John Hopkins on Sat, 12 May 2012 06:00:15 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Another insult of the 1 percent: everybody does it!

Hi Brian:

In this way you can see that the current attack on the universities is
not just a caste issue for academics, it's a societal issue. The
structure of society based on distinct professional fields defined and
guarded by credentials is useless for the business entrepreneurs. The
real question, imo, is not how to defend professional status but rather
how to transform it into something that can have a positive social
function for everyone. So instead of getting a degree to carve out a
protected niche in the economy, you would get both a degree and a
profession in order to contribute to a greater good.

My experience is exactly so, though, in my engineering education -- I
learned how to extract things from the earth that were/are in high (social)
demand benefiting many, so, not sure what you mean here. What I learned was
a positive social function (within the functioning of the contemporary
world) -- so I think you have to go beyond that step if that is possible or
reasonable in the complex system we have now... which does suggest that the
sheer complexity of the system is part of the problem. A simpler system (as
outlined below) has more functional and less abstracted roles, to be sure,
simply to ensure survival of more localized social units. when you have
larger, globalized systems, there is more 'wiggle room' for useless things
to be going on: more (useless) people performing more useless tasks.

Maybe this is a rule: You can't do engineering that has a positive social
function for *everyone.* You can engineer something that benefits a subset,
but not *everyone.* Bigger/smaller subsets, but not everyone. Adam Curtis' "Pandora's Box" series dances around this -- how engineering automatically introduces segregation into a techno-social system (because of the
continuous inter-relationship between technology and society).

Sounds like sheer naivete to the cynics, I know, but wait for one degree
more of civilizational collapse and these questions will start to have
immense practical value.

That's because in a less organized system, multiple disciplines are
necessary for survival -- killing, dressing, and eating animals, raising
subsistence crops, self-protection of personal/local water/food supplies,
DIY fixing of what breaks with what tools are available. But some how, I
think that this is more than a single degree of collapse, but rather
system-wide disorder (which, to be honest, will probably arrive as a
consequence of a cascade of organizational failures (solar flare knocks out
all satellites and large chunks of electric grid which knocks out gps which
knocks out telecom which knocks out transport which knocks out the main
structural building blocks of entire globalized system) -- which may all be
a single degree, it's all relative! At any rate, much of the concept of
capital investment and such abstractions lose any reason to exist without a
passively operating consuming class which dominates the developed world.
All that will be redundant in the face of systemic failures.  Both the
passive consuming class and the producing class will be rendered,
literally, as so much meat, and they too shall pass away.



John Hopkins
Watching the Tao rather than watching the Dow!

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