As you may remember, I like tracking the Freakonomics blog. Them's smart folks, after my own heart.
I'm just catching up on them. Two things strike me.
The first is how many of their statements in their blog I considered before even finding out these people existed. For example, they posit that legal abortion makes crime rates drop. I came up with this same idea in high school. I think it's OBVIOUS. What's the big deal? Evidently, the rest of the world is pretty dim.
The other thing is that his blog clearly reflects the absolute TERROR the normal world has of advanced social theories. Now, obviously, social engineering is a very risky and slightly dehumanizing field. I can understand the caution - but people actively refuse to even LISTEN - which is terrible!
Because SOCIAL ENGINEERING IS UNAVOIDABLE.
Every big faction, from the government to the church to big corporations, uses social engineering. Every time we pass a law, or an advertising campaign, or a pope's decree, we're using social engineering.
These people are saying that they'd rather be BLIND to the effects of social engineering - in fact, INSIST on NOT KNOWING the effects - rather than being able to tell what effects these things that happen every day will have.
That's like saying that you don't WANT to know what your girlfriend(s) mood is, because it 'takes the romance out of relationships'. That's a quick way to lose your girl, that's what it is!
For example, I've studied a lot of cultures, and one thing I've noticed is that to what extremes and how fast a ruler can drive their people depends highly on how quickly and effectively they can communicate to their people. For example, smaller nations such as Japan tend to have very fast and extreme adaptations to changing situations. On the other hand, large nations such as China and Russia tend to have more phlegmatic changes and their rulers tend to exert less influence, save in extremely emotional times. Of course, in times of extreme emotion, communication on related matters is extremely potent, which effectively 'shrinks' the country, if you want to think of it like that.
When you perform thought excersizes on the matter, it becomes relatively obvious - although I won't go so far as to say necessarily true. Smaller nations fluctuate faster and harder than bigger nations because an event can be smaller or affect a smaller number of people but still affect a higher PERCENTAGE of people than in a bigger nation. That means a larger percent of the populace cares. Expanding your ability to communicate - by building roads or controlled internets - means that your government can affect more people easier. Meaning a higher percentage of the population comes in direct contact with government media, meaning the government has more power.
I'm not going to say that it's TRUE, but it COULD be true, and it's certainly worth considering, especially when dealing with very disorganized or very small countries at the extremes of the 'response curve'. Would you rather something explode in your face because you couldn't predict how a country would react?
I don't understand people who say "social engineering is bad and evil". Social engineering is a FACT OF LIFE. Even if scientists aren't doing it, SOMEONE is always doing it. Those SOMEONEs are doing it without knowing - or caring - what the long-term results are going to be.
So, jeeze, everyone, THINK. Think AS HARD AS YOU CAN. About EVERYTHING.