Technocracy Comparative

or, the Best of Both Worlds

Many problems arise when trying to compare Technocracy to other social systems. One is in viewing it as a form of government, when really it is more of a technology, or industrial operating system. “Government” implies the “governing” of people, whereas Technocracy is merely a method of operating the industrial and service sectors of a continent experiencing abundance.

So how does this relate to other social formats then? Is Technocracy communist or democratic? Dictatorial, or anarchic? Indeed, it would be easy to look at any one part of Technocracy and conclude that it was any of these. However, to do so would be the same folly as that of the Blind Men and the Elephant(external link). In fact Technocracy is such a new idea that we have to examine the key components it shares with these other social forms (and they are few) in order to make any basic comparison at all.

In order to do this we must first define a few terms. “Katascopic” is a term used by sociologists to describe any process that begins at the top and works its way down to the details, or “top-down”. Engineers frequently use this process when designing technology, such as a computer, or bridge. Quite simply it starts with a goal, such as “an inexpensive business workstation” or “to carry traffic over the such and such river”. The second step from there is create a list of requirements. In the case of a bridge, these would include the span of the river to be crossed, and the traffic expected to need to cross it. From there details are worked out, limited by first their goals and requirements, and then by available resources, including material, people, and (for non-Technocratic societies) money.

The opposite of katascopic is “anascopic”, which basically means to do things from the “bottom-up”. That is, you begin with a single detail, add another, and keep going, detail by detail. There is no central goal, no unifying principles or requirements. The best example of this is how cities are developed. One begins with a single house, often by a water source. Then another family puts up a house nearby, perhaps related to the first one. Then another house. then perhaps a trading post. Then a few more houses, a general store, a mill, and still more houses. The point is that each “detail”, whether it be a house, store, or road, is built according to whatever seems best at that time. There is little, if ever, thought given to what might be needed down the road, or available. Growth occurs in sporadic, chaotic, and barely regulable ways.

For any society, two elements remain common to them that vary widely in their behaviour and use. These are human beings, and machines. Each of these elements can be handled in a number of different ways, but these ways can be categorized under the labels we have presented above, katascopic and anascopic. With these four ideas in hand, we can begin to compare our various social systems, including Technocracy, as well as their relative merits.

First let us look at the use of each process on each area. We will begin with the machines. As mentioned before, engineers typically design and operate machines in a katascopic way. This is because of the way machines are. The steamship Normandie, for instance, was the fastest ship in its day. The reason why is because it was designed specifically with that in mind. This was the katascopic 'goal' that her designers began with before a single detail was decided upon. From there began a list of requirements (number of passengers, level of comfort, safety concerns, and of course, minimum speed), which then led to the design of the details. These requirements, derived from its goal, dictated the shape of the hull, to the size and type of her engines, the layout of the decks and staterooms, etc. Once complete, every detail contributed to its goal and requirements, and none were included that did not.

Now imagine for a moment if such a ship were to be designed anascopically. There would be dozens of people, some engineers, perhaps others that are not. Each would work on some part of the ship, each one with their own idea of a what the ship should be like. One person would decide that it should be fast; another that it should be big. One decides that it should be spartan in comforts, another wants opulent accommodations. Thus each person designs their “part” according to their own thoughts, opinions, or needs. This may result in a front part of the hull made large, and the back end made small by another person, so that the two don't even fit together. Given this method it can be seen that such a ship, if it were able to remain afloat at all, would scarcely break any records, or achieve what all of its “designers” intended.

Human beings on the other hand are an entirely different animal, so to speak. Sociologists generally agree that people operate best when given the freedom to pursue their goals and dreams, and to develop at their own rates. This is not to say that each should be isolated at all, indeed socialization has many benefits. However, too many controls placed upon many areas of their lives tend to stifle not only the individual, but the smooth interaction between those individuals. To see this one only need to look at how “democracies” are so popular, at least in theory, while dictatorships are reviled for their treatment of human beings. It is largely regarded that such societies stifle creativity, human growth, and happiness, and result in many human atrocities, as exampled by Nazi Germany, the USSR under Stalin, and modern China.

