1
2
3
4
5

The Future Business: II
March 18, 1969
S. K. Oberbeck

Mr. Oberbeck is an Alicia Patterson Fund award winner, on leave from Newsweek, Inc. This article may be published, with credit to S. K. Oberbeck and the Alicia Patterson Fund.

Carl Milles
A Man looks up to the vast unknown (Carl Milles sculpture in Millesgården)

Lausanne, Switzerland—There is a comfortable symbolism in rioting college students storming the school’s computer center and wrecking one of its expensive machines. This has happened in several North American institutions.

The symbolism is comfortable for journalists; uncomfortable for college deans. The students recognize that the computer epitomizes what they protest so shrilly: power, impersonality, mechanization, a trend towards reading the individual out of the system. You can’t fight city hall when city hall has retreated into the storage units of a computer bank. And there is small satisfaction in battling the endless ranks of the megaversity’s punch cards. These feelings are not necessarily true, or even realistic, but our world’s events are not yet rooted in man’s rationalism and potentiality for perfection on which the Future Businessmen base so much of their prophecy and policy.

Backtrack

“The Future Business: I” closed with a disconcerting number of questions. Before touching on the subjects of instincts and faith, a few responses are braved below:
If anything like 5% of society ends up formulating ultimate policy in the U.S., we can expect power struggles at the top which will be the granddaddies of them all. If the processes of a technocracy (as well an the information it amasses) are as effective and powerful as FBM portray them, they will become just as precious a commodity of Realpolitik as nuclear superiority.

The “Information Race,” already on, may approximate the “Arms Race.” And unless they solve more problems than they create, proliferating informational systems might be opposed just as proliferating missile systems are. (“FB :1” suggested some problems in the realms of government, the public and mass media).

If mass media do become the politician’s prime nexus with the public, we may well expect a burgeoning media autocracy, and vicious struggles over control of these conduits and systems and what they carry or gush forth. Such a change as abolition of the electoral college system could reinforce direct media contact in political campaigns—and increase the sway of media controllers. Perhaps we will witness the birth of a cutthroat market trading in feedback-loop futures.

If even a slight percentage of the public does elect to devote its free time to learning the intricacies of a technocracy, these individuals will certainly want “a piece of the action.” If their efforts to understand what the decision-makers are really doing lead to no meaningful voice in political affairs, their frustrated motivation might easily turn into disruptive volatility.

If we actually find ourselves transformed from a “property” society to a “knowledge” society, we can expect widespread dislocations as the public gropes for the kind of knowledge that supposedly matters or for substitute status tokens. The “unemployment” problem would be incredible.

If the universities and private research centers do evolve as society’s primary Institutions, they most certainly will—contrary to Dr. Bell’s assurance—exert inevitable political power. Unless this FBM expects vast changes in the academic community (in which intellectuals scrupulously avoid presidential elbows), there is no apparent reason academicians should not continue to exercise political muscle—in both policy and in protest—as they have over, say, Vietnam, civil rights, welfare, foreign and military policies. Indeed, it has been precisely their advice, policy studies, situation reports, wrath over or reception of legislation and planning that have effected tremendous changes in American values and actions, both at home and abroad.

If they do indeed become both technocratic advisors to government as well as “explainers” of that advice to the bewildered public, a lofty abstention from political power will be a wondrous miracle to behold. Past records do not indicate that we should all flock expectantly to the mountain to witness this miracle, however.

If hunger and poverty, if despair and want and fear are truly eradicated in this country or in the world (hardly likely, but mentioned by many FBM), the social upheavals and turbulence likely to result will make us wish for the calm old days of Watts and Detroit. This sounds like heartless heresy, of course. But any direct correlation between widespread social security and peace, order or private freedom, has not been exhibited at home or abroad recently. Spreading crime, violence, political and moral caprice around the globe do not support arguments that caring for peoples’ physical needs will solve their major problems. They want a piece of the action.

