challenged is control of production.  I feel powerless enough to think all I can do at the moment (after day-job commitments) is write a book about what happens after the changes take place.  To corrupt what my mate Lee from Mind’s Eye says – ‘good idea, but well need some suckers brighter than us to handle the transition’.