Identity Interactions between Society
Paksoy, D. Phil.
I would like to present the following
questions as a structural prelude:
a) How and for what purpose technology
b) How does technology serve humanity?
does humanity expect from technology?
d) How are those relations regulated
and by whom?
This mode of approach to "searching
for truth," fortunately, begets more
inquiries than any other. The issue of Identity in each case will become self-evident
at every turn.
So, we ask and search:
1. How do human organizations, as designed
by humans, govern polities?
Current web-site analyses indicate that
the medical-sites register the heaviest
use. Humans are concerned with their health in a variety of iterations.
If you will, it is the choice of
But, humans must tend to the business
The humans live in communities,
which necessarily choose definitions for
Polities cannot exist without explicitly
appointed and generally known socio-legal
laws. In defining those rules, societies decide
how they are going to be organized and
ruled---either consciously or by default---and
how the common functions of the community
are going to be financed.
Either the members of the polity
take the matter in their hands, and write
a charter, or, allow---by not taking any
action, such as not revolting against
an invading force---the overlord (open,
or secret) to write the rules for them.
There is no polity that can live without
taxing itself. Communal functions need financing just
as individuals in their private lives.
The only question is how that taxation
is going to be arranged. That is, the flavor of governance defines
how the communal spending decisions will
be made in the polity. This taxation may be in the form of forced
labor, part of crops raised, or in cash.
Earliest codifications of communal rules,
such as Hammurabi's laws, Asoka's columns,
Roman twelve tables, Solon's laws, Ten
Commandments do not always openly address
the issues of taxation.
All those codifications are meant
to, in the first instance, to secure a
society living in relative peace and order,
regulating interpersonal relations.
Even though there certainly was
taxation in all of the named polities,
the matter of relations between public
finance and securing harmony in that society
were not directly linked.
The American idea of "no taxation
without representation" is perhaps
the first time the case of polity governance
and public finance was brought to the
The Magna Carta of 1215, signed between
the Barons of the English polity and the
King was also an attempt to restore harmony
at a higher level, among and within the
governing strata rather than directed
strictly at the public good.
Napoleonic codes, to a certain
extent---whether influenced by the American
declarations or not--(not forgetting the
Swedish example), followed the thought
that it was necessary for the government
to spend part of the tax income toward
constructing state infrastructure such
as roads, ports, and so on. This construction of the infrastructure
was meant to stimulate the economy, so
that more income would yield greater tax
receipts, as well as organizing the polity
for future wars. It was recognized, by experience, that
the increasing cost of fighting wars,
defensive or offensive, required maximum
use of all available resources.
And, the state---or the ruling
strata--- could not accomplish that task
alone; participation of the members of
the poliity was imperative, with or without
Thus, the nature of governance determines
the nature of public finance.
"No taxation without representation"
model gives the taxpayer a say in the
tax rates, and how and for what those
receipts are to be spent. If the governance turns out to be authoritarian, then the state
or the designated agencies thereof will
dictate terms to the populace. In an authoritarian polity, a very small
percentage of individuals who manage to
appoint themselves as the guardians of
public good will decide what is good or
permissible. The remainder, the majority, will often
have no choice but to obey, until they
"rebel," because they do not
posses any meaningful input into the process. And, it is undeniably their resources that are being spent.
2. Inherent conflicts between authoritarianism
Authoritarianism and pluralism have always
been polar opposites and formed the ëoutside
boundariesí of human governance
modes from the earliest times. The primary motive for organizing a governance
system within the polity was survival;
either against the forces of nature, or
as a defense against armed neighbors (immediate,
meaning, next door; or long-distance,
across the border).
It is intended to make life easier
for the polity. Likewise, in any sub-community,
such as settlements, individuals usually
seek means to make their lives easier
What is now known as technology
is no more than methods and techniques
developed by able individuals to perform
a task with greater alacrity and efficiency. The tendency has been to replace human
(or biological) effort---muscle power---with
mechanical operation. We gather, initially it was the humans
what pulled the plough to till the soil.
Then, oxen or horses replaced the
humans; later steam-powered tractors callled
locomobile, took over. All were supplanted, in time, with machinery
powered with an internal combustion engine.
As far as the landowner was concerned,
the mechanical replacement of human power
was beneficial to the users; it reduced
But, this replacement began a new
stratification in the society.
