• schopenhauer1
    Can we have a healthy and integrated society where there is sharp division between the majority who use the tools, and the minority who understand and develop them?Pantagruel

    Yes, that is a good way of rephrasing the question. Apparently, this society we are in is supposed to represent that healthy society by people like @Ciceronianus give or take some regulations or whatnot.

    However, I think there is a sort of alienation going on between the consumer and the gap between that which is produced. I don't think that will ever be resolved though. Luckily, I am an antinatalist. I always have a ready solution handy.. don't procreate more alienation and replicate the current condition unto another. Other than that, unless we become AI with our memory and can store millions of units of information, we will always be passive consumers who only produce that which is allotted by our corporate owners so that they can make profit selling to other consumers. We will always be passive consumers in our own living situation as it would be impossible to give you the means to produce this monitor I am looking at, this keyboard, the carpet, the concrete, the metals that go into the structures and the electronics, etc. etc.
  • schopenhauer1
    @Pantagruel and @Ciceronianus and @Bitter Crank The Wikipedia article on Marx' idea of alienation actually does align quite well with what I'm saying, for what it's worth. See here:

    In the "Comment on James Mill" (1844), Marx explained alienation thus:

    "Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have, in two ways, affirmed himself, and the other person. (i) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and, therefore, enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also, when looking at the object, I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses, and, hence, a power beyond all doubt. (ii) In your enjoyment, or use, of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man's essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man's essential nature ... Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.[2]"Marx

    The design of the product and how it is produced are determined, not by the producers who make it (the workers), nor by the consumers of the product (the buyers), but by the capitalist class who besides accommodating the worker's manual labour also accommodate the intellectual labour of the engineer and the industrial designer who create the product in order to shape the taste of the consumer to buy the goods and services at a price that yields a maximal profit. Aside from the workers having no control over the design-and-production protocol, alienation (Entfremdung) broadly describes the conversion of labour (work as an activity), which is performed to generate a use value (the product), into a commodity, which—like products—can be assigned an exchange value. That is, the capitalist gains control of the manual and intellectual workers and the benefits of their labour, with a system of industrial production that converts said labour into concrete products (goods and services) that benefit the consumer. Moreover, the capitalist production system also reifies labour into the "concrete" concept of "work" (a job), for which the worker is paid wages—at the lowest-possible rate—that maintain a maximum rate of return on the capitalist's investment capital; this is an aspect of exploitation. Furthermore, with such a reified system of industrial production, the profit (exchange value) generated by the sale of the goods and services (products) that could be paid to the workers is instead paid to the capitalist classes: the functional capitalist, who manages the means of production; and the rentier capitalist, who owns the means of production.Wikipedia

    The worker is alienated from the means of production via two forms: wage compulsion and the imposed production content. The worker is bound to unwanted labour as a means of survival, labour is not "voluntary but coerced" (forced labor). The worker is only able to reject wage compulsion at the expense of their life and that of their family. The distribution of private property in the hands of wealth owners, combined with government enforced taxes compel workers to labor. In a capitalist world, our means of survival is based on monetary exchange, therefore we have no other choice than to sell our labour power and consequently be bound to the demands of the capitalist.Wikipedia

    The Gattungswesen ('species-essence' or 'human nature'), human nature of individuals is not discrete (separate and apart) from their activity as a worker and as such species-essence also comprises all of innate human potential as a person.

    Conceptually, in the term species-essence, the word species describes the intrinsic human mental essence that is characterized by a "plurality of interests" and "psychological dynamism," whereby every individual has the desire and the tendency to engage in the many activities that promote mutual human survival and psychological well-being, by means of emotional connections with other people, with society. The psychic value of a human consists in being able to conceive (think) of the ends of their actions as purposeful ideas, which are distinct from the actions required to realize a given idea. That is, humans are able to objectify their intentions by means of an idea of themselves as "the subject" and an idea of the thing that they produce, "the object." Conversely, unlike a human being an animal does not objectify itself as "the subject" nor its products as ideas, "the object," because an animal engages in directly self-sustaining actions that have neither a future intention, nor a conscious intention. Whereas a person's Gattungswesen does not exist independently of specific, historically conditioned activities, the essential nature of a human being is actualized when an individual—within their given historical circumstance—is free to subordinate their will to the internal demands they have imposed upon themselves by their imagination and not the external demands imposed upon individuals by other people.