If the technocrats really do master complex problems of running a postindustrial society, what is the likelihood they will be inclined to make it do practical tricks? For truly scientific minds, testing threshholds and potentialities, experimenting with variations and permutations—once a process or product has been initially developed—is historically commonplace. No suggestion of evil caprice is intended here. But “automating” the human members of society to perform certain tasks has stretched all through history—from ancient Egypt’s pyramid builders (Mumford’s “megatechnics”) to Roman road workers, or from Russia’s post-WW II industrial push to Mao’s mobilization of the Red Guard.

Hampster-Wheel
Are we looking forward to a hampster-wheel existence in the future?

Another question, relating to postindustrial society: the point at which we move from an “experience-based” production economy (Peter F. Drucker’s term) to a “knowledge-based” performance society will either be a disruptive pivot or a long, hard changeover for our formerly industrial-, management-oriented business institutions. (Of the major FBM themes, the “knowledge society” strikes me as the most important. Drucker’s “The Age of Discontinuity” explains it best).

If this roster of considerations seems unduly pessimistic, one sign of the aborning “knowledge society” might be the extensive study the Rand Corporation is conducting on New York City’s problems. Its success would justify the essential optimism of most of the FBM.

Notice, however, the candor of Rand’s man in New York: “There were certain comfortable simplicities about research on defense,” he told the Times, “but not here. The complexity of 'the human element,' the plain complexity of New York City, are something we haven’t encountered before.” This precisely “human element” is most apparent to unspecialized layman trying to puzzle out the prognostications of the FBM. My theme song is: Pick up any newspaper, turn on any newscast. What do we see and hear? When students, rioting for causes just or symbolic, storm a computer center and demolish a $1-million machine, this is somewhat noteworthy. If scientists and technologists—if “knowledge workers” in a wider sense—can approximate and in some cases surpass the processes of the human brain, why can they not master the other complexities that govern our existence?

Unbridgeable Gaps?

Obviously, it needs more than mastery of mechanical processes or information systems to control human behavior. It takes experience in the methods of generating faith and conviction, and of dealing with “unproductive” (as sociologists say) modes of behavior. Here is where the FBM snub up against the prickly issues of human values, human instincts and human faith. These are the at least momentary gaps in their laudable plans for an orderly, productive, pre-crisis, postindustrial society that the electronic circuit cannot necessarily bridge.

Values, we know already, can be changed by emphasis and education over specific periods of time. Even values connected with such formerly “hard core” institutions as church, state, family, school or career have undergone vast transformations not only through education but also by events over which we seem to have had little control. Many 19th century values, still perfectly serviceable, have fallen into disfavor largely because of the failure of the 19th century institutions and ideologies with which they seemed so inextricably connected. We need some of them—courtesy, honor, loyalty, diplomacy, etc.—back again. But that is another story.

Resistance

Values can be changed, but other areas of human behavior steadfastly seem to resist true change—even resist education, exhortation, applied force or threat of extermination. Just what comprises this sort of behavior is devilishly difficult to pinpoint. Often, when it arises, there is a hurried effort to explain it or justify it—by resorting to a number of intellectual palliatives.
An example derives from the sweeping societal change which the FBM say must be adjusted to. Political decision-makers, through stepped-up media contact, persistently press these changes on the public. For some reason, the basic conservatism of the public increases to the extent that pressure is applied, by fiat or appeal, to speed up its acceptance of “reforms” or to discard “outmoded” values faster than ever before. Such enclaves of resistance are growing rather than diminishing. “Know-nothings” dig in.

Calling this inherent conservatism “backlash” or “reactionary” doesn’t make it go away. Part of an instinctual response to sweeping change, even urbanites, schooled in the tensions of high-density existence and formerly able to live with some comfort in the progressive cities, are now exhibiting wariness of too-rapid change. Such slowness to adapt, such skepticism over utopian promises are components of a survival system—a way of putting on the “brakes” when things seem to be going too fast.

Especially in the sophisticated city now, one finds unhappy examples of survival systems. Editorialists take us to task for acting with fear and insensitivity when faced with human crisis or threat of injury. But urban clusters do not readily produce Good Samaritans. They have made callousness a component of survival.

