Simple Ideas

Both Sides of the Issue

Politics, Community & Society | February 11, 2012

The plan here is write about three interconnected forces. Power, technology and autonomy. I do want to take a look at all three from both sides. Will see how it goes.

So let's look at power first. You can make a number of arguments on either side of this one. The adage "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" jumps to mind. The lack of checks and balances has been the historical road to ruin. But there is the other side. In times of crisis there is nothing better than power to effect a quick decision. When you are facing a critical decision of the type that requires a "turn right or turn left" answer, then power beats dithering or 12 guys deliberating for 7 days in a jury. Power can save you. Or kill you. Or corrupt you. I think the point here is power has it's place. There is a use of power that helps and an abuse that doesn't.

Next technology. Tech is an emerging problem for some, an enabler for others. For the dinosaurs who enjoy exerting a Draconian control over their domain, technology is the end of life as they know it. It needs to be quashed, they argue. Right now the number two "deal breaker" in dating in America is "use of the smart phone" on a date. It is second behind poor hygiene. I forget what was third on the top five list I read, but you get the idea. Poor hygiene is legitimately offensive. Bad breath, B.O. and so on are not attractive to anyone. But right behind that is the innocuous texting. Think about that. Number 1 is physically repulsive in a scenario that could lead to physical contact. It is actually logical. Number 2 is all about power. The idea that the person across from you should put the rest of their life on hold when they are around you. What a power trip! What a way to tell them just how important you are! That when they are around wonderful you, everything else should come to a screeching halt.

I get this from some of the lesser teachers at work. Students have access to the internet in class. When the lecture gets stone cold boring, they students find something interesting on the internet. The lesser professors then flip out. "Close your laptops! Listen to me!" they screech. I just laugh when they do this. It is such a missed opportunity. When I see that happening, I know that my lecture is boring and so I change me, not them. But the lure of power for some is too strong. They are too weak. They need to exert their will on others to offset their insecurities. That exercise may make them feel good in the moment, but they get killed in the end of course rating.

And I just heard about a hospital that will suspend you from work if you are on duty and get two text messages. First is a reprimand. Second is a suspension. This is clearly lawyers setting policy. And in keeping with the trend here, I'll cover both sides. If there are 5 nurses and doctors in the ward who are texting while a patient goes into a coma due to lack of care, then sure, the hospital is on the hook for a number of problems. They lose business. They get sued. They have lose a patient who they could have extracted even more cash out of had they lived longer. There is no upside.

But when the lawyers set the policy, you get the Draconian ruel list above. So how do real people respond? Well you are a real person, how would you respond. Comply, but never, ever do anything above and beyond the minimum. And while that is arguably more lethal for the patients, it is not something that the business that runs the hospital can be sued over. So even though it is in no ones best interest, it gets implemented in policy. And another parasite lawyer gets another weeks pay.

The end of this triad is autonomy. Autonomy has been shown to be one of the keys to motivating creative people. But businesses, lawyers and governments in general hate the idea. Because it conflicts with power, which is pretty much all they have when they look in the mirror. Governments always fail at running a business. Lawyers are by definition parasites that extract value from business and productive citizens. And the upper managers of business rarely have the ability to carry their own luggage let alone do any of the work that is involved in delivering a product.

I'll end this with the guy down the street from me who is no longer in business. He was making the best salami in San Diego, probably the best in all of Southern California. He is now out of business due to the power of USDA and their ability apply similar draconian rules to his production process. Rather than comply, he chose autonomy and went into another business, namely brewing beer. Granted he is a good brewer too. But we have hundreds of good brewers in this town. And we are now down to zero good salami makers. Thanks to power crushing autonomy via the technology being used in the process.

On an individual basis, none of these are that big a deal. it is when you add them up that they amalgamate into a big deal. It is the sum of all these little interactions between power, technology and autonomy that moves us forward or draws us back into the dark ages.

I know this is the middle of February and I'm known to hit bottom this time of year anyway. But as I look around, even trying to look at both sides of the issue, I'm not seeing much sun.

Any Comments?

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