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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

It's all a conspiracy!

Recently I had a link to the “light bulb conspiracy” presented to me. Basically it has for a subject “programmed obsolescence”. The term “programmed obsolescence” refers to the industrial practice of designing for failure. Manufactures produce items at the minimum level of quality they feel they can get away with, but not too high a quality, so that items fail; thus people have to go back to buy replacement products. The film then calls this a “conspiracy”. I disagree. Yes, manufactures do indeed produce items to fail but that does not equate to a conspiracy. The word “conspiracy” means:

  • Conspiracy (civil), an agreement between persons to deceive, mislead, or defraud others of their legal rights, or to gain an unfair advantage
  • Conspiracy (crime), an agreement between persons to break the law in the future, in some cases having committed an act to further that agreement
  • Conspiracy (political), the overthrow of a government


Thus, we can define the essential elements of a conspiracy as a plot, normally in secret, to carry out something illegal or to gain an unfair advantage. “Programmed obsolescence” does not fall into the category of something illegal (no government makes it so) nor into the category of “gaining an unfair advantage” as all manufactures either practice it or have the opportunity to practice it.

It seams to me that calling things a conspiracy has come into vogue; from 9/11 to NWO to the 2012 Olympics. Whether its alien, lizards or the a secret society. Sometime it appears to me as if the expressions “think for yourself” and “get educated” means “believe in the latest conspiracy theory without question”!!!

Where others see plots carried out in secret to do something illegal I see multi-agents interacting. I see self organising networks of individuals at work but most of all I see emergent phenomena.

Have a look at a dot and see what properties it has. Then arrange a number of dots in an arc and see what properties we then have. Dots arranged in an arc have properties such as length and angle that the single dot does not. These new properties emerge from the way we have ordered the dots.

Emergence: dots in a line have properties that no individual dot has.

Dots in a line forms a very simple example of emergence. Society forms a more complex example of the same phenomena. Here, instead of dots, we have people and instead of arranging them in a line we have dynamic social interactions forming networks; people know other people. We have on average six links between us and almost everyone else on the planet! Some people have more power to effect the world we live in than others. Some groups also have such power but the world doesn't run according to the plans of any one person or group but instead as a result of the interactions of many people and many groups.

Everybody interacts with other people through following a set of rules. Rules that define acceptable social behaviour, laws or arrangements and even rules that tell you how you can break other rules; like a kind of game. All these rules form what we call the socioeconomic system that we live in. This, like programmed obsolescence, emerge out of this interaction. To play the game in our current socioeconomic system companies must make profit. One way to do that would involve getting people to come back and buy a new product again and again. Making the product to fail after a certain time gets people to come back and buy them again. Our socioeconomic system has other means to get people to buy and buy again with fashion coming to mind first; throw away perfectly good clothes so you can buy this years fashion.

Our socioeconomic system produces a number of other undesirable emergent phenomena from concentration of wealth in the hands of a minority to enforced poverty to environmental damage. We can even see “dumbing down” of TV and the education system as emergent phenomena of our (free) market economy; you want to maximise profits you need to appeal to the majority and intelligent people form a minority (don' forget, half the population fall below average intelligence to start with) so you have to appeal to the “dumb” majority of society through “dumbing” down; TV reflects the type of society we live in!

We also have another interesting emergent property of our current socioeconomic system; conspiracy theories. In a (free) market economy where we can't trust manufactures to tell the truth ( “buy brand X, its much better than brand y, honest”! ) we find people having to exercise the paranoid aspect of their nature. In a society that breeds distrust does anyone wonder why we have so many conspiracy theories?

We get the society we deserve!

Instead of looking for conspiracies and the imaginary evil groups behind them we instead should realise what we see around us results from the socioeconomic system we live in. If we don't like the destruction of the environment, the level of distrust, the dumbing down of our education and TV, the enforced poverty and the hindrance to our own advancement we need to redesign and build a new system. A system that has a new set of rules; one without money, without profit seek behaviour and without the need for paranoia.

EOS works on the design for an alternative socioeconomic system. A moneyless system that gives everyone equal access to what they need. One that maintains a balance with the ecosystem. What to know more, see:

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