MONDAY, May 1, 2017
Eric Lee, A-SOCIATED PRESS
TOPICS: TECHNOCRACY, FROM THE WIRES, HUBBERT, ECOLATE PARTY
TUCSON (A-P) — Technocracy, "the rule of the people made effective through the agency of their servants, the scientists and engineers", began post WWI. The war had required breaking down established rules and customs to realize better ways of running industry (industrial society). An informal think tank, calling itself the Technical Alliance, started in 1919 to think about better managing the social system and the industrial production system/economy. The Roaring Twenties, however, lead to widespread disinterest in alternative ways of doing things, since the SYSTEM seemed to be working. This changed in 1929 with the Great Depression.
M. King Hubbert was an instructor in geophysics at Columbia University in 1931 when by chance he met Howard Scott, founding member of the Technical Alliance, and became interested in technocracy as alternative to business-as-usual democracy. At Hubbert's instigation, Scott and other members of the old-guard began meeting again and formed Technocracy Incorporated in 1933. Things weren't getting better and better, there weren't two chickens in every pot, and the public was willing to consider alternatives. A movement, little known today, the largest at the time, sprang up and at one point claimed a half million members in California alone (8% of total population, maybe 15% of adults compared to 1% Green Party, or 4% of vote for all third party candidates put together in 2016). If economic recovery had not been possible for biophysical reasons, then technocracy may have been given a trial run had descent continued much longer. When 21st century descent cometh, no amount of business-as-usual machinations nor political/economic 'solutions' will help, but, per demagoguery-as-usual, will result in unforeseen consequences that will accelerate the race to the bottom, during which time humans may consider alternatives that might actually work.
The Greeks tried democracy, others (e.g. Founding Fathers) tried it again. It was "the worst form of government with the exception of all the others." Democracy had tried to eliminate the separation of government from the governed. In practice, due to practical limitations, democracy became representative. Pure democracy may work for communities of 50 to 150 (Dunbar's number), and if each household/family sends a representative, maybe up to 1,500 for a community size. In large complex societies, representatives end up serving special interests, their own and those of the highest bider. Public opinion is easily manufactured.
Technocracy envisioned a corporatocracy in which government employees, as technocrats serving in a meritocracy, managed corporations, government, and other affairs as needed based on best-guess-science to serve public humanocentric interests that included growing the economy and equitably increasing per capita consumption at least for a time. This would have been different, better or worse, from the present SYSTEM in which the public, special interests, and public servants serve money-based interests, especially their own, to grow the economy and maximize consumption without limit.
Technocracy was alternative to business-as-usual and may have been the best-guess solution to managing the socio-political-economic system in the early twentieth century. In the form conceived then, given the development of systems science since, technocracy may not be our best-guess alternative appropriate for managing descent in the twenty-first century.
The history of technocracy is relevant as history may repeat itself when the current global empire's narrative of continued growth and prosperity for all falters. The Great Depression was self-inflected, a failure of the finacial system, not of the biophysical economy, and so recovery was possible, indeed, inevitable. Then again, as in the Roaring Twenties, with success of the New Deal and post WWII recovery, interest in technocracy passed away as exponential growth kicked back in giving rise to the consumer society.
In the early 1930's the resurrected informal think tank at Columbia was quietly thinking about issues and real solutions when word about 'radical ideas' got out, was picked up by the press, and spread 'like a forest fire' as the public was ready for some heretical thinking by those who may actually know enough to offer solutions, such as a proposal that money be replaced by energy certificates (based on how much energy it takes to produce specific goods to 'optimize the use of energy to assure abundance'). Foundational changes were considered, such as dispensing with nation-states and managing North America as a whole, as a 'technate'.
A more ecolate idea, based on systems science largely unknown in the 1930s, of sub-dividing the land surface into watershed management units and then managing the watersheds on a global level (United Federation of Watersheds), is to similarly consider foundational changes which, early into descent, may become thinkable. History can repeat, which can be a good thing; different outcomes are allowed, but chance favors the prepared mind.
Within the early 20th century growth system there was still 'plenty' of skilled labor and resources (especially energy) for the taking, and the financial downturn was merely self-inflected and temporary. Conflict is drama, drama is entertaining and entertainment (and hope) sells, so as Hubbert noted, 'seven or eight publishing houses rushed out with books on Technocracy'. The books were written by company hacks so it was relative know-nothings who 'informed' the public (as-usual). Still, it was enough to start a movement—a deluge of people wanting to join, work for and contribute money..., so to protect themselves legally the group incorporated under State of New York laws as Technocracy Incorporated which used the support and money for research and education. The group was entirely non-political and did not allow politicians or those active in politics to be members of the group—they did not believe in political solutions but sought alternative 'technical' ones. Science-based alternatives (policies, management, decision making) may actually be considered someday.
