Rage Against the Machine If You Still Can

Book Talk – Chapter 6

To Save Everything, Click Here:

The Folly of Technological Solutionism

by Evgeny Morozov

“Less Crime, More Punishment”

To review our place in this book talk, we are passed the midpoint.  Evgeny Morozov, the author of the book To Save Everything, Click Here has drafted a sharp treatise on “The Folly of Technological Solutionism” and systematically deconstructs our world today by pointing out silver-bullet schemes ricocheting all around us.  Morozov is a methodical mind publishing article after article of profound analytical writing on various Social Sciences topics.  Because his message is usually counter to the mainstream, he is not well known; yet, his ideas are necessary doses of medicine sorely needed today.  Too often, contemporary debates are bound at superficial ends, propped up upon false dichotomies, or simply seated in the wrong chair.

Chapter 1 delved into the futility in trying to solve all of life’s problems and coupled with chapter 2’s breakdown of technology, the straw man was stuffed—Silicon Valley is secretly Montgomery Burns ready to release his hounds of technology on the public at large.  Why are these information industry leaders valued so much on the stock exchange?  Maybe their ability to extract profit keeps the window of transparency as a one-way mirror. 

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After exploiting the hypocrisy of “tech talk” in the first few chapters, Morozov pleads a case for the preservation of classic politics rooted in Machiavellian drama — chapter 4.  And in the last chapter (5), the author fought for criticism employed by humans and for humans, as opposed to robotic assembly-line decision making controlled by algorithms.

Which brings us to chapter 6 and the issue is crime and punishment.  Can we solve crime?  Will we always have crime?  Is crime a necessary part of life?  Like poverty, crime may constantly scale up with changes in socioeconomic conditions — make a rule and someone will try to break it.  Can punishment be solved or eliminated?  Currently, education cheers positive behavior systems that reward rather than punish. 

“The idea that opportunities cause crime and the consequent belief that environments ought to be designed so that crime becomes impossible lie at the foundation of a criminological approach known as situational crime prevention (SCP), which has been shaping criminology since at least the early 1980s.  Unlike earlier welfarist approaches that focused on reforming the individual criminal and changing the underlying social conditions – the presumed drivers of crime – SCP-inspired approaches do not preoccupy themselves with questions of morality and reform.  Nor do they seek to rehabilitate criminals by telling them what they have done wrong.  SCP treats crime as something normal and naturally occurring rather than deviant, assuming that it is bound to occur whenever barriers and controls are missing.”  (Page 190)

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Pre-crime or thought crimes, the idea that social institutions can manufacture environments that force a human NOT to commit a crime suffocate our ideals of liberty.  Youthful infatuation with zombie culture echoes the cry of the new living dead.  The corporal person may walk the earth, but the soul is morally bankrupt.  Why should one ponder why a rule is right or how it should be enforced and what causes the need for that rule?

“When Uncle Sam tells you to shut up, it’s censorship; when Apple does, it’s simply a contractual clause somewhere in the terms of service (which you never read anyway).”  (Page 193)

Modern families should incorporate.  Then, maybe there would be more support for protecting the rights of corporations and both the small and big would win, but more importantly people might start to regain their hard-fought civil rights that appear to be only valid under jurisdiction of the corporate law.  As corporate prisons give rise to incentivized incarceration, we also lock up human capital and human capital of any kind is catalyst for economic growth.

“Laws that are enforced by appealing to our moral or prudential registers leave just enough space for friction; friction breeds tension, tension creates conflict, and conflict produces change.  In contrast, when laws are enforced through the technological register, there’s little space for friction and tension – and quite likely for change.”  (Page 205)

The same fears the public has for genetically modified organisms can be seen in the growing fear that law enforcement means rounded scissors, caps on the electrical outlets, safety helmets and all kinds of bubble boy hysteria that leads to too sanitary of a monoculture.  The fear is that civil disobedience is threatened by efficiency.  Even fans of the protest movements, throughout history, that have expanded liberties and improved the quality of life for more people, are nostalgic and yearn for longer sit-ins, grueling street marches, and dangerous police backlash; but, while today’s protest may be shorter and less violent, tomorrow’s protest may be even shorter and practically harmless.  When a protest can be waged from your couch, are we really protesting still?  Does every revolution need to be violent?  American History has experienced peaceful political revolutions before and after the Civil War:  the elections of Jefferson and Obama are notable peace-enduring revolutions.  Need we break a sweat, or crack an egg, to make a delicious omelet.