People who do nothing while a “neighbor’s” apartment is being audibly ransacked by a drug addict; those who hightail for the nearest exit when violence erupts in a crowded subway car; doctors who hurry away from the scene of an accident rather than aid a victim (fearing possible lawsuits)--at one time, they could have been branded cowards. But that time is gone. These individuals, the most realistic of urban animals, testify to a reality no one likes to admit.

Golden Rule

No amount of shaming editorial or soothing statistic will allay their notion that decency and concern are dangerous in some cities. The Golden Rule has lost out to the Tear-Gas pen, for reasons real or imagined. As the urban lullaby becomes clanging alarm bells and screams in the night, the climate of fear is not assuaged by debating the most humane criminal treatment and highlighting the spectre of a “police state.” Yet this has continued as the urban crises peaked, and numerous mayors are discovering how many people are susceptible to “backlash.” Lamentable perhaps, but real.

The city has become everybody’s whipping boy, but it rightly serves as the central image of society’s Excedrin headache. And this is a great blow to Americans, to prestige and pride. If the FBM are to be heeded, the urban taint spreads throughout America. Writes Drucker: “Modern technology...as well as electric power, integrate rural society into city society, dissolve it into a ...component of an urban world.”

We speak of an urban crisis, but in MacLuhan’s global village (he cannot have his cake and eat it too) there can be only a national crisis. Or a world crisis. At the heart of the dilemma is the problem of faith—or morale, at less frantic levels.

Rock of Ages

After years of chipping away at God, Flag and Family as simplistic, anachronistic modes for a progressive society, progressives find themselves swamped with crisis and disorder. The erosion and secularization of the old, outmoded institutions has unfolded. In place of their mossy stability have come doubt, confusion and frustration—most notably about where to place one’s faith: In progress? Or preservation? And countless Americans, blithely piped off the Rock of Ages to march towards new freedom and justice, have fallen out with the worst disease to hit a society, lack of faith, which prevents one from acting with conviction.

The honest progressive answer to this setback is that we have not gone far enough, not done enough—that our “progressive” faith proves no stronger than our “reactionary” faith in the now discredited, old institutions. We must, like Avis, try harder.

Intellectual Partners

Richard R. Landers, coiner of the neologism “dybosphere” (a machine-dominated environment), expresses the problem: “There is the conflict of technological change, a conflict in which faith, humility, veneration, and the other idealistic supports of earlier situations have little or no meaning. The conflict extends beyond theological boundaries. What of our legal system, our form of government, our social structure? The more lucid thinkers have already reconciled themselves to accepting computers as intellectual partners.”

So why not you? The air is heavy with the atmosphere of inevitability. MacLuhan has suggested that electronic media are not just neutral tools, but that they in fact use us in their own development. This ascription of autonomy to media follows earlier notions of Jacques Ellul, who ascribes a final, pervasive autonomy to “la technique” (for this acerb scholar, the word means not simply machines or process but the entire pool of technical forces governing society’s development). To Ellul, there can be no question of “intellectual partners.”

“Prime Mover”

He writes, “Technique elicits and conditions social, political, and economic change. It is the prime mover of all the rest, in spite of any appearance to the contrary and in spite of human pride, which pretends that man’s philosophical theories are still determining influences and man’s political regimen decisive factors in technical evolution. External necessities no longer determine technique. Technique’s own internal necessities are determinative. Technique has become a reality in itself, self-sufficient, with its special laws and its own determinations.”

An extensive reading of Ellul’s powerful, and unrelentingly pessimistic, assessment of modern society’s ultimate dilemma is too convincing—and too unsettling when set against the statements of many FBM. But his intellectual research arrives at what many people feel in every enervated, exacerbated fiber of their highly urbanized bodies: there must be some mysterious force at work, over which we have little control, that pulls us along, that drags us over the peaks and troughs of societal development, that seem impervious to our best efforts and most vocal protests. It takes no notice. Doesn’t listen. Has no pity.