    In the classless, collectively-managed communist society, the exchange of value between the objectified productive labour of one worker and the consumption benefit derived from that production will not be determined by or directed to the narrow interests of a bourgeois capitalist class, but instead will be directed to meet the needs of each producer and consumer. Although production will be differentiated by the degree of each worker's abilities, the purpose of the communist system of industrial production will be determined by the collective requirements of society, not by the profit-oriented demands of a capitalist social class who live at the expense of the greater society. Under the collective ownership of the means of production, the relation of each worker to the mode of production will be identical and will assume the character that corresponds to the universal interests of the communist society. The direct distribution of the fruits of the labour of each worker to fulfill the interests of the working class—and thus to an individuals own interest and benefit—will constitute an un-alienated state of labour conditions, which restores to the worker the fullest exercise and determination of their human nature.Wikipedia

    @Bitter Crank, This last paragraph about "un-alientated state of labour conditions".. What does that really mean in concrete terms? What would "restoring the worker to their human nature" look like, and how would coercion not be a part of making that person do their "duties" as "worker"? That coercion seems to be something kind of left out.. Marx must have thought humans really dedicated to any activity they do.. If left to their own devices without threat, humans tend to wander off and do their own thing.. Having them labor at some project for the "communist collective" doesn't seem like enough of a motivator for most people. Capitalism has the advantage of "You don't get your living needs met if you don't do what we want (you get fired)". Would perhaps the satisfaction in "knowing the means of production" somehow factor into it?
  • Bitter Crank
    There are some very large conditions to be met here.

    1) a classless society

    Not since we were hunter-gatherers, traveling in small bands--probably family groups--have we seen a classless society. Once agriculture was organized, and ever since, there have been classes distinguished by restrictive roles and coercive power. It is difficult to even imagine being "classless".

    2) collective management

    A classless society MUST be collectively managed, or once again divisive categories of standing would be brought back in. We have some but not much experience with collective management, just as we have fleeting (generally pleasant) experiences of classlessness.

    These two elements will be quite difficult to achieve. That is not to say they are impossible, only that it will be difficult -- hard work, ingenuity, persistence, self-discipline, and more will all be needed.

    The direct distribution of the fruits of the labour of each worker to fulfill the interests of the working class—and thus to an individuals own interest and benefit—will constitute an un-alienated state of labour conditions, which restores to the worker the fullest exercise and determination of their human nature

    "Alienation" is a term of art: It means severing the relationship between the worker and what he makes. Take this as an example: A skilled cabinet maker works for a large furniture company. The individual pieces of cabinetry and furniture he makes are really masterworks. He pours his heart into the beautiful pieces.

    When they are finished, they are picked up, hauled away, and sold under the companies premium brand name. People pay a lot of money for these pieces. The worker who made them receive a fixed wage, no share of the selling price, and no recognition as the producer. He is alienated from his work (think of the term, "alienation of affections" when an outsider interferes with the stability of a marriage.

    We use "alienation" to reference a state of anomie, feeling cut off, friendless, etc. That isn't what the 'term of art' means.
  • Bitter Crank
    In an unalienated world, the worker would produce the beautiful cabinetry work, would receive full credit as the creator. He might work primarily as a custom producer, making cabinets and furniture to fit specific homes. (Independent cabinetmakers do a lot of custom work). Since he is working in a group rather than in his own little workshop, his and others' work would be fully credited. The consumer (another worker) would obtain something needed, and designed to fit and be attractive. (From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs).

    Ideally, there would be no exchange of cash between the worker and the consumer for the cabinet.

    Why wouldn't the cabinet maker and consumer both starver? You can't eat woodworking. No, and you can't grow a nice chair, either. Farmers produce food; shoemakers produce shoes. One needs a pair of shoes, the other one needs bread. It's obvious how they might exchange goods.

    Realistically, a large economy can't work well on barter (as far as I know). Some sort of accounting system for production and consumption would have to be created (not difficult).

    Having them labor at some project for the "communist collective" doesn't seem like enough of a motivator for most people.schopenhauer1

    Why not? Laboring in the communist collective provides them with what they need, and gives them a fair value from what they produce.

    So the sour skeptic steps in and raises all sorts of objects here. Well, some people want a macmansion. If they don't get it, they will turn to theft, murder, cannibalism ... whatever it takes to get what they want. Or, people are lazy and they won't work, so everyone will starve, and so on and so forth.

    People vary in how sick, psychopathic, and sociopathic they think other people are. (Of course, people vary in how crazy they actually are, too.). If your opinion of other people's sanity is low, you will tend to expect highly disruptive reactions to any significant social change. if your expectation is that people are flexible and adaptable, you will tend to expect willing cooperation for significant social change.