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“The trick here is to resist the simplifying temptations of techno-optimism and techno-pessimism and to assess each case of technological intervention on its own merits.”  (Page 207)

If systems like automatic traffic ticketing (through stop lights equipped with built-in camera sensors) are extended in society, we could see a reduction in the quantity of trials brought to court to be evaluated by judges and attorneys and juries.  Our judicial system is crucial and should not be circumvented; if anything, this should bring attention to the need for increasing our judicial services…but why?  Why should we invest human capital in increasing our judicial services?

“Perhaps consumers in America and Europe need to be aware that their decision to seek better software to manage their photos could also complicate the lives of dissidents in China or Iran.”  (Page 224)

Ubiquitous brain scans will root out the last cubic inch of private domain that remains in the individual.  Science applied to society demands the double blind as well as the scientific method.  Justice should be blind, but blinding the one seeking justice seems unnecessary.  A safer world should not be purchased through blinding all, even if the one eye left is the best intelligence we have.

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“In terms of theoretical warfare, the real enemy here is not criminology per se.  Rather, what lends support to SCP-like approaches in criminology is our usual suspect: rational-choice theory (RCT).  It’s RCT that smuggles the cult of efficiency through the proverbial backdoor; it has no purchase on questions of morality, character, and virtue and sidesteps those questions entirely.”  (Page 208)

Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University, summarizes the argument for reason in the “The War on Reason:”

“The New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests we should reject the notion that we are in control of our decisions and instead think of the conscious self as a lawyer who, when called upon to defend the actions of a client, mainly provides after-the-fact justifications for decisions that have already been made.  Such statements have produced a powerful backlash.  What they represent, many people feel, are efforts at a hostile takeover of the soul: an assault on religious belief, on traditional morality, and on common sense.”

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“Some determinists would balk at this.  The idea of “choosing” to stop (or choosing anything at all), they suggest, implies a mystical capacity to transcend the physical world.  Many people think about choice in terms of this mystical capacity, and I agree with the determinists that they’re wrong.  But instead of giving up on the notion of choice, we can clarify it.  The deterministic nature of the universe is fully compatible with the existence of conscious deliberation and rational thought – with neural systems that analyze different options, construct logical chains of argument, reason through examples and analogies, and respond to the anticipated consequences of actions, including moral consequences.  These processes are at the core of what it means to say that people make choices, and in this regard, the notion that we are responsible for our fates remains intact.”

 

 

“When we know someone, we’re far more influenced by facts about that individual than about categories (or stereotypes) he or she belongs to.”

“What’s important to remember is that some scholars and journalists fall into the trap of thinking that what they see in journals provides a representative picture of how we think and act.”

“If you doubt the power of reason, consider the lives of those who have less of it. We take care of the intellectually disabled and brain-damaged because they cannot take care of themselves; we don’t let toddlers cook hot meals; and we don’t allow drunk people to drive cars or pilot planes. Like many other countries, the United States has age restrictions for driving, military service, voting, and drinking, and even higher age restrictions for becoming president, all under the assumption that certain core capacities, like wisdom and self-control, take time to mature.”

“Still, the relationship between IQ and success is hardly arbitrary, and it’s no accident that universities take such tests so seriously. They reveal abilities such as mental speed and the capacity for abstract thought, and it’s not hard to see how these abilities aid intellectual pursuits. Indeed, high intelligence is not only related to success; it’s also related to kindness. Highly intelligent people commit fewer violent crimes (holding other things, such as income, constant) and are more cooperative, perhaps because intelligence allows one to appreciate the benefits of long-term coordination and to consider the perspectives of others.”

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“Such scattered and selected instances of irrationality shouldn’t cloud our view of the rational foundations of our everyday life. That would be like saying the most interesting thing about medicine isn’t the discovery of antibiotics and anesthesia, or the construction of large-scale programs for the distribution of health care, but the fact that people sometimes forget to take their pills.  Reason underlies much of what matters in the world, including the uniquely human project of reshaping our environment to achieve higher goals.”

Is there such a thing as moral progress?  And is “reason” the foundation?  What are we building?

