We Are the Machine
In response to Jessica Wildfire’s piece at https://jessicalexicus.medium.com/everyone-relax-the-system-works-exactly-as-intended-25cb5accaccd
I do not think that “planned” is the correct term. If it was, I would feel more hopeful. Planning requires planners; we could hunt them down, dispose of them, and our problems would be solved.
But, alas, no. What we are dealing with is a little more like inertia, or entropy. It is intrinsic to the system, and even worse, it might be intrinsic to our nature.
The system does work just fine. That part I believe to be true. However, this does not enlighten us very much. The system works just fine because it is the system The system does what it does. “It is what it is and that is all it ever shall be.”
The question is how did we get to this point? Why is the system what it is? Did someone or some group actually create the system?
The answers to all questions are yes and no. If by someone creating the system, we mean group of individuals with intent and foreknowledge of where things would end up and how to get there, I would say no.
I believe many individuals, that is us, followed our instincts, maximized our comfort, competed, amassed wealth and power and through a series of small steps over the last hundred years, created what we see today.
Like in so many other things, exponential growth wields its wand. Slowly at first then with a bang, we have the superrich, gross inequality, nationalism, and institutionalized cruelty.
The system naturally optimizes for its survival. Actions that have negative impacts on those in power are minimized, those that help them are repeated and amplified. Over time the system becomes more and more efficient at doing what it does, concentrating wealth and power.
I do not want to start a class war (yes, I do) but the system goes by many names, one is “capitalism.” It does not take a Nobel prize in economics to realize that in a system based on compound interest once you get ahead, or if you start ahead, it is increasingly more difficult to catch up with you. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Sure, some rich people screw up and lose it all and some poor people win the lottery. But that is not the rule, those are rare exceptions.
Wealth is power and power is wealth. When you are rich you can buy power, lobbyists, PR firms, etc. Both through direct action, by influencing (i.e., bribing) legislators and public officials and through an unrelenting campaign glorifying wealth and stupefying the public the powerful have gained almost total control of society. We even have a religion that equates wealth with the “grace of god.”
Can we turn this around? Probably, not. Though, it may collapse through infighting, environmental catastrophe, war, pestilence, and famine — the usual stuff.
In the past we have seen revolutions upset the applecart of the powerful, but it has not taken long to reverse these gains. So, I return to my theory, if you give it a little time, no matter what we do, we will meet back here again.
“Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History” by Kurt Andersen.
A little into the weeds here but, for those of you familiar with Stephen Wolfram’s concepts of evolving complexity from simple rules, this will seem familiar. Wolfram has a theory that explains how very complex systems, like biological beings or whole societies, can grow from the successive application of simple rules. Source: “A New Kind of Science” by Stephen Wolfram.
And, last, but hardly least, John Forbes Nash Jr.’s work on Game Theory.