Abstraction

We feel its power, and in a fragmented manner try to pin down its mystery. Students protest against it, under a variety of symbolic, and imprecise, labels. It has been called everything from “The Age of Anxiety” to “The Secular Sixties” to “The Faceless Society.” Often, the prefix “mega” is attached to its hazy effects (megaversity, megalopolis), but this is simply a way of hedging our inability to confidently forecast the ultimate impact of this implacable abstraction. In our darker moments, we even feel it possesses some of the mystery and omniscience which gave the old, outmoded institutions their attraction.

In this atmosphere of doubt about man’s control, it is no irony that the FBM announce they are, at last, on the verge of perfecting the concepts and tools to bridle society’s runaway problem (as long as we cooperate). It is ironic that (a) they speak to a majority who has neither faith in nor understanding of the FBM’s far-reaching goals and methods, or that (b) there is actually little the FBM can really do but identify and follow trends already inherent in technological development. As Ellul says, “The state is no longer in a position to reject the most efficient means possible.”

Whichever the FBM are doing (and this is by no means clear), they must elicit faith from the people; for faith is what generates necessary cooperation and makes futures come true as predicted. If our current dislocation continues, their job will be no easier than the modern church’s job of eliciting faith. The alternative is coercion, force.

When faith-generated conviction and cooperation begin to dwindle, our instincts start to work. When the cultural or artistic safety valves are clogged, unreason inevitably takes over. For a progressive society, the resultant behavior threatens more doubt and anxiety. This is critical, a very bad reflection. Because of our dedication to the notion that we are a rational society, irrationality must always be rationalized. A spate of polyglot explanations usually appears endowing caprice or irresponsibility with ethical or intellectual substance or foundation. At the very least, we are told why such-and-such is, while regrettable, logically inevitable or why so-and-so is understandably crazy. The heat of societal instincts burns through this haze, however.

Justice vs. Stimulation

Its conspicuous thrusts today are towards identity, stimulation, security and/or survival—probably in that order in the West. Identity and stimulation are paramount in affluent America, even at the expense of security or survival. Witness the protestors who brave (often seek) the well-publicized police billy-clubs or those dissidents who resist the draft or refuse to pay income taxes. But the heat of our critical self-scrutiny is symptomatic of our search for our national identity. MacLuhan has commented, “The sudden upsurge for black power or student power, or woman power, is not a demand for justice, but a quest for identity.”

The forms such quests take suggest they are also bids for stimulation. A British writer has pointed out that people who deplore labor disputes (arguing that workers’ pay raises are eaten up anyway in higher prices) miss the whole point of a strike's stimulation, a chance to march and shout abuse at the bosses, a chance to blow off steam and vent frustrations. While Hubert Humphrey was talking in Chicago about “a new day of justice and order,” many demonstrators outside were exercising more instinctual needs for identity and stimulation. They doubtless received more satisfaction than the former veep.

Radical
How do we manage to pull together when somebody balks?

No Joke

I mentioned jokingly in “FB: 1” that a refrain today seems to be “us individuals have gotta stick together!” It’s no joke, of course. In a period of impersonality, alienation and anomie, one needs some sort of stimulation to make him feel his humanity, his identity as an “individual” in the mass, even at the cost of a clout on the skull. Many people march and scuffle in perfect ignorance of gut issues and eventualities, and the understanding of many more goes no farther than the slogans on their picket signs. But this is symptomatic of their frustration and powerlessness. Instinct requires no exams.

Much of this behavior stems from society’s growing standardization and alienating impersonality—and much from a less obvious phenomenon, the vastly changed locus of human struggle or endeavor. That it is fired primarily by issues, whether Vietnam or black studies, is not necessarily true. The itch comes first, then the issue. And people who are insecure about identity and feel repressed by standardization possess an awful itch.

The Only Way?

So much has been written about standardization, it is almost cliché now. Though rural residents probably live with much less real variety, it is in the cities where standardization is most manifest. We feel it in mechanization or marketing, in bureaucratic regulation and modes of work, transportation, education and even entertainment. That standardizing social modes is the only way large numbers of people can be efficiently administrated has also become commonplace. It is an inevitable outgrowth of our obsession with bringing down the unit-cost of everything.