The idea of a naturocracy, "the rule by natural laws made effective through the agency of their servants, the scientists and engineers", is similar to that of technocracy except the managers/intelligentsia/doers/decision makers primarily serve planetary life support system interests rather than the humanocentric interest of working to maximize giving as many humans as possible what humans may want while the rich (e.g. Americans, Europeans, Australians, Japanese, all industrial urban areas) get richer. When biophysical limits force descent, humans would do well to consider alternatives to chaos and design a system beforehand that might actually work. When the dominate narrative can no longer be believed in, demagogues-as-usual will arise to offer 'solutions' with the usual outcome. At the same time, however, foundational change, such as the technocrats considered, becomes possible. This time around humans (elites and commoners) will likely again consider alternatives, but growth will not 'save us' nor distract the public, so an 'alternative' to the Growth's Mandate narrative could be implemented if a real-solutions-plan, based on Nature's Mandate, is developed, tested insofar as possible, and is ready to implement when a teachable moment comes. Foreseeing such an eventuality and preparing for it now would be a possibility to consider.
In the early twentieth century the challenge of maximizing human development and welfare (growth) looked like a technical problem. Science was focused on understanding all the bits and pieces which favored specialists looking through their respective conceptual microscopes. In the twentieth century, systems science arose to develop a conceptual toolbox to illuminate all the bits and pieces, the facts as best as reductionists can determine them, and reveal the glow of the biophysical system which includes life on Earth. Eucaryotes were late comers. Some came to farm intracellular chloroplasts and others specialized in feeding upon others. Vertebrates came later and host more organisms in and on than there are mitocondria dependent cells in their bodies.
We vertebrates are clearly not the dominate lifeform, and our most conspicuous talent seems to be to come and go from the geological record. To the technocrats who only had a specialist's toolbox, all they had were technical hammers and so everything looked like technical nails. The difference this time is we have a fledgling systems science to obtain a better grasp of reality. Hubbert's thinking increasingly became that of systems inquiry. Had the Technate been forthcoming, the SYSTEM might not have been as badly managed as it has been and when systems thinking developed in the later half of that century, it might not have been marginalized. Science is undergoing foundational change, not by eliminating the old but by overlaying it with the glow of systems inquiry. To live on the planet properly, we need to base management of human demands on Nature's resources upon systems science. We could double down on ideology, whether political, religious, or both, but how's that been working for us?
Humans may not be able to work towards a goal, to devote their lives and family fortunes to a cause (a Plan B) such as rebuilding society after a 'zombie apocalypse' scenario, hence denialism reigns. Given a need to offer a positive vision, alternative is to envision turning things around in such a way that should our best Plan A fail, it will also serve as Plan B to rebuild. So even those who estimate the probability of 'turning things around' to be some fraction of one percent, need to offer hope in the form a a realistic plan to save the world and humanity. Hence those exercising their foresight intelligence know to offer a 'Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere' with humanity mentioned first, as if humans (human exceptionalism) mattered. The biosphere would get along just fine, thank you, without Anthropocene enthusiasts (the 99%) or tree-huggers, so we need to transition to a better view of reality where Nature matters and human affairs are subsystems of environment managed by a naturocracy in which Nature tells us what works right and well. 'Nature has all the answers' and we don't get a vote. The laws of thermodynamics don't go away because we deny/ignore/mistify/marginalize or disbelieve them.
The Ecolate Party is formed. Candidates run as independents and if elected, refuse to serve. Candidates serve to educate the public about ecolate/sustainability issues which the public and their intelligentsia can consider and initially reject (as would most professors at Schools of Sustainability). Until a majority of the self-organized 'Ecolate Party' candidates are elected, the Ecolate Party Platform cannot be implemented, which is why none will serve if elected as a minority as there is no possibility of serving in a system dominated by business-as-usual types. When the business-as-usual narrative can no longer be believed, there will come an election where only Ecolate Party candidates are electable, or at least a 67% majority in Congress, who can, in the USA, call a constitutional convention to rewrite the framework for governance. No reason to wait, so rewrite it now and be ready.
Also no reason to wait to design an alternative socio-religio-politico-eco-nomic system that might work and to test it out on as large a scale as possible. Local Ecolate Party candidates, when elected as a 51+% majority within a watershed, can form a United Watershed County and manage it according to Federation proposed policies revised as the ongoing experiment in living proceeds. Multiple watersheds will allow for alternative management systems to be tested via guess-then-test methods. Early adopters and adapters can expect the best informed and functional humans on the planet to help design an ecolate system offering real solutions to sustainability issues. The example set may encourage humans around the planet to consider and then do likewise as alternative to spreading chaos. Ecolate humans, initially a small minority, may have to migrate to selected watersheds to transform them.
