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Anomalizer's Journal
Unintended consequences
Change or awareness? 
5th-Aug-2010 08:55 pm
The world as we know of today seems to be an anomaly. Yes, I am using the word that I so sparingly use to describe things. A lot of power structures are being challenged by the increased flow of information. And my increased flow, I mean everything from people's mobility, hundreds of TV channels, the internet and everything else.

A direct consequence of this is that a lot of power structures are being challenged. First off there are the obvious ones like religion finding it hard to inculcate morality & say governments finding it hard to shield people from alternate versions of "reality". Then there are more intricate ones like farmers in the hinterland having access to retail prices of their crop, patients having quick access to side effects of a new drug to following the daily life of someone far away.

Now this obviously upsets a whole bunch of people who enjoy a "position of power" which keeps getting challenged ever so often. The news these days seems to have higher incidence of such conflicts such as establishments frowning upon "inappropriate attire" for "working women" in so called developed worlds and democracies, governments refusing to permit movement of communications they are unable to inspect effortlessly, friendly neighbourhood upholders of moral values (in many countries) forbidding various forms of marriages for reasons ranging from same sex to same gothra, organic food v/s genetically modified crop, etc. etc.

What is not obvious is if we were going through a period of wanton randomness and there is an increased attempt to curb it or if it is just access to all the more information that is increasing our awareness of such conflict. Thoughts?
7th-Aug-2010 11:30 am (UTC)
Joseph Tainter, in his book "Collapse of Complex societies", argues societies emerge and evolve to solve problems in order to keep marching on the path of Growth. Information processing is vital to solve problems. Information processing and problem solving is also directly proportional to the amount of net-energy available to society (for if there is only a very basic, subsistence farming or hunter-gatherer types society, we'd all[*] be busy just gathering food and not be worrying about how to build a resilient communication network in the face of a nuclear attack.

Everything you've mentioned here are problems of complexity our society is trying to collectively solve... and they're not wanton randomness, IMO. "attire of working women", it can be argued, is a sociological problem. They're complex, nevertheless.

However, is there curbing all by itself? Its a factor proportional to the 'sunk costs' of the existing world view. Changing it is too expensive, so its like pushing back to say "give me a cheaper alternative". Just like how no matter many green-heads and climate-scientists and environmentalists keep talking about weaning off fossil fuels but yet we just can't seem to... its all just indicative of the sunk costs :)

That said, it is indeed true that the times is an anomaly. For no earlier civilization (that we've unearthed) had access to such quantities of net energy that they could solve so many problems of different sizes and shapes.

* - the "all" here would probably be a much smaller "all" if we "all" lived off of a hunter-gathered or subsistence farming life-style.
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