It is nevertheless a sick irony that in America, where one of the most serious environmental defects is a lack of spaciousness in the cityscape, our urban populace occupies merely 1% of the nation’s land. Siegfried Giedion and others have pointed out the import of spaciousness to a civilization, most notably to the men of the Middle Ages, for whom the harmonious organization of large perspectives was as important as physical comfort is to modern man’s well-being. One might think as well of Hellenic Greece’s spaciousness or of highly populated Japan’s traditional emphasis on subtle space organization and esthetic atmospherics.

Vista Sports

Modern society has lost its insistence on spaciousness and sense-soothing environments—not because we lack designers and architects appreciative of such harmonies, but because the pressing necessities of technological society require us to defer these considerations to all but a token, “show-case” sector of daily life. But man definitely requires space and vista. Perhaps this is one reason (of many) why “vista” sports such as sailing, skiing or sky- and skin-diving have become so popular. Conversely, for reasons of minimum space and bureaucratic regulation, the tent “cities” and country trailer-camps one finds in Europe (and America) may be a symptom of man’s inability to shake off his urban psychology.

More alarming is cultural and ideological standardization in the technological society, not the open clash of truly conflicting values that produces a stable culture, but a competition of variations on the same theme. It is like people picking different paths to the same, undebated destination. In art, drama and literature, like embellished headlines, tracts pose as expressions of complex human values. As politics become increasingly the matrix and measure of current events, shrill, thinly disguised polemic comes costumed an art.

Think-Art

It sometimes appears to me that artists and journalists feed on each other; both have become long on sensation and personality but short on reality and values; cute, fun, but thin esthetic nourishment. The plastic arts especially have become so ephemeral, its products seem more a cerebral callisthenic than creation. (Along with minimal-art, package-art, air-art and earth-art, I’m tempted to propose think-art: no studio, no gallery, no opening and no sales. At a specific time, everybody wishing to partake simply thinks his own art work, wherever he might be. Doubtless, somebody has beat me to it).

In art, as in other societal phenomena, what succeeds is often what gets attention. I sometimes think that high circulation—or electronic broadcasting to millions—has stunned both critics and artists (as well an politicians, businessmen, etc.). One performs or operates nationally today, or internationally. Artists have become cunning and efficient students of media; critics often retreat into personality journalism (wonderful for building up their c.v.), but also end up somewhat compromised by what attracts wide attention. Lest this seem like a burst of spleen, let me hasten to add that I sympathize with the critics. “But, baby, it’s big, it’s news” says the practical editor. “It’s crap,” says the schizophrenic critic, Schizophrenic because five times out of six he ends up writing brightly and politely about the crap, publicizing what he would love to overlook.

Costume Party

Standardization inevitably ends in a battle of individuality versus exoticism, or maybe a debate about what constitutes the two. Today, increasing exoticism is a symptom of standardization. Cities such as New York or Paris look more and more to the average person like an extended costume party, with the inhabitants (both young and adult) conforming more and more in their behavior to the image cast by their clothes. One can quickly say that exteriors are simply reflections of interiors. This is by no means necessarily the case. Too many people live, as it were, out of a fashion magazine.

And fad and fashion, broadcast by media publicity, roll with an autonomy of their own. Specific proof that media help generate such phenomena as student riots, airplane hijacking or self-immolation, for example, is next to impossible to come by. But the suspicion lives conspicuously in the public mind. The conflict between individuality and exoticism has already militated, largely via media, to a clash in which the values of individuality become confused with those of exoticism—and the frantic scrabbling for methods of “self-expression” (always dependent on recognition or publicity), constantly extend the fringes of fad and eccentricity.

A plateau of desperation is reached when nearly “anything goes”—and almost anything does in this era when writers, critics or newscasters all compete to inform us why this particular thing should “go,” why it is logical, inevitable or welcome. So we become inclined to nod indulgently, or just laugh off, the most pitiful bids for mass attention. After all, media find them noteworthy...