Only those with the necessarily
large land holdings could afford the mechanical
contraptions, which, in turn, increased
the crop yield and accrued greater disposable
To combat the disparities in income
between the small-holders and large farm
owners, some polities instituted, at various
times and localities, "state farms."
These institutions ostensibly worked
for the benefit of all members of their
society. Yet, at the same time, the state or communal
farms transferred the mode of production
from private to public means.
Now, some governments were controlling
the food production directly.
That led to the direct political
control of the populations by the governing
Transfer of resources from private hands
to public also had additional repercussions.
Rather than individuals creating
new technology (means of labor saving),
governmental bureaucracies obtained the
funds from tax receipts to conduct research
and development work.
The matter is further compounded,
when the government pouring public money
into technology development happens to
have an authoritarian flavor.
The production of technology in such an
authoritarian society will also be within
the monopoly of the state.
Any and all access to knowledge---including
education and developmental laboratories---will
be tightly controlled according the perceptions
and goals of a central administrative
And, the uses of technology will
also be dictated by those high bureaucrats. Even though the process involved is the
classical "guns-or-butter" issue,
as defined by Paul Samuelson, in authoritarian
polities it is not the general public
but the bureaucracy decides the percentage.
When the polity decides that it will instead
have a governance system we term as "pluralistic,"
then the decisions may be made accordingly.
Pluralism will allow for much more
individuality, provided decisions made
by a single individual does not curtail
the rights of others. Rather than governmental agencies or bureaucrats, persons with
ideas and energy will begin the process
of harnessing innovative technology.
The aim of the creative individual
here, of course, is to make and accumulate
personal wealth---as opposed to increasing
the direct power of the state. This, the creative individuals may choose
to effect by means of Mercantilist Monopoly. In that case, all the applicable identity issues and approaches
will be identical to that of the authoritarian
3. Role of technology in the human
conflict between authoritarianism and
A short overview of authoritarianism and
pluralism may be beneficial:
Authoritarian governance system comes
in several flavors, and can be organized
around a belief system (Judaism, Buddhism,
Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, et
al); a social order (communism, socialism,
mercantilism); military leadership (juntas
of various degrees and social orientations);
philosophical strain (utopianism, stoicism,
realpolitik, opportunism); or, commercial
interests (mercantilism, capitalism, ëmixedí
The ruling strata of an authoritarian
society is usually very small, and seldom
allows participation of any kind from
the masses it controls.
It is generally inflexible and
doctrinaire, seeks to impose a particular
set of rules on the society no matter
what the cost.
Pluralism, on the other hand, has rarely
achieved a wide-spread application in
the practical sense.
Republicanism and democracy came
closest, but not entirely.
True pluralism would allow for
all the voices in a polity equal hearing.
This aspect makes pluralism a highly
contentious system, requiring moderation
by a category of individuals we might
term opinion leaders comprised of various
Anyone may aspire to join the governing
process, and make a contribution. It can also be noted that pluralism provides the most flexible
approach to problem solving, but it is
also the most expensive (and, some say,
the noisiest) means of governance. It takes a long time to make policy and mobilize large resources
for the good of all.
However, the pluralistic governance
best harnesses the energies of a society
The allergy or dislike some societies
have for pluralism stems from the fact
that it takes a long time to find and
apply solutions to problems facing the
polity; no one sub-group is allowed to
dominate; the cost of decision-making
is the largest; the end product rarely
Essentially, every participant
is required to compromise at some point. Yet, the process facilitates living together---provided compromises
are spread among all participants according
to their population proportions and the
general living conditions.
Either authoritarianism or pluralism may
emerge from any of the above enumerated
belief, social or military, philosophical
or commercial systems. That is an outcome of particular conditions
in the life of the spawning polity in
the given time-frame. Technology, amidst this tug-of-war, may
serve to consolidate the rule of one system
over the other. The outcome of this competition between
two diametrically opposed systems depends
on the ability of the polity to balance
the ensuing partisanship.
in extreme forms, under whatever guise
or terminology, emerges under such conditions,
to redress imbalances---either real or
4. Strains between the interests of the
technologists and society
In considering the relations between society
and technology, we must remind ourselves
of the inherent natures of both.
The governance methods (authoritarianism
or pluralism--or anything in between those)
There are only so many types of
governance systems, all evolved to their
present stages since humans appeared on
For all practical purposes, general
governance methods are unchanging. Almost everything about them is known---at
least for those who care to pursue that
knowledge. Therefore, governance becomes personal,
in that authoritarianism or pluralism
may acquire and display the face of a
single individual, symbol or token.