So what we see here is that machines work best when operated katascopically, while people operate best anascopically. Now let us take a look at the various social systems often compared to Technocracy, and how they relate to it. To do so we will categorize each in terms of how it handles both the human and technological sectors as either katascopic or anascopic.

Let us begin with the dictatorship. We have already examined that they handle people in an katascopic way, but being a form of total social control, they also handle their machines that way as well. Since this is good for machines, the results of such a society include rapid technological innovation and high industrial output and efficiency. Unfortunately the aforementioned detriments to human beings make many people think that perhaps this is not worth these benefits.

Seeking instead a “freer” form of society, people endorse forms of democracy, libertarianism, even anarchy. These systems allow people some measure of “self-governance”, or anascopic control. This seems to result in happier people overall, but they do have their drawbacks, since they handle their technology anascopically as well. This leads to very little in the way of coordination, large amounts of overlap and competing interests. What results is a the same type of chaos that we see in today's cities, or in the hypothetical ship we discussed that was designed thusly. So given that each side has its various benefits and problems, we can see why people appear divided on which is better. As is the case in all scarcity environments, the only options are trade-offs, and compromises are often just as problematic as the extremes.

So where does Technocracy relate in all this then? Well, if you have not surmised by now, Technocracy is a design that separates the “controls” of the people and technology, so that each can be handled in the way that is best. With its katascopic administrative system, the industry and economy of the Technate is handled in the way that benefits it most, leading to high levels of efficiency and production. Coupled with the right technology and resources, this leads to a very high standard of living for the citizens of the Technate. However, this can be done under a dictatorship, right? This is often where people think that Technocracy is some sort of dictatorship, because they are used to seeing that if a society treats its machines one way, they treat everything that way, including its people. However, Technocracy instead asserts that it is a method for controlling machines, not people, and thus the people are left to “govern” themselves, anascopically, just as we have seen is generally positive. A good example of this is Technocracy's Energy Accounting system. In it, it is the consumers themselves who decide what each would like made, and thus their 'power' or 'vote' is counted in the manufacturing process (anascopic). In Energy Accounting it then becomes the responisbility of those operating the industrial and service sectors to meet that demand. However, exactly how they do so is determined using strict scientific and engineering principles generally best left to those qualified. This is the katascopic area of Technocracy at work. Thus we see that Technocracy has all the benefits of a dictatorial society, and a democratic one, with virtually none of the drawbacks of either. Technocracy is indeed the “best of both worlds.”

There is a fourth option that bears mentioning as well. the last combination of the elements we are looking at, and that is where you have your technology controlled anascopically, and the people controlled katascopically. As we have seen in examination of the individual elements, such would be the worst combination we could come up with, with both people and machines being treated poorly, and thus society getting little benefit from either. What would such a society look like? Does one exist we can look at?

In North America today, our technology is basically under the control of corporations. The US Census has counted over 5 million separate US corporations of various sizes in various industries. While not all of them control big factories and power generators, even operating out of a simple office counts as the “control” of some bit of technology, that of shelter. With that many separate organizations, each lacking a common goal, and instead each with conflicting or competing interests, one can only conclude that our technology is being managed anascopically, exactly how we know it should not be.

But what about our people? We live in a “democracy”, so at least we are getting that much right? Despite my earlier comments, democracy does not actually fall under the category of anascopic society, like anarchy or even libertarianism does. Instead it can be better described as the “rule of the majority” which only makes it another form of katascopic control. Representative democracies, such as those common in the west, are even more katascopic since they put control in the hands of a few. Thus democracy is actually an excellent tool by those who wish to rule katascopically while maintaining the illusion of an anascopic or “democratic” society. This can be seen today with the increase in government regulations, gradual loss of personal freedoms, and more flagrant hypocrisy on the part of our leaders. Perhaps America was anascopic at one time, but not any more, and getting less so all the time.

So what does this leave us with then? We (in the west, anyway) live in a society that is exactly the opposite of what would actually benefit us, both as individuals, and as a society. Meanwhile, a perfectly reasonable new system, made up of all the right elements, sits right under our noses, waiting to be used. There is nothing to stop us but our realization of that fact, our future is ours for the taking. Technocrats never intended and were never meant to “install” Technocracy for you. It must be done “anascopically”; in other words, by the people, and for the people.