    Remember, a collective communist system isn't going to be built next next to, or on top of this capitalist system. It will be built AFTER capitalism. The revolution will happen before collective communism can be built (and, remember, the USSR is in no way, shape, or manner or form an example of what we are talking about).

    Some people are crazy -- between 5% and 10% of the population is holding on to reality by their fingernails. If their candidate for POTUS doesn't win they can't accept that reality. They deny it. They attempt to destroy democracy (such as it is). Some crazy people will decide that COVID-19 is a hoax; others think that the Covid vaccination is another hoax, or worse. Ditto for mask mandates. (This isn't just in the USA; crazy people are everywhere. THORAZINE FOR ALL!)
  • Agent Smith
    Bullseye. Not knowing everthing about technology is bad.

    Albert Einstein, E = mc2 = Atomic bomb (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl, many more to come).
  • Hermeticus
    I'm pretty sure we're already in what some would describe as the "technological singularity". That is the point in where technology advances so quickly that no one really has any idea what is going on.

    When you look at a computer, it's an incredibly complex system. It's an accumulation of many different fields, both in terms of knowledge and labour. Many of these systems will work together to form a fundamental layer, where upon this layer another system is built and so forth.

    Now due to the complexity of these systems, you can spend a lifetime gaining knowledge on one layer and still know very little about the other. This is generally true for life. But even among these seemingly connected fields, there is so much to know between the fundamentals of electricity and the various branches of software engineering that it's probably far too much to know in one life time.

    It's not inherently bad to not know everything though. As long as you have some expert in that field available to consult and assist you if needed, there is no problem at all. Cooperation has always been key for societies to function - and with increasingly complex societies, the need for cooperation only grows.

    I do see one major detriment in our technological advancement though. Something most people are awefully unaware of. In system engineering, there is described the concept of Emergence.

    Emergence refers to how collective properties of a system arise from the properties of it's parts. How behavior at a larger scale arises from the detailed structure and the relationships between the system's building components at a finer scale.

    Everything we do and think collectively shapes our society. But in turn, society shapes us. In Hermeticism there is the principle of corrospondence. "As above, so below. As below, so above."
    "It ascends from the earth to the heaven and again it descends to the earth
    and receives the force of things superior and inferior."

    So presume, someone comes across this new thing to do; you can download an app on your phone and watch random people post videos about their life. Someone tries it out, finds it quite enjoyable and tells their friends about it. They in turn try it too. If enough people take interest in it and make it a part of their life, it will become relevant in society. If society cares about it, that in turn motivates more people to engage with the app. We can witness the same effect with individual people. That's how celebrities are born.

    We're already at a point where technology vastly dictates our life. No matter which generation you look at, you'll find people addicted to their phone or their television or computer screen. And it's only going to get more and more relevant. Phones and the media they bring are all across the world now, even in some of the poorest and most remote regions. In fact if you've ever been to Asia, in many parts you'll notice the smartphone being even more important to their culture than to ours.

    I think this is the real pitfall here. It's less about not knowing everything about technology and more about being unaware what technology does to us as a whole. And let's not forget that everything comes at a price. In our global society, we're far from equal - and there's certain, in fact quite many, actors that only care about making money in any way possible - because money is so monumentally important to our society and us as individuals. Money gives power and possibility within society. And so the media we consume comes at a price too. Be it a subscription, our data, some subtle manipulation or the cost of our precious time. We get invested. Society gets invested. And the way individuals and society relates, we'll only ever get more invested in our technology, in our media - in the things they are trying to sell.

    And ultimately, this pitfall just leads to another one. That is, our first premise failing.
    As long as you have some expert in that field available to consult and assist you if needed, there is no problem at all. Cooperation has always been key for societies to function
    If we fail to cooperate, our technology may very well collapse on itself or cause some other form of disaster. It does happen occasionally as it is - but miraculously, our complex global system seems to be holding out just yet. But the technology and media we consume hardly encourages us to work together more. Rather, it encourages us to spend more and more time in that virtual world. For many it is an alternative to facing their problems. They can isolate themselves here, or find some safe spaces of like-minded individuals. All fair - but ultimately, as we spend time in virtual worlds, we surrender partaking in the real world.
  • pfirefry
    It’s not only the case for technology, but for organizations as well. If you have a company with more that 100 people, no single one of them will have the knowledge about everything that’s going on there. There is even less understanding of all the details across the board In a company of 1000 people. When it comes to governments, they have ridiculously little understanding of what is happening.
  • ajar
    Of course, isn't science? Language? Life itself for that matter?Outlander

    Yes, or I think so.

    We might hypothesize a human tendency to project an 'ideal adult status' on this or that figure of the present or the past ( such as a 'visionary' tech billionaire or a long-dead spiritual master.) 'I may be blind, but someone has mastered the darkness.'