Technology, on the other hand, continually
What drives technology (of course,
apart from a desire for personal advantage)
is the discovery of the laws of nature
by individuals. And the design of methods by which those laws can be applied
to solve problems---be those problems
fictive or natural. The laws of nature have always been there;
but not necessarily known to humans. This is unlike laws of governance, which have always been available.
Technology, too, may thus present the
face of an individual or institution to
For the purpose, there are even
more "named awards" in the world
of technology celebrating the accomplishments
of individuals who manage to understand
the laws of nature.
Here, we reach a paradox: It is a human that discovers a heretofore
unknown law of nature, or designs a means
of doing a task more efficiently.
Some of those designers and discoverers
become so attached to the results they
have achieved, they begin to disregard
the effect their product will have on
their immediate polity, or the humanity
At this juncture, the 1990s televised
debate between three technologists and
three humanists come to mind. All six were eminent in their fields;
some even were household names.
Over the course of an hour, the
technologists insisted that, as they put
it, "Technology is where it is at.
It is the future."
In return, the humanists shot back
with the statement that "The technologists
did not get it."
Neither side could "see"
the other's point of view. And none attempted
to elaborate on their viewpoints.
They parted without changing their
own understanding in the least, let alone
the public in general.
Upon reflection, one could observe that
the technologists were referring to the
way humans are living their daily lives,
and the influence of technology on every
activity of individuals in a given polity.
But the humanists, mainly historians,
were thinking slightly more broadly. They were envisioning that, an authoritarian government can
easily monopolize all available technology. In doing so, that authoritarian government can restrict the
rights and actions of its citizens.
The examples abound.
What is important is how humans
govern themselves. If the governance system is not pluralistic, all technology
becomes a hazard---not a benefit--- to
the community. It is not the technologists who decide the fate of polities,
or construct the methods of governance.
The technologist only becomes a
tool or designer for either side; depending
on the awareness or lack of the same by
the affected polity. In the end, it is not the technology all
by itself that tips the balance between
authoritarianism and pluralism; it is
the use of technology in the hands of
the partisans of either side.
5. Possible resolution to the tensions
One might take a popular spectacle, say
a science fiction yarn, as an example,
and there are many of those available
to the general public. In those presentations, the "empire," or a "government"
uses technology to destroy the individuality
of the so-called "rebels" who
may happen to be pluralists wishing to
live their chosen lives.
And the technology constitutes
the main support of the emperor or the
"leader" in his quest to stay
as emperor, by destroying the home worlds
and societies of those who wished to have
another means of governing themselves.
Of course, the subject matter is a movie,
or several movies, by definition, a fiction.
Or, is it?
By admission of the writers of
those movie scripts, the events forming
the backbone of the stories were taken
from the experiences of past societies,
from real life past and present. Only the technology depicted on the screen
In fact, so new, it did not even
In actual historical societies,
the invention of the iron smelting was
a tremendous technological innovation.
That new weapon gave the advantage
to their owners and users. So was the
cross-bow. But the struggle was still the same:
what kind of a society were they
going to have; authoritarian or pluralistic? Who shall govern: an emperor, or the members of the polity, through their representatives
That there are variations of both
the authoritarian and the pluralistic
modes of governance, for example, mercantilism
and capitalism; democracy and socialism,
does not materially alter this equation.
The same issue was contested once again
when the firearms were introduced by technologists. The cycle was repeated yet again, with
the invention of the nuclear weapons,
not to mention numerous others in between
In the future, the contest will
continue, with whatever new technological
ways are invented.
The interactions among the society and
technology are not limited to the nature
of governance, the eternal struggle between
authoritarianism and pluralism. There are tensions---essentially--- between
society and technology within a pluralistic
society. Let us take the very recent case of genetically
engineered foods and plants.
Genetically engineered plants provide
higher yields, resist traditional (natural)
maladies afflicting the non-modified varieties. As a result, the technology companies
and the food-processors can earn higher
returns on their products based on the
genetically altered foodstuffs.
But, what about the effects of
those altered foods on the humans? What happens when the consumers decline
to buy them?
The European Union refused to allow
US origin genetically engineered soybeans
and fruits. That is their choice. Can the companies overcome the consumer
resistance by insisting that there is
no danger from genetically altered foods?
