|copyright: New Yorker|
We define “technocracy” as “rule of the skilled”, that is as a system of government composed of knowledgeable experts. The exact implementation of technocracy can have many forms. There have, for example, been a number of technocratic governments in Europe since the end of the Second World War. These government tend to be caretaker governments composed of civil servants who run the country till a democratic form of government takes over. EOS propose another form of technocracy base on teams of experts in a holarchy. Either way, all forms have the central idea of experts making the decisions.
Experts are knowledgeable in their domain of expertise. They often have studied and worked in the area for many years. We would argue that such a system can form a better way to govern the current systems we use today. I will point out two main reasons as to why; the first has to do with the complexity of society and the other with human cognitive abilities.
We can define complexity as “composed of many parts”, where “many” makes it difficult for us to understand the full workings of a complex system.
Society forms an example of a complex system. It has many parts and we find it difficult to understand society fully. The “many parts” include the individual human beings that make up society but also groups of people that make other organisational parts to society such as families, clubs, societies, institutions, communities, sports teams, and work colleges. All these parts interact with each other following sets of rules that define or govern the behavior of the parts. Some rules have a formal nature such as laws and club rules but others have a less formal nature such as individual likes and preferences. In the end with have systems within systems in a complex, dynamic, network.
Out of the interactions of the parts comes the society we live in. It can take many years of study to understand just part of how these societies work. For example, most universities offer three to five year degree and master cources in subjects suchs a sociology, psychology, computer science, and electrical engineering. But even outside a formal academic environment we only learn part of how a society functions. We learn about our local communities, clubs, and societies through living within those groups. Yes, even for people who have many degrees, we never gain a full and complete understanding of every aspects of society. We become specialists or experts within certain domains but not others.
Many issues that face us today have a complex nature such as global warming / climate change. He we have technological aspects where we have, for example, systems of systems of energy production and use. But we also have other aspects such as social and psychological to do with how we live as well as political dimensions. This make solutions that involve one aspect such as politics or economics unlikely to succeed.
We have evolved as social animals. As such we have many built in mechanism to enable us to quickly think and make decisions in a social context. We haven’t evolved to understand the physics of the world. Thus, we tend to have a poor understanding of how the real world works and we make the same cognitive errors over and over again.
Buster Benson did an excellent summary of our cognitive problems:
- Too much information
- Not enough meaning
- Not enough time nor resources
- Not enough memory
This results in our minds taking shortcuts in thinking, using heuristics and past events to make quick decisions that often serve us well in a social context but are often wrong when we deal with the complex real world problems that surround us.
Our problems with thinking lead to other cognitive difficulties such as the Dunning–Kruger effect, where those who know the least tend to overestimate their cognitive abilities such that people with little knowledge of a subject tend to have higher confidence in their decisions. Thus, the majority are often wrong on many technical problems that we face in society; yet many are confident in their solutions!
When it comes to making decision we tend to get it wrong more than we get it write. This has to do with the fact that there are more ways to get something wrong than right and our cognitive biases means that we tend not to know if something is right or not.
Rule of Experts
Experts are human too. That means they suffer from the same cognitive biases that we all do. That means they can get it wrong, like the rest of us. Or even disagree among themselves. They have the same problem know if something is right or not. However, experts don’t need to get it right. They only need to get something that is workable. “Workable” and “being right” are not the same thing. Many technically wrong decisions can be workable if they are close enough. For example, Newtonian physics is wrong but workable in most situations.
Experts have studied, and even have worked in, their area of expertise for many years. This increases the probability that experts will make workable decisions that non-experts. But following on from the complexity of society, no expert will know all that is needed to make set of decisions necessary to run a society. Thus a technocracy would need teams of expert at various levels of society to make a workable form of governance.