Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
Sorry if I was excessively defensive about the Technocrats.

The first Veblen conference I attended, I went essentially to ask if anyone understood "Engineers and the Price System."

For anyone who tries to wade through that book the basic message is: Modern societies have become so complex that only those who understand the technological umbilical cord that supports us are really qualified to make the big decisions of government and other group behavior.  The group with the best mechanisms for learning and teaching these facts is the engineers.

I understand THAT.  It's the rest of the book that baffles me.

Anyway, back to the conference.  I ask about Engineers and get some bad vibes.  Worse, I got a rant about the awfulness of Technocracy.

When I was doing research for Elegant Technology I had read a fistful of literature from some old Technocrats.  It wasn't very sophisticated in either conception or execution but it wasn't as hopelessly embarrassing as this cranky Veblenite would have us believe.  Veblen's reputation will not be destroyed because the Technocrats liked him.  

And if indeed you are a technologically literate lefty, congratulations on being part of a VERY small group in USA.  For example, I have met fewer than 10 fellow Americans who understand why Scandinavian engineers have a FAR higher social status in their home countries than engineers in USA while STILL finding it necessary to belong to a trade union.

I also want to be clear about my own technological literacy.  If you assign the above chart a scale from 1-100, I score about 200 points--NOT because I excel in any category, but because I score decent points in all four of them.  I am a bit like Veblen here--good enough to get into the club of technological literates but not so good I can make a living in any single category.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 02:17:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For anyone who tries to wade through that book the basic message is: Modern societies have become so complex that only those who understand the technological umbilical cord that supports us are really qualified to make the big decisions of government and other group behavior.  The group with the best mechanisms for learning and teaching these facts is the engineers.

It has been pointed out the highest tier of the Chinese government is (almost?) entirely made up of engineers.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 03:28:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Modern societies have become so complex that only those who understand the technological umbilical cord that supports us are really qualified to make the big decisions of government and other group behavior.

Giving the power to the scientists or the engineers is an old fantasy. However, even if technology is a very important element, society is not a technical system and engineers have seldom a good understanding of the complexity of human and social issues. Unless they have supplemented their education with social sciences like psychology or sociology, they tend to have a reductionist approach of social issues.

The group with the best mechanisms for learning and teaching these facts is the engineers.
What allows you to make this assertion? My own experience (as an engineer, as a teacher and as a management consultant) confirms what I said above: I have been appalled by the poor management skills of many engineers, even at the highest level...

There is also a theoretical issue: as I said in this comment:

What I referred to in our discussion was one of the fundamental laws of Systems Theory, namely the law of requisite variety, which says: "The variety of a control subsystem must be equal or superior to the variety of the controlled system". Variety is a measure of the number of distinct states a system can be in.

Applied to a complex system like a human society, which is fractal (i.e. the level of complexity remains the same at any level of the system), the law of requisite variety means that a small number of persons (for example a government), even highly skilled and informed, cannot master the variety/complexity of the system it has to govern, hence will not be able to tackle a number of situations.

BTW, France has given a lot of power to the engineers (from the "Grandes Ecoles"), with mixed results: ask Jérôme... ;-)

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 05:03:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally I blame France's problems on (partly) substituting the political dominance of engineers by that of énarques...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 08:09:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's all De Gaulle's fault.

On with the 6th republic!

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 08:13:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry if I was excessively defensive about the Technocrats.

No problem.  I should have provided a context for my comment so that something like ...

Anyway, back to the conference.  I ask about Engineers and get some bad vibes.  Worse, I got a rant about the awfulness of Technocracy.

wouldn't have happened.  I've been there & have bought that particular t-shirt as well.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 09:03:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Occasional Series