Sunday, July 3, 2011

Venkatesh Rao On Protection vs Freedom

Rao explores an application of this trade-off,
[The] industrial age of mass-scale production required paycheck workers. People who had to be trained in industrial-style schooling.... [The] unpublicized purpose was to create a class of people that was far more disciplined and risk-averse than natural for the human species. In other words, a domesticated, comfort-loving species. This was achieved through, quite literally, conditioning. Bells rang for waking up and meal-times. Food appeared magically. Retirement was taken care of. Everything happened like clockwork. 
The first few generations resisted being drafted into the industrial workforce mightily. Not despite their intimate familiarity with risks ranging from bad harvests to disease, hunger and death through poverty, but because of it. Because they understood that with those risks came freedom. After that, the next generations were born and raised in captivity and never had a chance to sample the environments that might have made their wilder risk-taking instincts come out.
I get anxious when I read the word "generation", since it's so hard to define the gradients of separation. But thinking back on the older films I've watched, some of them (e.g. Modern Times) do explore this anxiety of becoming trapped by industry.

If Rao is right, does this indicate that part of the "wiseness" of earlier generations can be encapsulated as a more thorough understanding of trade-offs?