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Balance of Technology

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2002 RDFollendoreIII

September 14, 2002


Technology is made of machines and machines are neither good nor bad.  It is the nature of man to do with them what we will.  The ideal concept of a machine is always one that helps men do what they can not easily do for themselves. The idea that machines can be more effective than a man alone is of course an ancient one.  The idea that machines can hold leverage over mankind is almost as ancient.  It took a little time to for the majority to understand that and there are those who still refuse to accept it.  The idea that machines can dominate mankind is a relatively recent concept.  This paper is about the concept of technological balance as it relates to the progress of the society of mankind.  It concerns the importance of constructive continuous political and economic competition to maintain the existence of human progress. Finally, it discusses the implications of technological stagnation as a form of entropy and the encroaching anarchy that may prevail if society is not capable of maintaining a balance of technology. 


However, what is it that we mean by a “balance of technology?”  To understand this concept we must consider the dynamic roots of technology within our modern society.  Mankind has so far survived both nature and the nature of our selves using machines.  The moment that our ancestors picked up and used a stone to crack the shell of a nut, our kind has been on a relentless search for better tools to do more kinds of things.  We found that tools fed us, sheltered us and protected us from our enemies.  Modern man ignores the extent to which this is true.  The wheel is a machine, but so is your home and your fireplace and the knife you use in your kitchen.  Natural biological evolution has been left behind because the problems we face are rising to meet us faster and with ever-greater consequences.  We are naked creatures to this universe of nature we exist in and the only thing that protects us from the elements are the tools that we create from within our minds.  These tools have allowed mankind to dominate this planet.


Using the invention of tools, man has changed not only how we can successfully live but also what we are.  Through technology, our societies have been allowed a conscience experimental evolution as social beings.  We are the dominant species with the power of complete extermination over all others, including ourselves. In all of the ways that count except time, mankind has become the single most successful species in the history of the earth.  We have become dominate because as societies evolve they build better tools and use them to dominate and change other societies.  The history of the evolution of tools is the use of tools for the politics of ever changing societies. The societal system that constantly builds and improves tools for society is in itself the Meta machine that we often refer to as industry. Since machines are tools that have been embedded within societal self-defense, it was therefore be no great surprise when about 1816 the Prussian Carl Von Clausewitz made the remarkable observation that " war is simply the continuation of politics by other means."  If we are to believe this then we must also accept the implication of this statement to the value systems of social economics.    


Even with all of the horror and evil that exists in war, it must be concluded that the use of machines for the purpose of societal domination has been overall mostly a good thing.  The justification for this conclusion is that mankind has not failed. Mankind has thrived. The reason is that good societies have somehow been able to outperform the worst ones in the creation and production of tools. 


The reasons why this is so are many.  Societies that are free are better able to utilize more creative free thinkers.  Societies that are more creative have more artists, writers, and poets that open up visions of opportunities and potential that affect scientists and engineers.  Competitive industry has given a societal advantage to those who believe in freedom and human rights. Such concepts as social welfare would not exist if it were not either imposed upon or elected by society. It is important to understand that war is often caused by a crisis of conflicting political ideologies, which are resolved through combat so that they may be eventually further resolved through imposition or reason. 


Until relatively recently that has been the importance of evolutionary technology to the evolution of society.   Man has leveraged its societal evolution through the creation of more effective and efficient technologies.  In times of peace, there were few reasons to invest in more than simply incremental technological and industrial improvements.  The objective of market economies is obtaining the largest return on investment.  This means that the longer an industry remains productive, the greater the return on technological development costs.  What tools are considered important for investment is managed.  Solutions that are beyond their day are repressed.  It becomes more important for the pipeline of research and development to be constant than revolutionary.


War changes the peacetime equation of economics and by doing so challenges the status quo of societies. Wartime economies are affected by the desperate organizational sense of survival.  The limitations of what tools are important and should be produced become unchecked.  Monetary floodgates are opened and funding for wartime solutions are less encumbered.  Any revolutionary solution, which can shorten hostilities and prevent further economic loss, takes on tremendous importance.  Machines that support such solutions are improved to achieve technological dominance over the enemies industries. In this way, a rock became stone axes, became arrows and spears, became bullets, and becomes rockets and missiles.  The side effect of technological warfare between societies has become radios, telephones, televisions, cars, dishwashers, Walkman, jet aircraft, satellites, personal computers, the Internet, and everything else that we think of as part of modern. The developments of new technology have been contributions to political conflict and sometimes war.  Without conflict, there would not have been a recognized need for many of these things.  


The societies of mankind may have become associated through the trade of raw materials but they have become completely interconnected through trade of ideas as well as products and tools.  The reason is that there are competitive advantages.  As economic products, technology annually generates thousands of trillions of dollars with no end in sight.  If we were to compare the worlds largest gold fields of Witwatersrand South Africa, we would see that it has yielded a mere half-trillion dollars in gold since production began in 1886, with only another half-trillion left dollars left. We could do the same analysis with respect to oil, which is also finite. Gold and oil are obviously not the foundation of world economics, as some economists believe, technology is.  


The engine, which is the foundation of our world society, should never be confused with the accumulation of wealth, nor the fuel that burns within that same engine.  We mine gold and drill for oil to acquire wealth, but we create technology through the intellect of our socially conscience minds. The accumulation of wealth through technology is different from that of accumulating wealth from limited precious resources. Through the creation of new technological development, wealth is created through a continuous stream of new uses and applications.  If technology is the media then the message is that technology both the cause and effect of modern competitive interaction.   