 

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20 thoughts on “Rage Against the Machine If You Still Can

  1. Minds may act differnt but they can be compared to zombies where the person may not be breathing but inside the mind may still be working it is compared to the living dead becuase zombies unlike human beings are usaully dead and their brain cells are totally different. Also Crime and Punishment can be a big thing that we need to understand based on the principles that does the crime meet the punishment? DO we need to carcirate them and send them to prison or leave them alone? The main thing that people dont understand is that some laws are to harsh for us and some need to be more stricter and people need to learn from their consequences. Examples of this would be a person wanting to make a speech like The War On Reason as sited above. People may either agree with this or they may not but we need to come to the understanding that their will always be that one person who likes to screw up everything for that one person and we need to knowledge that. So in other terms we need to understand all this and understand that we may all think alike.

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  2. Crime today is considered to be unsolvable because one will do as they please regardless of the consequences they may face. Crime will always exist due to the fact that everyone has there own choices and not everyone is a saint. Crime is in fact a necessary part of life due to the fact that it provides jobs for the law enforcement. Punishment can be solved because they take the ones doing the crime out of environments and place them in a facility in which no one wants to be.

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  3. The idea that opportunities cause crime and the consequent belief that environments ought to be designed so that crime becomes impossible lie at the foundation of a criminological approach known as situational crime prevention (SCP), which has been shaping criminology since at least the early 1980s. Pre-crime or thought crimes, the idea that social institutions can manufacture environments that force a human NOT to commit a crime suffocate our ideals of liberty. This goes along with people that have to much free time on there hands, the more time to think and plot on a certain situation can be a bad thing, but it might be good because they might think about the reactions caused by there actions and that could rearrange there mind thoughts at that time.

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  4. Some crimes can not be solve. When someone creates a crime they already had the mindset that they were going to it. For each individaul, they are going to do as please regardless as the consquence they know they are going to face. A crime is a crime no matter what you do. If you break the law that means you committed a crime. When a crime is committed i think you should face the punishment that accommodates that crime. i think crimes are apart of everyday life and going to happen not matter what .

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  5. Just as poverty, crime always has and will be a part of our society. Crime is a necessary part of life, because the way we solve reflects on our society as a whole. The idea of Situational Crime Prevention (SCP), “treats crime as something normal and naturally occurring rather than deviant.” Crime will never really be eliminated, but can be solved. As long as there are laws and rules there will be people that will want to challenge them.

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  6. I believe crime will always exist.. However, I believe that if they are wanting to end crime they need to punish the crimes THE SAME. You can’t one person get away with it and then put another one away, it doesn’t work like that. We live in a world that no one values like the older generations, crime never existed the way it does now. We are in a world where we are constantly looking out for ourselves and our safety. Crime is always going to be around and unfortunately no matter how crazy it is, until people are treated the same with crime I believe it will continue to be around.

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  7. if you did a crime them you should have to face the consequnces. If someone does a crime 9 times out of 10 they knew they were doing wrong. Therfore they should have to face whatever they may need to because of the actions they took. Alot of people have to much time to think about bad things or take things way out of proportion and do things they will regret later on in life. The crazy thing is though is that some people commit bad crimes and sometimes dont get caught and get away with whatever they did. Crime is a bad thing and it seems to only get worst and worst as the time goes on. So i believe you need to face the consequnces if you fail to follow the law.

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  8. No matter what you do crime will never be abolished. Individuals have their own choices and their own lives no matter what. Some will decide to revolt no matter the consequences even if it means they lose their life. When a individual commits a crime they know what they were doing from the begining, when commiting a crime the individual or individuals involved should be prepared to face the punishment that fits the crime. Even after the criminal commits the crime and is punished they dont always do good after some do not learn from what they have done and still do not have respect for the law.

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  9. I don’t think that crime will never go away. it’s like poverty, the rich need the poor so that they can feel rich. With crime I think it’s there so we need law and balance in the world. Crime is also a choice that the individual make for whatever reason, it is up to the person. Even if you try to stop someone from committing a crime, if they go through with it then it was of their own free will.

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  10. All human beings are diffrent and are going to think diffrent no one will have the same exact mind as another so we will never be able to predict when on human decides to commit a crime and we will never be able to make the world a crimeless place no matter if everyone who commited the smallest crime was put to death you have new people being born everyday and new generations growing up their are some people who dont care about the punishment and are going commit the crime anyways and you will never be able to stop crime being in done but with more and more laws its making it easyer for crimes to be commited maybe if they made less laws on the stuff that really isnt that harmless or bad and shoudnt be a crime we would have less crime.

