Mechanical mindlesness.

There is of course a more sinister interpretation of the kind of drivel referenced in “the post before this.”: The abstract nouns — framework, integration, hallmark, strategy, etc. — may not all mean %(loony)meetings% or may not just mean that.

If one take “Henry Porter”:,,2047706,00.html seriously — and why not? — they will also refer to government databases. I think this is a much more helpful way of thinking about the seemingly inexorable totalitarian creep of British and American government than supposing that they are all power-mad and want to control everything. It is that they fear they don’t control anything, and that outside of the world of ritual meetings and spreadsheet voodoo, all is chaos.

There is nothing like a database to give the illusion of control. The government is faffing around with IT for the same reason that I have wasted years of my life thinking about software and faffing around with it: because it supplies a little world where it can feel in control.

In some ways, I find the fact that this control is quite illusory just as frightening as the fact that quite a lot of it is real.

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3 Responses to Mechanical mindlesness.

  1. JamesP says:

    Have you read SEEING LIKE A STATE? Fascinating on attempts to make the world legible to government eyes.


  2. rupert says:

    That book looks most interesting… I’d dearly like to know if it has any workable alternatives to objectivity in government.

    To hark back: is the relationship between consultancy and enterprise symbiotic or parasitic? The feedback that should make it symbiotic is missing, perhaps deliberately so; if an entity such as a business or a government department lacks expertise on a subject and buys in that expertise from elsewhere, how can it have the ability to accurately assess the results? Typically, it buys in that ability too – from the same class of provider. As soon as someone in the consultees becomes sufficiently skilled to deal effectively with the consultants, the poor soul is abducted by headhunters and absorbed into the gelatinous mass of the latter. Thus, the consultants ensure that no dangerous knowledge builds up outside them, while selectively consuming expertise to help them better control their hosts. It takes a very great imbalance indeed to kill them – vide Enron and the Androids – and even then, they continue in a slightly different form.

    And all this is so far removed from effective work, no wonder the reaction to criticism is so strong. There is a way to see this as if not good, then not altogether bad – it may be a horrendous waste of time, effort and resources, but if it’s not capable of constructing truly efficient mechanisms of control, then it may save us from considerable evil.

  3. Why is the illusion of control as frightening as the fact of control?

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