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Posts Tagged ‘1984’

Religion may prevent socially disapproved behaviors because of an omniscient, judging other (panopticon religion), but it also prevents individuals from taking action because of a promised “better” life ahead (opiate religion).  It appears that religion is failing us on both fronts.  The potential presense of an omnisicient, judging other does not prevent all of us from doing reprehensible acts, nor does it allow all of us to accept these acts because of a promised “better” life ahead.  Because of this, we look for earthly solutions.

Some make much more money than others, so we tax them at higher rates; some businesses are harmful to the environment, so we create environmental regulations; some are rewarded for the failure of their companies, so we create pay limits.  In each case, there are loopholes.

Escape HatchesIf Obama really were a deity we wouldn’t have these problems.  As it is, the chance of getting caught and punished for abusing these loopholes appears to be continually outweighed by the potential gains that come with taking advantage of them.  If society were a prison, we could implement Bentham’s panopticon in order to create the illusion of an omniscient other and, thus, prevent these behaviors.  In case you haven’t noticed, however, society is not a prison.

The failure of religion, social norms, and actual regulations to regulate these behaviors creates a situation in which it is easy enough to conclude that we need increased governmental controls on behaviors such as these for the good of the people!  We need a digital panopticon!  Two-way screens in every room to protect us from the worst among us!

shit!

I love Big Brother.

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Typically, I prefer my visions of the future to be of the dystopic variety.  I suppose, though, that dire economic times deserve brigher visions of the future.  Angela Sorby at the Chronicle of Higher Education takes this general approach in reflecting on the crash of 2009 from 2020.  Among the highlights:

  • Universities stopped paying for conference travel. After a wave of armed protests, professors began talking with their colleagues at nearby universities. Study groups formed. Now, instead of performing their work at a national meeting for an audience of 10, professors find themselves in heated discussions with people from the college across town — people they never would have met under the old system. Regional schools of thought have formed. New ideas are being generated. The only Thai restaurant in Grinnell, Iowa, now thrives, packed with academics who can no longer afford to fly halfway around the globe to eat with similar colleagues in similar Thai restaurants in Boston and London.
  • Forced to make hard decisions, colleges and universities experimented with eliminating faculty members, only to discover that without teachers, students complained that they were learning less. Online robot instructors were tried, but they had no paychecks from which to deduct their maintenance costs. Finally, faculty members were reinstated, complete with salaries and pay-as-you-go medical plans. To compensate for revenues lost to faculty expenses, institutions were compelled to stop hiring consultants. Assessment teams disappeared, leading to widespread panic. Professors no longer knew how to list student-centered outcomes on their syllabi or how to tabulate six course objectives on an Excel spreadsheet. Professors and students heroically overcame those barriers and, as of today, continue to learn. It is unclear how long this can continue, however.

Finally, it is comforting to know that even if Big Brother isn’t watching and birth rates do not fall to zero there is a dystopia in my future after all:

  • The old campus apartments gradually filled up with professors and their families, since no one could afford a mortgage or a commute anymore. The campus got progressively more crowded, more intergenerational, and less private. The swimming pool dried up. The campus coffee shop began selling Folger’s. The ivory tower crumbled, along with the campus infrastructure. In this new environment, students and professors are economic equals who see one another on the weekends. They also walk home from night classes together, giving them added protection against the gangs of half-starved former assessment consultants now roaming the streets.

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