Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Eschaton Management: A Catalogue of Ignorance

In a sense this is a project of cataloging ignorance: my own, my community's, and my civilization's. The knowledge required to continue civilization under relatively pleasant circiumstances is vast, but few of us individuals have a grasp on even a framework for it.

Some important knowledge is widely dispersed. Even schoolchildren are familiar with the germ theory of disease. And some technology foundational to applying it (manufacturing soap from hardwood ash and rendered fat, for instance) is also widely known and easily replicated. Indeed, good hygiene has probably prevented more suffering than antibiotics and vaccinations put together. But antibiotics and vaccines are clearly desirable technologies. Unfortunately, the knowledge required to replicate them are simultaneously do dispersed (among people) and so concentrated (in a few industrial organizations) as to be virtually lost in the event of a civilization-ending catastrophe.

What knowledge and technologies (a) are foundational to a relatively pleasant, ethical life, and (b) can be preserved so as to be replicable by a group of Eschaton survivors?

Unfortunately, this requires us to first answer the question, what is "a relatively pleasant, ethical life"? This project requires a series of judgments about what constitutes the Good Society. I am choosing to limit research and preservation efforts to material technology so far as possible, but even doing so, a choice must be made as to what technology has primacy.

Almost any moral system can justify choosing technology consistent with itself on grounds of efficiency or suitability to future conditions (future conditions which are necessarily impossible to measure). Consider the choice of whether, as a society, to be vegetarian. Vegetarians may point out that their solution is a more efficient use of soil and space, and that killing livestock would be bad for fragile post-Apocalypictic morale. Non-vegetarians may argue that every calorie will count, and all food sources should be used; prevention of kwashiorkor (protein-deficient malnutrition) comes before considerations of space and morale.

A priori, it is impossible to know whether morale or calories will be at a greater premium, and whether agricultural efforts will be strained or aided by livestock. One must constantly look out for unwarranted assumptions about untestable future conditions. One solution is to look to other civilizations (ancient, or contemporary but economically and technologically simpler than, say, Los Angeles) to test hypotheses. This should be a focus of curator research.

The solutions must be a set of compromises - not necessarily the best strategies, but ones a group of capable people could carry out to ensure a reasonably high standard of living that will be sustainable across many generations.


Blogger vishnuprasath said...

There are a wide range of everyday and on-the-job activities from which you can learn about management and even enhance your management skills which offers you job openings.

October 01, 2009 12:30 AM  

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