Golem, His Talent
(Cybernation and the Collectivization of Industry)

        92.  We are left with the basic question of our relationship with the means of production. The last few notes imply the basic empowerment of each citizen with respect to nonmaterial production -- the decentralized, self-determined generation of the artifacts of art, thought, etc., which embody our nonmaterial condition. Let me deal with the management of material production by an example on a high industrial level.

        93.  I wanted to adapt my phone to full-room use. I went down to the local Radio Shack outlet and bought a kit with a printed program of assembly, which said some things about the subtle magic of transistors. The kit held components, simple like wire and sophisticated like transformers. From raw materials onward, most of the process that manufactured and distributed the components was done by a semi-integrated complex of machinery involving relatively little human labor or supervision -- a process that, in a greedy way, begins even to take account automatically of my needs and changing desires, by computerized monitoring of sales patterns.

        If we reach the year 2000, when my son will be my age, his computer will help him decide to add new circuitry to it; help him do and understand this: and coordinate the mechanics of component-arrival for local pickup. The components will be sophisticated versions of the minimal-material/high-skill integrated micro-circuitry, which even now is reducing the human labor of electronic technology by a factor of ten, from production through assembly. They will be manufactured by completely cybernated machinery with highly flexible output. The scarce-material input to this plant will be mostly reclaimed, for electronic technology lends itself to this and his uses won't be wasteful; its other raw materials will be drawn from regenerative natural sources. Its energy will derive from tidal or deep-buried atomic sources; and the dispersal of its wastes will be integrated with the ecology. The machinery will be inhabited by men and women who help the pilgrim young to understand its workings, and who complete its capacities for self-repair. They will view the machine as their extension -- not vice versa, as is the custom now.

        94.  No human labor will be wasted in routine decisions about component production, provided these are made naturally, for common benefit and not for private profit. My son's order, habits, and expectations will be integrated automatically with everyone else's, and production flexibly tailored to this: or a message returned to revise these in view of production's limits. Human creation, which augments the system's capacities along its determined priorities, will feed in and be implemented as a matter of course.

        When decisions about the system's priorities must be centralized in time rather than continuously determined by the feedback of people's changing uses, notice of this will flow to the population affected by such decisions. (In a free information system the necessity of such decisions cannot be disguised.) As with governance in general, full choice-information will be available, and those who wish to share the responsibility will be empowered to decide such matters as whether production should be organized around a different rare metal for ecological reasons; or reengineered around a breakthrough miniaturization technology; or used to facilitate youth involvement in the use of personal weaponry.

        As in the governmental domain, to thus radically democratize the decision-making process requires a radical faith in people's ultimate motives and in their ability wisely to use their powers of responsibility. Here again, what's at stake is our essential image of humanity. This faith may be unjustified. But any faith less leads us back through the Authority Complex toward fascism.

        95.  In this sketch of the collectivization of the management and use of the electronics/computer industry, the details of ownership remain. (16) As with telephones, such technology opens in harmony with common ownership. Every other industrial technology is now becoming capable of such reengineering toward cyber-integrated production and full shared control. Thus the control-and-decision processes of material production become fully automated in their lower reaches, are decentralized in space and time, absorbed visibly into the natural processes of daily use guided by self-determined learning and goals. In their higher reaches, as with politics, universal empowerment in the mechanical aspects of decision-making becomes possible -- for example, a crude technology of forecast of the implications of decisions will soon be universally available through computers (at least to those who can pay for it).

        In centrally-cybernated production, as with our present industry, gross material accumulations will still be necessary to the freeing of human labor. But the accumulation of persons this now entails will be sharply reduced; and re-technologized communication will make unnecessary the centralization of decision-power which has always accompanied such accumulation. (17)

        96.  The meta-technology that generates our major technologies operates through an educational system linked to industrial systems. Consider the technologies of the automobile and the encounter group. Their development involves the following sort of progression: (individual discovery) => (group invention) => (sponsorship for development) => (selection from among competing alternatives) => (full production, spread, and impact). Reconstruction of the meta-technology involves reconstruction of each of these phases.

        Models for the reconstruction of the first and fourth of these are fairly clearly implicit in the discussion above. The third resembles the fourth. It is not hard to imagine correlated shifts in the more sophisticated processes of group invention. In the fifth phase, there remains the major question of how persons choose to engage their work in production itself; and how they are sustained, that is, given access to the fruits of production.


Go to: Top   |   Next   |  OLSC Contents   |   Home