Skin Games

And here, we begin to run the risk of rationalizing the most obvious aberrations as normal behavior, or simply of transforming our standards of what is beneficial or harmful behavior. Toleration (or appreciation) of eccentricity may indeed be a sign of societal health. Rampant exoticism has always been the mark of sterile society. This historical fact is somehow a red flag in the faces of those who preach man’s capacity for pluralism. As an infantile form of prurience, if not pornography, flourishes in Freedomland, certain keepers of the cultural keys solemnly inform us that this indicates a healthy acceptance of society’s manifold requirements.

But such fads as the topless (and now bottomless) craze, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy “philosophy” and cinematic zoom-lens skin-games are being touted with abject seriousness, with numerous moral pundits asserting that such national magnification of minority preoccupations is making healthier human beings of us. Even more sophisticated.

Rubber Whips

This is absolute trash. They are making their promoters rich and they are saturating the public with spiritless flesh. They are leaching mystery and sanctity from sexual relations. Once they have affected the neutralization of any moral tensions from forbidden games, it will be no wonder people take up vinyl boots or rubber whips. What will be left? As over-exposure casts sexual relations (potentially the act of creation, after all, and the highest physical form of intimate communication) as just another bodily function, it can be no wonder that young people start blowing pot or gobbling LSD-cookies. It is a wonder they are not out forming Albert DeSalvo fan clubs.

All of these trends are, however, quickly explainable in light of our current doctrinal instability. Demystification and secularization (even the most progressive FBM readily admit) have crumbled, or exploded, the power of the preservative institutions. The authority they once exercised is still up for grabs, and what reigns in this scramble for that authority is not conviction, but opinion and advocacy. Much of society stands now in the same anxious position as today’s nominal Christian, whose faith in God has dwindled but whose faith in Man is not yet complete. He stands, as we stand, in a no-man’s land, where partial, fragmented faiths yield little solace. Everyone is offering advice, but it is patently inconclusive. We tread water...

“Perfectibility”

This notion might wash over us if we were truly biding our time: In the name of perfectibility and social evolution, we have legislated out of fashion many of our outlets for tension and frustration. All the time we were becoming so wonderfully “civilized,” our need was increasing for more, rather than fewer, ritualized forms of aggression. You doubt this? Why then do we so lionize anthropology and ethnology? Why have Claude Levi-Strauss, Konrad Lorenz and Robert Ardrey become so popular? Precisely because their studies make manifest the changes evident in modern man. Precisely because it would be nice to believe some of the old, primitive standards still hold true.

The point is, do they?

Diverting Differences

Recent history holds pitifully few hopeful answers. Technology, in media, transportation, civilization, is fast destroying anthropological study grounds. The flip-flop, the T-shirt and the transistor radio are standardizing the third world. The once diverting differences of distant cultures are fast disappearing, and we are left with the nagging, immediate question of who we are, or what we mean? That we are “naked apes” is not all that reassuring.

The significant aspect of our quest for identity is knowing how change has changed us. An ironic thing has been happening to man: he has been going in two directions at once, two opposing directions. First, he has been extending himself into his physical world by means of technology. MacLuhan speaks of extending our “senses” through the electronic environment. Landers talks of the dybosphere. “The most sophisticated man-machine systems today,” comments Charles R. Dechert, “are basically extenders of human perceptive, data processing and motor capabilities.” (The man-machine symbiosis was touched on in SKO-3).

Human Package

Certainly, man has moved beyond the confines of the once autonomous fleshly package in which he has been wrapped for millenniums. One need think only of the astronauts rolling through outer space, whose “senses” are connected over thousands of miles through technetronics. For the earthbound, we have radio, television, phonograph, telegraphy, etc., which extend us beyond ourselves.

Yet as technetronics have been unwrapping the human package and extending man’s senses, a counter movement has been occurring: the locus of human struggle (that activity whereby the human organism survives and thrives) has been moving into our interior realms. As we have extended our faculties mechanically and electronically, the reduction in our physical exertion has been replaced by an increase in our mental and emotional exertion. We solve most of our problems now not by muscle and sweat but by thought and reasoning. And this is a very significant structural change. Large problems come with it.

