Archive for the ‘ Sociology ’ Category

Make Your Own World, in Your Own Cloud

People have always wanted to be demigods, ruling over their very own worlds – where other people could not intrude.

This is now being done routinely – in the Computer Cloud. I even have one myself in the Amazon Cloud – where I can do anything I want, to my own world – that can be a big as I want (because space there is so cheap).

Except I have little idea what is going on there – and even less of an idea how to make this private world work part of the larger world.

This is not true, however, of the powerful new companies who reside there – who understand that world, because they helped create it. They know how to coordinate this new world with the old world – and take over large parts of it.

Much of its money, for example.

Making the Unconscious Conscious

The Enlightenment was about making the world better – by eliminating class differences. If everyone was given equal opportunities – everything would get better. But instead, things got more complicated – and new problems arose that had not existed before.

American history was an example of this. America got off to a great start with its Constitution – a new invention that many other countries copied, confident that this would make them rich and powerful also. This happened recently, in Afghanistan. It was given a constitution, written by American experts – and told to have an election. These American experts expected great things to happen – Afghanistan would automatically become a modern country! It never happened.

This did not work in America either – it had a long, bloody Civil War, that solved none of its problems – but it did become an Industrial country, with transcontinental railroads – and a huge inequality between the rich Industrialists and the Workers.

And with the rest the world, it participated in WWI, the Depression, and WWII. with its Holocaust. Something had gone terribly wrong – but no one knew what it was.

What happened was simple – unconscious problems wrecked everything – much to the amazement of everyone – who had no idea these existed. Or that the unconscious itself existed.

The discovery of the unconscious was one of the great achievements of the early 20th Century. But it was soon forgotten – because it was too inconvenient. It revealed too much about who we were.


As I write this, most people will agree – without thinking about it. But I know, from personal experience – how shocking and painful the discovery of unknown problems can be. Their discovery can nearly kill you.  No one actually dies – but it is an experience, that most people avoid, with all their strength.

Doing

Humans have the amazing ability to decide what they want to do, as a group. Any social animal does this, although what they end up doing together is something they inherit biologically, and can only change very slowly.

Groups of people can change rapidly, in only a few years – sometimes in only a few days. Events such as 9/11, made changes in seconds.

I was born, in 1936, into a world that was changing rapidly. Much to the relief of Americans, who were tired of the Depression. This was a terrible, incomprehensible event that happened to the world, that no one could understand. It was finally ended by WWII, that got production rolling again.

When I entered the workplace, in the Sixties, a different kind of social organization was in place, dominated by companies, and their organizations.

This has never been understood, because it did not want to be understood – this was part of the way it operated. People were told, quite sternly “Do not think about me!” And so they didn’t. Business had become our religion, and it demanded obedience. And most people were happy to obey – and punish those who did not.

This is an important point, and I want to clarify it. Most people behaved this way, maybe 80%, but they were in control. There was always a minority, who could see what was happening – and write about it, and make what small changes they could – but they were becoming less effective all the time. Who wanted to join a losing cause?

This chain of events got rolling late in the 19th Century – and continued until late in the 20th. All kinds of things happened – and interacted with each other. All typical of an empire in trouble.

In this case, a global empire made possible by Television and the Computer. This is where we are – in a strange new world we do not understand. But we continue to operate in it, as though nothing had changed.

We have created a new kind of insanity.

The Appeal of Violence

We have to accept what we are – emotional creatures equally attracted to violence and peace. And in some situations violence was predominant – for example The Winning of the West involved the complete destruction (killing) of the American Indians – and the herds of Buffalo they lived on.

America has invaded every country in Central America, except Costa Rica – and supported governments, such as in Guatemala – that practiced genocide.

And continues to purchase drugs, in large quantities – that fuels much violence also. This is violence by the drug users against themselves – and much more violence – between the drug cartels themselves. Any attempt to legalize this – a sensible alternative, it seems to me – is rejected out-of-hand.

