Fallacies of Technocracy: Introduction

     In this series, I focus on the fallacies of the technocrats and their belief in the ultimate social science, technocracy. While a few people out there provide excellent challenges from various philosophical perspectives,  I will approach it from a more technical nature.

     It is a corruption of the scientific method, often promoted by the modern creative class. The creative class encompasses the social science fields and overlaps into the stem fields, with the corruption starting at the level of Computer Science and overflowing to the younger brother, information technology. This is not to say philosophy or the liberal arts are inherently bad. In fact, learning the classical liberal arts and the Trivium would be beneficial. Alas, that is not what is taught or considered important in the modern educational system based on the prussian model.

     Having been exposed to both, I will try to contrast the elements of information technology (IT) with those of Process Engineering.  Analyzing the IT field is a valid subject to contrast against because, on its surface, they have similar appearances.

     Listed below are some of the similar characteristics between the two disciplines:

  1. Inputs and outputs of unit operations.
  2. Process flow diagrams which illustrate the integration of unit operations to achieve a final goal.
  3. Equipment design and specifications.
  4. Operational procedures and data.
  5. Process control mechanisms.

The similarities can be illustrated with an example: a data flow diagram in IT and a process flow diagram in engineering.

 

DataComponents

A data flow process in IT.

 

RefineryFlow

A chemical process involving “evil” hydrocarbons.

     From the surface, they look very similar. The first diagram describes the flow and transformation of data while the latter describes the flow and transformation of chemical molecules. They have functional similarities including extracting, filtering, metering, absorbing, merging(blending), stripping, and recycling. But if you delve into the surface ( ask for a document in each that has calculations), the differences will become apparent.

     Secondly, the IT field is the application of technology for the purpose of aligning  and automating social science processes( including business processes). On the other hand, Process  Engineering ,for the most part, is based on the hard sciences. In this context, we can list and delve into the assumptions that the social sciences often make. Tech and social science practitioners in general approach solutions with the same assumptions and logical pitfalls without any justification:

  • Subjective preferences are objective and measurable.
  • Assumption of linearity.
  • Assumption of homogeneity.
  • Appeal to authority (e.g. a specific vendor, or an “objective” journalist).
  • Susceptible to branding and public relations.
  • A binary system (e.g. false dichotomy).
  • A zero-sum or closed system.
  • A system at steady state.
  • Simple solutions to a logical unit, solutions that have a low degree of freedom.
  • Appeal to novelty.
  • Application of the The trivium in reverse.
  • Lack of experimental, repeatable, controllable, and falsifiable experiments.

     Many of these points are related to each other and some are just corollaries to the other points.  We will delve into each item in more detail in upcoming posts.