Who decides, and how?
The stated objectives of those genetic
engineering companies may be read in their
Of course, all were established
legally for pecuniary interest. Yet, the products they develop already
had influence on the society, usually
without the knowledge and consent of the
When those companies develop tastier,
longer lasting and suitable for packaging
tomatoes, most consumers (and farmers;
individual or corporate) benefit. When the product begins to interfere with
nature's cycles, then the results must
be audited by those who will be affected.
For example: What happens when
the lawn-grass genetically altered not
to grow more than a few centimeters an
entire year produces pollen that interferes
with food crops?
When crops fail, because the altered
pollen of one species stunts the growth,
who will answer? Who will pay for the cost of feeding the
And who will pay when that leads
to the extinction and extermination of
various species---be it! plant of animal
that earned, up to that point, a livelihood
for individual farmers?
Examples abound, and are scarcely limited
to genetic engineering.
One can cite the present court
cases involving two technology companies
charged with predatory and monopolistic
One revolves around a company that
copied an operating system and made it
a monolith, and the other became dominant
among charge cards by threatening to raise
service fees and driving out competition
(to raise the fees in earnest later, without
We already discussed the inherent struggle
between the authoritarian and pluralistic
modes of governance. The basis of pluralistic governance is the ability of individuals
to make choices without interference. But, those decisions cannot interfere with the rights and benefits
of other members of the polity either;
or, other polities. If there is such interference, then, that
will form the bases of another conflict;
usually technology will be involved.
The governance system of the polity will
include provisions to make that right
of choice available. But, nothing can be permanent, if the
members of the polity do not defend their
rights, their rights to right of choice. We, humans have seen, many a time, the
transformation of a pluralistic (more
or less) governance system turning authoritarian.
We have observed republics becoming
empires, choices being restricted, or
altogether being eliminated.
Technology, therefore, is called upon
by societies to solve the problems facing
humans; not to create new ones, or aid
the repression of societies by new means.
This issue is valid not only for
authoritarian societies, but also to the
For example, does a company, a
private entity, has the right to curtail
the right of choice in a given society?
Does the fact that companies may
insist that they are not restricting the
right to choice change that?
The right to pursue the development
and exploitation of technology does not
mean having the right to restrict or eliminate
the right to choice by the society. The aforementioned anti-monopoly cases
must be viewed from that point of view
as well. Returning to the case of debating technologists and humanists,
we can now begin to place events, and
issues, into larger and proper perspective.
There is no question that technology
will progress, as it is part of the human
nature to be inquisitive.
On the other hand, technology will
have to be in aid of humanity, and not
the other way around.
Humans cannot allow technology
to dictate terms, precisely because the
technologists are humans, and must live
in polities and societies.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon
all members of a society to engage in
a continuous dialogue, without doctrinaire
or inflexible approaches.
Humans are capable of learning, provided
they wish to acquire the knowledge that
will lead them to a life affording more
and responsible choices.
That betterment requires an intake
rich in variety if it is to yield more
choices. Just as a human body biologically requires
a wide range of foods to sustain its metabolism,
the human mind is also in need of multiple
sources of stimulus to maintain its humanity. A single-source diet leads to defects.
And in the case of the mind, a
single-track approach will yield low returns. The remedy lies in acquainting the mind with sources from the
collective experiences of humanity, without
forgetting the cost of that wisdom.
The "Borg," another TV series,
is the creation of human minds as well.
That program, too, attempts to
represent another facet of authoritarian
Against which, humanists, the crew
of a starship, even if they are technologically
very advanced, are fighting to preserve
the right to choose.
The Starship crew also learned
their humanity from the large body of
humanistic literature available to them---and,
yes, through technology, on-line.
*As can be readily inferred, the reference
Tracts of Mr. Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury
containing I. Behemoth, the history of
the causes of the civil wars of England,
from 1640 to 1660, printed from the author's
own copy never printed (but with a thousand
faults) before, II. An answer to Arch-bishop
Bramhall's book called the catching of
the Leviathan, never before printed, III.
An historical narration of heresie and
the punishment thereof, corrected by the
true copy, IV. Philosophical problems
dedicated to the King in 1662, but never
Thomas Hobbes, London, 1682 Printed for
Above Lecture prepared for the Course entitled:
Rewriting History: Emerging Identities
and Nationalism in Central Asiaî
At the CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY
Budapest, July 2004