Why this is so, we do not know – but the effect is clear enough – violence everywhere.

Social Engineering

The tragedy of our time, is that this is not being done very well. Most countries in the world are in bad shape.

Americans, for example, have decided to let other forces manage their nation – and not let Americans themselves manage it. At least this is what I see happening, with the election of Trump. They have handed the management of their country over to a man with a collection of wacky ideas – and they feel comfortable with this. Mismanagement is going on everywhere – and why not include the government in this?

This is typical behavior for a successful society in decline. They cannot see what made them successful, has been taken too far – and is now working against them. The sensible thing for them to do is back off for awhile, analyze their situation – and ask “What is going wrong here?” But they never do this – and a collapse ensues.

In our present case, the collapse involves a global society based on Capitalism – that cannot adapt itself to a Computer-based economy. The Software ecosystem operates differently – it is based on cooperation, not competition.

Capitalism was based on just that – Capital – money making money. And it was very successful – for those it favored. Money is still important in the Computer economy – people still have to be paid. But what they are being paid for has changed – information is now being managed, something different entirely.

Hardware is still important – but that is not where the Big Money is being made. It is now being made in Computers, and their Software.

But to manage Software, you have to be intelligent – something in short supply, in the late-industrial world.

Living with Technology

Our technologies are what has made us the dominant species in the world. But as they become more powerful (as they rapidly are) – they end up being in control of us.

I am always asking “What is in control here?” And the answers I get are sometimes disturbing. It does seems like people want to give control of themselves over to something else. This was originally God, but has become Technology. And people easily confuse the two.

A good place to start looking at this situation, is probably the Industrial Revolution. An event we have never fully understood – but we can see that Machines – the Steam Engine, and then the Internal Combustion Engine – had a huge impact on us. In many ways, they simply took over – and we became like them. This was an advantage, and a disadvantage both – as I have remarked elsewhere.

This can be seen in the case of the Railroads – most of our energy (and our finances) went into building them. They, in return, provided lots of jobs. And made possible the Civil War, WWI, and WWII. The Railroads (and its people) benefited enormously from all this – but people in general, did not do so well (as shown by the Holocaust).

Note the pattern here – people who identify with a successful technology (no matter what kind of people they are) benefit from it – at the expense of everyone else. And those who benefit most. allow the technology to take over their minds – so they can no longer think for themselves (the Nazis, for example).

This takes us up the the middle of the last century – when we were hit by Television  – and have never recovered from it. We were now controlled by forces we could not identify – and didn’t want to. But we got its basic  message – we are important, and you are not!

And people everywhere know those in power must be obeyed.

 

The Psychology of Everyday Life

I tend to be a technical person, but I have to think like a person sometimes – which isn’t too hard, because I am a person. And I can start from there.

I can start from where I am, look around me, at all the other people – and ask myself “What is going on with them?”

The answer I get, depends on where I am.

Yesterday, I took my digital camera and made videos of a celebration that was going on  – some kind of footrace, where teams from different places, all wearing distinctive jerseys, competed with each other. They were hanging out, socializing with each other (as they often do) and were delighted when I started to make a video of them. In a word, they were friendly – and that is why I am living here.

I have to contrast this with the situation in Silicon Valley, where I was working in the Nineties. I was part of a men’s therapy group, where I kept asking the same question “What is going on in the Valley?” The answer I got was unbelievable – all kinds of things were going on, money was sloshing around all over the place, but fundamentally – nothing was going on!

And they didn’t want anything to really go on – because that would have been too disruptive of the way things were. And the way things were was unfriendly. They will never, ever admit this (in fact, they are not aware of it) – but that is how they are. They are interested in other things – not themselves.

The undeveloped world has a problem – not enough money! But the developed world also has a problem – they cannot be good to themselves! In either case, their basic problem cannot be fixed – or fixed very easily.

To continue this investigation of mine – I would have to ask why Americans are in the fix they are in. But that will have to wait for later – right now we have to look at the way things are – right now.