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  11. Everybody makes mistakes, some are just more intense than others. The way i see it, if you are willing to commit the crime you should be willing to take the punishment for it. And i think the punishment should be equal to the crime. If you commit murder, you should get an equal punishment. Crime will never go away, its inevitable. No matter what we do, its still gonna be around. and theres no takin it away. And takin away guns wont stop murders.

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  12. I think that crime will not ever go away. People are always doing bad things. There are times that people commit crimes that are minor. Then we have the major crimes that people commit such as murder. The criminals will always try and find away to commit the crimes no matter if we try to take the weapons away that they are using. Also if we are going to punish them for doing the crime we need to treat the punishment equal depending on what they did. I mean we know that if somebody got busted for drug paraphernalia their punishment would be different than somebody who committed murder.

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  13. Crime rates are the same as they have always been, just with the increase in technology and investigation skills more of the criminals are caught. Crime is part of what makes up society and it will always remain. I don’t think crime rates will ever drastically change but maybe just fluctuate here and there. Punishment for crimes should be equal to the crime in my eyes. Some one who robbed a store should not be treated the same as someone who kidnapped a child. Everybody is in control of their own choices, you cannot force anyone to commit a crime, they did it on their own. Others can influence and pressure your choice but its your responsibility to think of the consequences and fall into it.

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  14. I think that crime will never end. People will always break the law once or more in their lives. Granted, some more than others. Crime is a basic part of human nature that will never change. People are born to be selfish and act upon their wants and their needs. Sometimes those actions are negative. Those negative actions are likely to be crimes. Morals should stop people from making the decision to commit a crime. Moral progress will never reach a point inwhich people will cease to commit crimes. Morals and a human’s will to do something will always conflict. Which one will usually win?

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  15. Crime will NEVER end. It’s apart of the world it will never go away. People do the things that they see on telivision and think that it’s okay and think that they won’t have any consequences to what they have done. They try those things here in reality thinking that they are in a movie. For example the man that killed all of those innocent people in that movie thearte. Crime is just something that will never go away it will always be around no matter what.

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  16. Have you been a victim of crime? The odds are that you—or someone close to you—have been victimized at least once, and possibly several times. Almost every day we hear of terrible crimes committed against innocent people. In some quarters walking the streets in broad daylight can be every bit as frightening and dangerous as dark alleys at midnight.The horrible crimes we read about in our daily newspapers are only a drop in the bucket compared to the violent carnage perpetrated on humanity every single day. Peace and safety are elusive and illusory in much of the world. We fear for our safety and the security of our families and loved ones. Parents worry that their children are at risk from drive-by shootings, violence on school grounds and possible kidnappings. Crime will never end.

    Like

  17. Have you been a victim of crime? The odds are that you or someone close to you have been victimized at least once, and possibly several times. Almost every day we hear of terrible crimes committed against innocent people. In some quarters walking the streets in broad daylight can be every bit as frightening and dangerous as dark alleys at midnight.The horrible crimes we read about in our daily newspapers are only a drop in the bucket compared to the violent carnage perpetrated on humanity every single day. Peace and safety are elusive and illusory in much of the world. We fear for our safety and the security of our families and loved ones. Parents worry that their children are at risk from drive-by shootings, violence on school grounds and possible kidnappings. Crime will never end.

    Like

  18. The idea that opportunities cause crime and the consequent belief that environments ought to be designed so that crime becomes impossible lie at the foundation of a criminological approach known as situational crime prevention (SCP), which has been shaping criminology since at least the early 1980s. Crime today is considered to be unsolvable because one will do as they please regardless of the consequences they may face. Crime will always exist due to the fact that everyone has there own choices and not everyone is a saint. Crime is in fact a necessary part of life due to the fact that it provides jobs for the law enforcement.

    Like

  19. Crime will never end. Some people will break the law once or more in their lives. Granted, some more than others. Crime is a basic part of human nature that will never change. People are born with selfishness and ignorance nowadays. Most of those actions are negative. Those negative actions are likely to be crimes. Morals should stop people from making the decision to commit a crime. Moral progress will never reach a point in which people will cease to commit crimes. Morals and a humans will to do something will always conflict.

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  20. I think Conspiracy theory’s are sometimes true but most of the time false. Some people follow conspiracy theorys just to feel involved. Most of the time all that happens are endless arguments about pros and cons of the theory.

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