Friday, July 19, 2019

Change and Development [Tech Evol]

Sections 7.3, “Change” and 7.4, “Development”, from Chapter 7, “Appropriate Technology” of David Hays, The Evolution of Technology Through Four Cognitive Ranks (1993). As has been my habit for these excerpts, I retain the mono-spaced ASII formatting of the original.

* * * * *

The acceleration of change from rank to rank has required new generations to live with rates of change that their ancestors could not tolerate.
In rank 1, it seems, change occurred without intent or even awareness. Doing as one's ancestors did was taken for granted, analysis and questioning were almost entirely absent, but the most effective methods of control (writing, most importantly) were absent and so change occurred in spite of cultural intent.

In rank 2, awareness of change developed, and active resistance to change appeared. Thus, the guilds intended and acted to keep their crafts constant. Innovators were punished. The Catholic Church forbade competition. Remember that legitimacy stemmed from special access to occult sources. God inspired the writing of the Bible. Aristotle was in better touch with reality, the real reality, than we could be, and not through his ordinary senses. A change that was not thus _inspired_ could not be accepted. Psychologically, rank 2 character structure is not sufficiently flexible to handle much change; in part, all this explicit apparatus to legitimize constancy is rationaliza- tion.

In rank 3, for the first time, changes became part of the life experience of many persons. Invention was invented, and change came to be welcomed. Even so, a certain framework was taken as eternal and universal. Science tried to reveal that framework, and political thinkers tried to make government consistent with it. Clearly, rank 3 character structure had to deal with change, and succeeded rather well.

As we move toward rank 4, we have given up the universal and eternal framework. Bertrand Russell, early in the 20th century, could ask how we know, but he was the last serious philosopher to believe that we do know. The answer to his question, since Popper ( SCIBIBL* ), is that we don't know, we only have a plausible framework and, within it, some tentative facts. The framework may be replaced at any time when someone imagines a better one, and any or all of the facts may vanish because they cannot be attached to the new framework. Character structures that can cope with that situation are still very rare. If I ever manage to build one, my ability to think will be released from a bondage that I find irksome--or so I have felt for ten or fifteen years. Persons born later than I may be much better off.

Technologies appropriate to rank 1 people must not trigger their defenses against change. For rank 2, the problem is to avoid institutional defenses. Rank 3 will accept anything new, often to its detriment. Rank 4 could apply skeptical, thoughtful judgment: Appropriateness need not be measured by whose ox is gored, and how deeply, but by criteria that I have suggested in this chapter, and other criteria that I don't know about, including of course the criteria that will be seen as crucial once a better framework is offered.

As rankshifts accelerate (from 0 to 1 50,000 years ago, from 1 to 2 5000 years ago, from 2 to 3 500 years ago, from 3 to 4 50 years ago? ... go on to 5 years, 0.5 years, etc.), the problem of generations comes up. If a person's major paradigm is internalized in growing up, can a rankshift take place in less time than a human being needs to reach adulthood? For this I have no answer. The crystallization of rank 4 thought seems tardy to me, but perhaps I just can't see that it has happened. The beginnings of rank 5 may be evident by now, but not to me. So we may be holding back, we may be up against the minimum interval for a generation to mature, or the random nature of the process that leads to crystallization of new paradigms may be responsible.

The regions of Earth at the end of the twentieth century vary greatly in the cognitive rank of their people and in the amount of investment in place. Education is the solution to the first problem. Developing countries have the opportunity to invest in technologies of the future; they have often chosen instead to invest in those of the past.
As late as the 17th century, Britain was an underdeveloped country, producing wool for export to manufacturing countries. In the 18th century it developed, and in the 19th it was "the world's workshop". Until after 1800, America was an under-developed country, and Britain wanted very much to keep it so, a source of raw materials and agricultural products and a market for manufactures. The beginning of industry in the USA depended on illegal migration of experts from Britain and theft of blueprints.

For as long as Europe regarded the rest of the world as "the colonies", the anti-development policy continued--until after World War II. Remember the example of Malta: Little education before independence, rapid progress in 30 years or so after in- dependence. Various versions of this story can be told about Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Europe got its start into rank 3 by borrowing from antiquity and Islamic culture, which in turn had borrowed widely. Britain got its start toward industrial growth by borrowing from continental Europe. America borrowed from Britain and elsewhere.

Up to now, growth has been accomplished in part by exploiting the less developed. Americans took the Indians' land, not knowing and not caring that the Indians needed all the land they had to support themselves in their own way. But rank 3 culture has taken from all the world and given as little as possible in return.

Within nations, those with wealth and power have exploited those with neither. Marxist thought is, in my view, a blind alley that has no access to rank 4. But class exploitation is a fact. Did the upper classes give the lower classes anything in return for wealth and power? On the whole, I think, they gave as little as possible.

The nations that have not yet developed industrially are clamoring for help. The poor people in rich countries are, at present, quiet; but they could again present their demands as forcefully as they have sometimes done.

You already know that rankshift is my prescription for development. Education is the only effective policy. To provide enough to go around, the world will have to control population and use sophisticated methods of production, getting more goods for less energy and raw materials. Most of the technology has to diffuse from countries that are now advanced, just as technology has always diffused. But sophisticated systems cannot diffuse into an uneducated population.

Education threatens political structures and old ways of living. The resistance of fundamentalist Christians in America to the teaching of evolution is one example. China's recent decision to reduce the number of students who can go abroad for graduate study is another. The US government's resistance to teaching about birth control is a third.

So the first problem in development is how to get enough education going, against political and traditionalist opposition.

The second problem is how to get developing countries to choose the technology of the future rather than that of the past. The goal of catching up is easy to understand, and that is the goal that most developing countries choose. Thus they get our problems along with our successes. Eastern Europe has pushed for development on the path that Britain and America followed between 1750 and 1950; one consequence is devastating pollution from East Germany to Russia--but then, West Germany allowed itself to suffer from bad pollution also. If only we knew how to move forward to non-polluting, minimum-energy, minimum-raw-material technology, and could persuade the Third World to move with us, the world's future would be more hopeful. Steep and narrow as that path seems, however, it may be open.

One recent book about this complex of problems is _Preparing for the Twenty-first Century_, by Paul Kennedy ( PREP21* ).

No comments:

Post a Comment