    As soon as the subject who is supposed to know exists somewhere there is transference. — Lacan


    The term "subject supposed to know" also emphasizes the fact that it is a particular relationship to knowledge that constitutes the unique position of the analyst; the analyst is aware that there is a split between him and the knowledge attributed to him. In other words, the analyst must realize that he only occupies the position of one who is presumed (by the analysand) to know, without fooling himself that he really does possess the knowledge attributed to him. The analyst must realize that, of the knowledge attributed to him by the analysand, he knows nothing.

    Where does one draw the distinction between something you can control and understand and something worth pursuing?Outlander

    It feels good to overcome resistance, to carry a torch into the darkness and map it out for the tribe. Even if total conquest of the territory looks impossible and every success looks temporary and fragile.
  • Bylaw
    I appreciate that you just threw us in the middle and asked for help. Utterly rare.

    It seems to me you have a deontological position. Something in the family of:

    if you use things and especially if you are dependent on using them, you should understand how they work.

    That may not be it, but my guess is whatever it is will be hard to prove in most ethical systems. IOW I do not think it can be derived from other moral truths other people hold. Obviously doesn't make it wrong, just feeling my way into the lay of the land.

    I don't believe this to be the case. I don't want to mount a general argument, but if I think of some farmer who has a decent knowledge of his soil and seeds and processes, but hasn't the slightest idea how his tractor works and has no interest in that. He has a neighbor who is good with machines and he barters with seeds and they're both happy. The farmer makes food. He feeds his family and brings food to market. I can't see a way to say he SHOULD understand his tractor or cellphone or computer or microwave. He plays his role.

    I could, however, possibly imagine finding someone's ignorance of such things problematic if they somehow acted as if they knew. Or as if knowing those things was not important. Then you might get me to be critical. It would be the combination.

    There is something of orginal sin about this lack of knowledge sin.
  • schopenhauer1
    There is something of orginal sin about this lack of knowledge sin.Bylaw

    Yes, nice reflective post there. I think this stemmed from a larger issue though, that was touched upon somewhat by a post earlier in this thread:

    Being self-sufficient seems like it is an important quality of a mature human being. It seems to me that there is something fundamentally repulsive (pathetic) about not being able to take care of yourself when you ought to be able to. Not understanding the technology we use and being unable to live without it makes realizing this quality of self-sufficiency impossible._db

    But that's only part of it. If we combine this idea of helplessness and power, the problem starts to come into focus. Because of the magnitude of knowledge that is needed to support our daily living, the power rests solely in the dictates, goals, etc. of the business overlords that horde and produce that technology. There is something enfeebling about being the passive recipients of the power that a car company, airliner, electrical company, electronics company, household device manufacturer, ANY of it contains that the individual does not. It bespeaks a bit to the idea of means of production and the information that one has access to. The fact that only a few can source the materials to create the goods and the many are just passively using those finished materials creates an imbalance.
  • _db
    the business overlords that horde and produce that technologyschopenhauer1

    Quite correct, though the barons understand the technology even less than the technicians that create it. Technology has taken on a reality of its own - we serve it, instead of it serving us, barons included. We accommodate ourselves to technology, learn to adapt to it, because it is a new environment as much as it is a fetishistic cult. This has not always been the case, but it has been developing for a couple centuries.
  • Agent Smith
    Doesn't the human body resemble a laptop, any other man-made device for that matter. We don't know how it works and yet we can use it fairly well.

    Knowing how our muscles, neurons, and so on work does give you an edge over someone who's in the dark about such matters, but relatively speaking, not as much as if you (say) know how your cell phone works.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    Because of the magnitude of knowledge that is needed to support our daily living, the power rests solely in the dictates, goals, etc. of the business overlords that horde and produce that technology.schopenhauer1

    Are you still talking about the same thing now? Aren’t the business overlords by and large just as ignorant of the workings of the technology on which their own fortune is based?
  • Raymond
    Doesn't the human body :smile: resemble a laptop, any other man-made device for that matter.Agent Smith

    Ha! You're a funny guy! You truly make me laugh! :smile:
  • Raymond
    Are you still talking about the same thing now?Srap Tasmaner

    He's still fightìng with the schematics of his remote control and the physics books explaining them... What if he gets at his computer, not to mention the subway he uses? Sorry Shoppenhauer1, no offense!
  • Agent Smith
    Ha! You're a funny guy! You truly make me laugh! :smile:Raymond

  • schopenhauer1

    Yes look at the conversation I was having with @dclements for context.
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