Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ripped Off Republic

Last night's Rip Off Republic didn't really light my fire but when combined with some reading today and the latest from the Irish Times cartoons I decided to share some ramblings.

2005 © Irish Times by Martyn Turner.

A fine gentleman by the name of Adam Smith made a very relative note on the arrogance of politicans which is as apt today as when he made it in 1759 and goes something like this "The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder." (see online here and for PDFs).

This fine quotation came from Smith's lesser known book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (he is better known as the author of The Wealth of Nations).

The reason I was struck by this quote was that it illustrates the current government's thinking in that it believes that its current plan is working perfectly 10 years into the chaos we call post Celtic Tiger Ireland and more importantly highlights the thinking behind the current government and its refusal to take the necessary action to rectify the obvious flaws which their system of thinking has produced. The knock on effects of these flaws were highlighted by the Rip Off Republic series.

How can find the essential factors of the current complex socio-technological culture we now live and address them in a meanful manner ? One suggestion I belief would be a sea-change in thinking which can only be achieved by changing the stale current government to something new, a spring cleaning so to speak. Today whilst reading Kim Vincente's book, The Human Factor, the work of Jens Rasmussen and his theory for Risk management for a dynamic society was one tool for a new government's toolbox. Rasmussen's framework is a human-centric approach to the design of complex technological systems that fulfill important societal needs whilst still simultaneously protecting the public interest. Vincente concludes the political impretatives section of his book with "The real power isn't in sofware or hardware alone, but in how people use it. Sure, technology is an enabler that can create new and wonderful possiblities, but if we take the very same system (public water distribution system) and either poison or sustain people with it, then the inescapable conclusion is that all of the interactions involving the human factor are incredibly important influences on the safety of any technological system. Therefore, the true promise of the the Technological Age isn't just the things that we build, but in how we use those things as tools to help improve our quality of life. That is one of the fundamental lessons of the Human-tech approach.
Unfortunately, not everyone thinking this way -yet

I'm proud to be part of the agent provocateur leading the change to this type of thinking through our third level education system but there is much to do and many opinions to change to ensure that technology works with humanity to improve our societies and cultures not against it.


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