Further thoughts on adaptation, ‘experts’ and unintended consequences

A friend recently proposed the idea that we need a bunch of MIT experts to “fix” the planet. ‘Experts’ solving our problems would possibly be much better than what we have now, but, if unquestioned, their solutions WILL have unintended consequences. Engineers, economists, social engineers, and other really smart people caused most of the problems we faced today. Whenever a centralized bureaucracy enforces the will of the few, blinders get put on. People want to think they are right. The heaviest burden of a world ruled by the ‘experts’ will likely fall on the people and ecosystems that the experts are least familiar with; the ones that can least afford those burdens. As far as I know, China is the closest thing to technocracy in the modern world (the Soviets were another pretty reasonable example of technocracy). Here’s a list of their experts’ unintended consequences: three gorges dam, a missing generation of women from the one-child policy. There’s more, but these are pretty major examples.

I would offer the occupy movement and the general assembly as a potential alternative to this centralized technocrat model. Experts are always valued and should be, but it doesn’t seem like it’s always a good idea to just hand over the power and say “you’re the expert.” Democratic review of experts is the single most important part of peer-reviewed science, but one that is often left out of a technocratic bureaucracy, once consensus is built and injected into centralized power structures, it is no longer deemed valuable to fact-check or monitor for success. In the extremely (and sometimes painful if you’re not used to consensus building) democratic process of a GA, the expert is forced to consider other viewpoints and must convince a group of their expert opinion. In many cases, they may have to consider the problem/system from the perspective of traditionally marginalized voices, eg. those who did not receive their education from the marquee MIT name. This results in a rigorous decision making process that is subject to many forms of oversight, monitoring and revision.

That our education system teaches us facts instead of process is a huge failing in a world that is rapidly changing. The facts change. Adaptation is critical and our current systems are not built for it. Both the State and corporations suppress dissent to maintain the status quo because it’s profitable.


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