As the Ecolate Party, to merit any claim to being different, is the anti-party party firmly opposed to political solutions, its political function on the nation state level, that of taking over the political control system to replace it, will be a one time only service. Those who served to educate and run for high (e.g. congressional) office, will at most serve once then retire from politics to find other ways to serve Nature's system of which humans will be a part. This is a doable vision, beginning with individuals thinking ecolate thoughts such as what does 'ecolate' mean and how would an ecolate life be lived? Transition to one sustainable household and live in it. Form communities, population less than 150, as ecolate villages, multiple villages could spread within a watershed by migration and offering the inecolate (who value money) enough compensation to emigrate voluntarily. The first ecolate watershed could be a model for thousands more. If a Federation of Watersheds fails to develop, any ecolate watershed would be subject to conquest per business-as-usual.
Want to save the world? Who doesn't? Start now; educate yourself; be a party of one. Realize, based on the history of large-scale movements and politics-as-usual, that when the people demand answers/solutions, ideologues-as-usual will come forth to offer 'solutions' that a majority will believe in. They always have and will again unless real solutions are prepared prior to dissolution that the public and their intelligentsia have been taught to consider alternative by those most likely to know enough to have an opinion as to what might actually work. The credibility of the 'ecolate', when they can say 'we told you so', can flip from < 1% to > 90% of the public mind in a day (some major event happens) or a few years provided the foundations have been laid and reality-based memes spread: Some would-be ecolate humans will endeavor to develop real solutions; some will test; and others will run for political office to educate. Alternative is another round of ideologues and their demagogues with 'solutions' as-usual assuming we avoid species extinction.
In your spare time, learn Semantography to help pass on information packets just in case.
"Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know... I was in New York in the 30’s. I had a box seat at the depression. I can assure you it was a very educational experience. We shut the country down because of monetary reasons. We had manpower and abundant raw materials. Yet we shut the country down. We’re doing the same kind of thing now but with a different material outlook. We are not in the position we were in 1929–30 with regard to the future. Then the physical system was ready to roll. This time it’s not. We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It’s unique to both human and geologic history... Soon all the oil is going to be burned and all the metals mined and scattered."—M. King Hubbert
"I have played many roles sometimes with the majority, but more often attempting to shock the scientific establishment into a better view." — Howard T. Odum
"Nature has all the answers, so what is your question?“ – H.T. Odum
"If society does not succeed in changing attitudes and institutions for a harmonious descent, the alternative is to prepare information packages for the contingency of restart after crashing." —H.T. Odum
After Newton, the intelligentsia finally came over to the Copernican 'better view' which was a revolution only secondary to collective resistance. Our best hope is that Odum is Newton enough, otherwise we await a Kepler, Galileo, and Newton who may now be among us to awaken the intelligentsia.
Those who talk 'emergy' and 'transformity' may self-identify as Odumites, followers of H.T. Odum who are at risk of being viewed as 'idiosyncratic'. H.T. spent much of his career 'attempting to shock the scientific establishment into a better view' as others still do who may or may not be 'followers'. Copernicus' 'better view' is accepted today, but it took over a hundred years (over two hundred for the church) for the intelligentsia to 'get right with reality'. That Odum has not been accepted among ecologists, much less the scientific establishment, is clear. That it is because he is wrong/confused/idiosyncratic, is not. Criticism is hard to come by, but see: http://www.eoht.info/page/Howard+T.+Odum. Other sources of disconfirming claims should be shared for the benefit of those who would rather know than believe.
The Ten Commandments below were left out of the second edition of Environment, Power, and Society perhaps because judged too 'idiosyncratic' by ecologists reading the first edition, but not necessarily because the points made were 'wrong'. Scientists, primates who sometimes wear lab coats, also have 'likes and dislikes', can be 'for and against' even though irrelevant in that the universe doesn't care what we like or dislike. Scientists are as capable as any of believing what they want and far better than others at using science to support their conclusions. It is only the evidence thing (aka Nature) that is corrective. If H.T. 'got it all wrong', then I'd expect humanity will get through the 21st century just fine, thank you, notwithstanding the concerns of some. If you are not an 'Odumite' then you can believe that alternative energy is alternative to fossil fuels. We'll see how our sense of exceptionalism works for us. Those who can actually think more than a decade ahead, who don't see things working out for the current empire, may do best to prepare for a teachable moment (or not if the 99+% are right).