Societies that for some reason chose or were not able to participate in the creation, manufacture, and trade of technology were not able to remain competitive with their neighbors, and have been more easily overwhelmed and assimilated.  They lose the potential of sustaining economic wealth, and were consumed by other social systems rather than becoming important consumers. 


It took centuries before the physical limitations of distances became a factor in the increasing speed of advancement of technology.  We may want to think that our generation is inventing the concept of a global economy, but the fact is that it was global economics that advanced modern society.  Society has long been connected politically through technology and war.  Societal connectivity implies change as every technologically affected organization affects another.  


As the balance of politics changes, the achievement and the maintenance of personal freedom becomes a constant and enduring struggle.  This is because Freedom is both gained and lost through technology as political power struggles take place.  Moreover, as society gains and loses capabilities through technology, the ideals people have of personal freedom also changes.  The ability of the people to modify the government evolves.  The ability of individual people to check the power of the organizations evolves.  Indicators can be found in the degree of limitations on privacy and personal control of communication and data as well as the impact of the gradual encroachment on general personal liberty.  The effect of government control on the future of society grows through the advancement of new technologies, especially as a consensus of acceptance of political solutions is more easily reached. 


Functional democracy is built upon foundations of rational debate that conclude in consensus.  The dynamics of technology on population, ecology, and the limitations of solution states upon this globe determine the correctness we are able to achieve.  On previous occasions of history, mankind has been able to compete social ideals through acts of organized warfare.  But as technical communications has made human communication easier and faster, the exchange of ideas have change from incidental transactions, to waves, warfare has became far more deadly and costly.  Military competition is becoming inaccessible because it has become more complex and vastly more effective. 


The over used phrase "weapons of mass destruction" have become the objective choice of the few to affect political change on the many.  The implications and impact of changes through these kinds of weapons are frightening and of course cannot tolerated.  Political control is galvanized by the prospects of terrorists obtaining such weapons.  We have seen the trend of weapons being taken out of the hand of individual citizens, and we are now seeing certain countries being forcibly disarmed of weapons of mass destruction. 


If the equivocation that war is an extension of politics by another means is true, then the opposite is also true.  As Carl Von Clausewitz also clearly stated, arms control is the ultimate purpose of warfare so that political control by one society may be imposed on another.  We are fixing what countries may or may not have such weapons. The concern is that we shall not get it right the first time. 


Like the change from stem cells of the human embryo, nations are becoming specialized in their contributions to the good of the whole.  The collections of individual nations are evolving into a single “societal organism” of nations.  The risk is that societal stagnation may also become potentially the greatest threat to the world society as the individual citizens access and contributions to a means of challenging political control becomes increasingly limited.  


The globalization of technology means that society is forming a single world government with less potential diversification.  Reorganization of roles does not mean that the roles are right, or just.  Global cooperation does not mean the end of technological conflict.  The risk of self-annihilation through technologies after unification remains. The weaknesses of expanding and evolving technologies will continue as part of technical globalization. 


The only potentially viable solution that has been evolving over the last decade has been the use of technology to control technology.  This is essentially the same as saying that we are willing to put machines in charge of the future of mankind by eliminating nature.  Human beings are being cut out of the loop and we are putting our faith in our children the machines because they can be made to be uniformly consistent.  This is of course the best ending point of this question of technological balance.  That which has allowed human beings to evolve has not been constantly uniform, but constantly changing.


In the past, human beings have been engaged in creating ecological systems with enough potential solution states to adapt to different kinds of circumstances using different technological resources.  Controlling access to technology through technology can therefore effectively halt the rate of human progress.      


It is a physical law of entropy that when we choose to create order, we create far more disorder during the process. The more complex our attempt at the creation of order, the more complex the entropy that we create.  The race for new technologies is an explosion of problems, which generations must solve in the future. Because of technology, the human race must keep pace with not only the shrinking of physical space, but also solution space.  The state of modern society is that there can be no stopping technology without consequences.  There is certainly no turning back. 


If all technological progress halts, then it will be because of the limitation of space and resources.  But an effective halt to human progress can result in the expiration of all forms of space and resources.  The consequences are therefore the same.  An analogy is that mankind is on a treadmill that pumps oxygen in and water out of cage.  If we stop running the endless race we will surely suffocate and drown.  The consequence of our technological failure is certain anarchy the comparison of which our past world wars would become insignificant.  


Of course this potential is contingent to the idea that the continuation of society as we know it is necessary.  We may exist today upon the surface of a planet with limitations but we also exist within a universe open to exploration.  Perhaps the importance of the search for life in the universe is more important to the success of this planet we call earth than we might otherwise have thought.  The existence of extraterrestrial life would show us that it is possible life is part of an open system and potentially could demonstrate how we might be able to strike a future balance. 


Until we know otherwise, we must simply assume that solutions will continue to exist as problems arise, that society must continue to successfully evolve and that life is meant to expand into all forms of space-time.  We must assume that there is a dynamic balance through sustainable technological progress.  We may also assume that because of the nature of complexity, there is no end to technological progress.  Any technological balance in our future requires the assumption of constant sociological change.  A stagnant society is inherently technologically unbalanced as a consequence.  This is the fundamental reason why security philosophies must remain dynamic.





Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved