Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is a movement supporting the use of technology to enhance society. See Technocrat (disambiguation) for other definitions.
The technocratic movement is a social movement that advocates the optimization of the welfare of human beings, by means of scientific analyses and engineered action. A core conclusion reached by the group is that the current price system makes no sense in the technologically advanced society that we live in today, as it limits our potential. The movement does not limit itself to established economic, political and administrative forms, but considers those as relics.
The movement uses scientific observations and reasoning to show how a technate is the optimal social structure.
Howard Scott started the Technocratic movement as the "Technical Alliance" in the winter of 1918-1919. The Technical Alliance, composed of mostly scientists and engineers, started an energy-survey of the North American continent near the beginning of the 20th century. Many of their conclusions give a scientific background upon which they based their revolutionary social structure. In 1933, the group became incorporated in the state of New York as a non-profit, non-political, non-sectarian organization known as Technocracy Inc. Led by Howard Scott, then director-in-chief (his organizational title was "Chief Engineer"), the organization promoted its goals with a North American lecture tour in 1934, gaining support throughout the depression years. Their magazine, The Technocrat, is still published today and the movement still continues after more than 70 years of history. One of the most notable members of the movement was M. King Hubbert the geophysicist who proposed the theory which became known as the Hubbert Peak.
Errors with the price system
Certain long-term trends support the technocrat’s conclusions. It is a fact that the labor content of production drastically began to fall around 1920, and is continuing to fall today, because of increased productivity due to technological development. In the 1920's, less than 4% of the people of North America produced all foodstuffs, housing and manufactured goods; the majority of the work, in a scientific sense, was being done by machines.
Technological developments, technocrats say, have caused a massive shift of the economy towards the service sector. Further increases in efficiency and productivity means that most of these services could be (and are being) reduced or eliminated by better management, automation, and centralization. These trends, and future trends, should signal an increase in potential production. If productivity doubles, while people work the same number of hours, the material standard of living should approximately double with this productivity. This is, however, not the case, as increased productivity often leads to lay-offs and lower wages because of competition between workers, and the standard of living falls for many or only rises minimally. Technocrats argue that the more we are capable of producing, the less we can consume. This is one of the main reasons why technocrats argue an exchange system of economics is highly ineffective in a technologically advanced world.
Significant examples help point out technocracy's perspective. Technocrats state that the price system causes business to create an artificial scarcity of their products. Artificial scarcity is the common management practice of deliberately reducing production to the level at which money is available to pay for the goods (gaining a competitive market value, and thus profitability). Before the industrial revolution, most products and services were naturally scarce due to the limited amount of human resources avaliable. It is obvious to technocrats that social ills such as hunger and poverty are not due to limitations in productivity; the price system causes people to limit how products are distributed, artificially creating lower classes.
Technocrats claim that in the real world the price system and lack of purchasing power have been propped up by wasteful tactics, major patches to the economic system, and increasingly huge amounts of debt, which began to increase exponentially after 1930 (according to some, ever since the Bank of England was founded). This debt includes the national debt, mortgages (see global debt), long term debt, credit debt, and the growing stock market; all things that would have caused severe inflation in the old world economies where products were naturally scarce. Technocrats claim that the price-system will eventually fail because of its contradictions with the real world, in which case the movement plans to have educated enough of the populace in order to peaceably make changes to the economic structure.
Design of a technate
A technate, the so-called name of a technocratic society, consists of many ideas that are explained in detail below.
Division of Political and Technical Decision
All decisions involving the production and distribution of goods and services are determined by a technically gifted structure. The bottom-up structure of this technical administrative body ensures that those who are most qualified belong in the right position. If a person in a high position does not perform their duties well, the persons working directly below can remove them from their position. The goals of the technical administrative body are to provide and maintain efficiency of the industrial production, while continuing to improve and better that system.
Political decisions will be made by a democratically elected leader. The democratic side of technocracy does not deal with physical or scientific decisions. Instead, leaders would deal with moral issues, the design of the technate’s flag, etc. It should also be noted that the economy will be controlled democratically. The population of the Technate would go about their business as consumers, spending their energy credits as they see fit at conveniently located distribution centers or through online catalogues. This would be the democracy in action; all citizens decide what they want produced and what to consume. Technocracy is about as direct control as one can get without every person traveling to the local power plant to switch on their lights at home.
Elimination of Money: The Era of Energy Accounting
One change to a technocratic society would be the elimination of the price-system. Since such a simple change would have far-reaching effects on the global economy, the technocrats will wait until the price-system fails before implementing their system.
Technocrats state that technology should be used for mankind's benefit. Under the price-system, if a factory that employed 300 fully automates itself and only one employee is needed to inspect the machinery, the amount of money going to consumers drops, as shown by current trends in productivity and real wages. Technocrats argue that technology should reduce the burden of human toil in the populace, and technological displacement should result in a significant reduction of working hours. Money and the price-system, however, stand in the way. Getting rid of money is the way to release our scientific potential.
An energy-credit is a hypothetical unit of currency used in a technate. Unlike traditional money, energy-credits cannot be saved or earned, only distributed evenly among a populace. The amount of credit given to each citizen would be calculated by determining the total productive capacity of the technate and dividing it equally. The reason for the use of energy-credits serves to ensure equality among the technate's citizenry as well as prohibit spending that is beyond the productive capacity of the technocracy.
It should be noted that energy-accounting is not rationing; it is a way to distribute an abundance and track demand. Never before on the planet has there existed such a system, but it would be similar to giving every person on the continent a billion dollars; even though everyone receives equality in terms of the energy they get, it doesn't matter because everyone gets so much. Technocrats predict that at today's rates of energy conversion, no person will rationally be able to spend all their energy credits.
The system is usually referred to as energy accounting.
The North American technate
The North American technate is a design and plan that is being developed to transform North America into a technocratic society after the collapse of capitalism, or the price system. The plan includes using Canada's rich deposits of minerals and hydro-electric power as a complement to the United States's industrial and agricultural capacity.
The movement is too obscure to attract much criticism. However, technocrats themselves would argue that those in "power" (politicians and heads of corporations) are a form of organized opposition. The movement would claim that they have helped spread a negative connotation to the term and any ideologies that seem related to the movement. More so, they say that those in power have spread much propaganda to convince the public that what we have now works well and is the finest form of government and economic system that works. Many people who just learn about the movement stand in opposition because:
- Critics argue that planners in the technocracy cannot detect demand with sufficient accuracy (in a market economy, price signals serve this purpose). Technocrats argue that they would use energy credits to track demand, and that production would be at the hands of the people.
- Proponents of a market economy state that there's no possible way to eliminate the scarcity of products in the modern world, especially with the large variety
- The theory that 95% of the populace could be unemployed seems extremely suspect given the low unemployment rate in modern capitalist societies, especially in light of the history of such societies since the development of this theory in the early 20th century. Technocrats, on the other hand, see our society as inefficient, and feel that technologically driven unemployment should decrease the hours that people would be spent laboring.
- Removing the price system and ridding an area of capitalism are huge reforms.
- Some people would argue that the movement is too "communist."
- Some argue that technology cannot solve all of our problems.
- The movement makes an assumption that the price system is the cause for most social problems; it does not take human nature into account. Technocrats argue that human behavior does not define the true nature of the being; the environment accounts for a significant proportion of how people act. In an environment of abundance, technocrats find it hard to believe that someone would steal their neighbor’s television (technocrats argue that this is the same reason people do not fight over air, as it is abundant).
- Opponents say that the movement lacks organization and a clear path.
- Some argue that people too easily accept the movement because it offers things like equal distribution of productive capacity and more vacation time.
- Another conflict arises with the process of distribution. Opponents argue that naturally scarce things (gold, diamonds, the Mona Lisa) are impossible to distribute equally. Technocrats argue that today, mostly everything people consume is made by a machine and in some form mass produced; naturally scarce things are so scarce that they will not have an effect on the technate.
The group claims that many of its ideals are misconstrued by people who have the precognition that technocracy is rule by a technical elite. This is not so. Technocrats state that the name technocracy is not a dictatorship of scientists, but rule by skill ('technos' in Greek means skill, 'cracy' equalling rule by). Scientists would hold positions in society, but may not dictate laws because this may not be one of their aptitudes.
- Technocracy Incorporated
- Unofficial Technocracy FAQ
- Manna, a story which extrapolates current business automation trends and shows the results, and a Technocracy-like solution
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