The false dictatorship of automation and computers

Roman Abacus Reconstruction
Roman Abacus Reconstruction

In the first half of the 20th century Bertrand Russell wrote his book “The Scientific Outlook”. This is a must read for those people that do not understand the benefits of technology development over a society. The last part of the book is related to the use of science and technology to improve the governance.

Automatic control theory was mainly developed during the 2nd word wide war. Computers from microprocessors, internet and most IT we use today are later developments. Russell does not think in the use of automation to provide a technological government. His thinking is more related to economics, sociology, biology, genetics and phychology.

Russell realizes that if science and technology are achieving great things in every field of knowledge, finally science and technology would be used to improve the field of organizational development and then governance.

Russell defines a scientific government not as a government composed by scientists but a government that follows a scientific method to improve its performance. The scientific method consists in making hypotheses based on previous knowledge, designing and planning some experiment to test the hypotheses and further, developing useful technology from the new knowledge to make it usable.

A scientific government would be a government using, for instance, management science, economic science, IT technology, and so on, as tools to improve the performance of the organization. Namely, modern business organizations are trying to be some kind of scientific government.

Modern governments depends more on the IT systems of the Department of Treasury, and their connections to the banking system than in the cleverness of the rulers. A government without and effective way to get incomes cannot be operative. This is well known from the middle ages when tax collectors used the army to assure the amount of grain required by the castle to endure a long siege.

Scientific method implies to validate hypotheses through experiments. A scientific government is a government getting better results with the implementation of its political ideas. For instance, a social democrat government can think, following Keynes, that increasing expenditure it can improve the economy, but this government would be scientific if it can demonstrate that this is true in reality. During the crisis of 2007, all occidental governments (even of right side parties) agreed to increase the expenditure hugely to avoid a stagnation the result was only an increasing of debt weakening their economies and a preservation of recession. The action can be seen as a scientific experiment but if the hypothesis was not passing the test, it ought to be discarded or the government could not be considered scientific.

In the last chapters of the book, Russell imagines how a future totally scientific government would be, and he imagines a society engineered by scientists where it would be a division between a ruling class and a working class, where the members or the ruling class are scientifically selected from their birth. There is not democracy, or if it is preserved, it is only in the form with elected puppets but a class of people using science and technology was ruling the world.

Russell realized that there were two societies in that time trying to rebuild a society scientifically: Japan and Russian Communism. Both models are nowadays, failed experiments. Communism was running for many years with that separation between a selected (not elected) ruling class and a working class very far from democracy.

In our epoch, there are many people worried about the evilness of automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. These technologies are technologies that reduce the working time of the people and then they increase their leisure time. Leisure for Romans, were time dedicated to science, philosophy and politics. Then, technologies as automation, robotics, IT, and AI, are increasing the capability of every people for politics, and improving the quality of our democracies increasing the time for self-education, for getting a global vision of the world from news, and for politics, and they are shorting the distance between the leisure time and amount of knowledge and information of any ruling class and the people.


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