Technocracy and Science
- Study of the physical world and its manifestations through empirical observation of natural phenomena and monitoring of systematic experimentation.
- the study, development, and application of devices, machines, and techniques for manufacturing and productive processes
- Power based on the control of technology in which scientists, engineers and technicians useful to the ruling class may enjoy high social standing and exert influence
Broadly speaking a better understanding of our physical environment, origin, capabilities and limitations helps us plan our future and learn from our mistakes. Science is applied to develop technology, but may also reveal its adverse effects. Technology may be beneficial or detrimental and have good or bad applications, while technocracy concentrates power in the hands of those who control technology. If we aim to build a fairer, more open and democratic society, scientific research is not just good but essential, while technology should be applied only if it enhances our enjoyment of life and benefits the long-term sustainability of society as a whole.
The short-term benefits of new technology may lead in the long term to conflicts over the distribution of resources, empower the masters of technological know-how and radically alter the fabric of society. Just consider the immense impacts of television and automobiles on wealthy countries over the last 60 or so years. Together they have discouraged communal transport and entertainment and encouraged mass consumption and the atomisation of communities and families. Many workers commute over 30 miles to benefit from lower property prices or safer neighbourhoods. Cultural life revolves around mass entertainment whether it's multichannel TV, radio, high-profile interactive web sites (which nearly always require a dedicated team of content managers), mass-marketed pop music, movies or pulp fiction. The tentacles of big business reach far and wide. Opponents of such developments are inevitably dismissed as luddites. Think of the benefits. TV educates, informs and shows parts of the world most viewers would never see. Cars broaden horizons beyond the parochial bounds of one's home village or town. Supermarkets provide a variety of food products local grocers could never hope to match and at more competitive prices. Sooner or later even traditionalists are driving to church, watching soaps on TV and doing the weekly shopping at sparkling new supermarkets 10 miles away. While we're lulled into a false sense of freedom, we have inadvertently empowered an even tinier elite to run our lives. Without fossil fuels, electricity and potable tap water our lives would soon grind to a halt. While consumers use and admire the wonders of technology, few can either create or control it. Our governments fight wars over resources needed to sustain a lifestyle promoted by the mass media.
Common sense holds that technology should serve people and not the other way round. We need a more thorough application of science and less blind faith in technocracy.