Days of Change

Social Engineering Meets Eli Whitney

August 13, 2015
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For those of you who forgot their high school History classes, Eli Whitney invented a machine called the cotton gin. It made cotton production easier by saving labor. Unfortunately, the South found it made slavery more profitable and more slaves were bought to run the machines in the antebellum South. Whitney also tried to introduce a concept of interchangeable parts in gun manufacturing, but without mass production, more labor was required to reproduce identical parts with skilled craftsmen.

Anyone who has seen the medical industry in action knows about the pitfalls of electronic medical records and Obamacare’s reliance on them. The software determines treatments, tests and even time that will be reimbursed by insurance companies (or Medicare, which pays badly already). Ironically, some doctors have started practices where patients pay a flat fee in lieu of insurance and the skilled physicians treat patients as they see fit in what is the most capitalist of enterprises. For most of us in the real world, however, the norm is medical care where a doctor has to fill out a computerized form and obey it to get paid. Most everyone who sees a doctor has to get “blood work” beforehand that makes laboratories rich and puts more data into the EMR.

Something about that made me think of Common Core. Common Core is the name for a set of teaching guidelines that in some cases reward and penalize students for the method in which they figure out a problem, regardless of the rightness of the actual answer. Eventually, it will teach the next generation how to properly input data for a computer to better think for them.

This is what we face in the 21st century. 100 years ago, most physical work had to be performed by people. Progressives and socialists of the day tried to quantify work by time instead of result. Even if one man could dig more ditches in a day, it’s more fair and less exploitation to pay them for how many hours they worked in a day. Machines changed much of that paradigm. Machine (and computer) operation became more critical. The mentally skilled were sought after and paid for superior output. The government’s H1-B program eventually managed to flatten those wages as well.

Now, the government seeks to solve a non-existent problem of people who might screw things up due to lesser ability by making everyone follow all the steps from A to Z, even if most know what Z is halfway through. Since government can’t know how much creativity and innovation someone is capable of, they consider it more fair to eliminate it as a factor. Since I already compared this to the movie Idiocracy earlier, I will instead reference Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” In that story, most people were incapacitated in some way as not to offend the dulled sensibilities of the dumber and weaker among us.


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