Out of Mind

Another way of saying this is to point out, as Father Walter J. Ong has, that knowledge has historically been proceeding from the mind of man to external resevoirs—from writing, to print to electronic storage. This movement has changed man’s entire structure of memory and learning. Father Ong, in fact, goes so far as to say that knowledge is now bred outside man’s mind. Still, knowledge outside the mind is handled and correlated—for the moment—by man; in the popular view, man still makes the programs and presses the buttons. This leaves, however, a tremendous…What can it be called: Vacuum? Void? Emptiness? Restlessness? Feeling of uselessness?

Falling Man
Falling out? Falling in line? (Ernest Trova’s “Pegasus” from “Falling Man” series)

For we can still press buttons and compile programs, but a feeling intrudes: a feeling that, after all, we may have been only following the implicit, inherent demands of the “information” anyway. The atmosphere weighs heavily that the “information,” being objective and non-emotional, specifies its own pattern and will eventually impose its inevitably correct program no matter how inconstant or unruly its human handlers may prove to be. Like a law of physics, operative but undiscovered, its veracity can subsist until poor mortals make enough mistakes, or stumble onto enough clues, to finally unearth its sublime rightness. It can wait for its Bohrs, Heisenbergs and Einsteins.

Logic & Order

Our interior problems cannot wait, however. They multiply, fuse and fire into the most disruptive sort of behavior. To call it instinct is to admit a defeat. It must be explained, accounted for. But we have, in fact, become a different sort of person: we seek advice or solace for the familiar torments that occur inside—in a society which has been busily concentrating on manipulating the outside, on shuffling externals, on controlling environment. Meanwhile, our environment has shifted to within.

Our new “spiritual” advisors, the psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, can give an order and logic to our problems, but learning simply to live with them in no solution. The more the FBM regard our problems as a mechanical challenge of manipulating environment, the more vulnerable they become to crises arising from unmechanical human instincts. For we are, in fact, fighting for our lives, our freedom and our future well-being. Finally, we may come to the point we realize that the world, not we, is wrong; that the system must be changed, turned round, overthrown. And here we are.

There is more than symbolism in rioting college students storming the school’s computer center and wrecking one of its expensive machines. This has happened in several North American institutions.

Postscript (In Subjective Shorthand)

Future man’s inner conflicts cannot be strongly enough stressed. The Communications Explosion has precipitated a Personality Implosion, as manifest in youth’s resort to sense-bending drugs or identity-building symbologies as in blithe assurances of many FBM that interior problems will be “fixed” by genetic juggling or psychic design. We are pulled two ways at once and the simultaneity is unsettling: in the space of several months, we see photographs of our earth entire taken from the Apollo spacecraft and of the basic module of human life, DNA, magnified over seven million times--space capsule and electron microscope expanding our inner and outer perceptions. Both feats serve as metaphors for the extremes of scale (and philosophical impact) the modern mind must now integrate.

Fiver Flow
The future of the Data Flow: Optical fiber connecting the globe

The complexity of societal crises has led to greater diabolism. The average person chinks his security (and incredibility) gaps by a streamlined Them-and-Us conception: World Poor vs.
World Rich; Black vs. White; Freedom vs. Communism or Students vs. Power Structure. The options narrow and categories simplify. Darker, wider battle lines are drawn, and rumors of coming conflicts rife.

In this diabolic atmosphere of separatist and independent (if not anarchic) trends around the globe, the FBM predicate futures based on what must be world-wide authority and control. They promise synergistic solutions to the most complex problems, when simply environmental pollution remains rampantly unsolved. They talk of birth control by fiat, or selective genetics, or the withering away of private property, while our major agency of global cooperation—the United Nations—conspicuously functions as an uncooperative congress with slight actual control beyond the Great Powers. (There is, incidentally, rueful humor in Conor Cruise O’Brien’s characterization of the U.N. as a stage for “ritual confrontations and ritual retreats, of dramatic supplications and sanctified concessions...” The likes of Konrad Lorenz or Robert Ardrey must do flip-flops over that kind of talk; but one suspects a victory of redefinition and that the ethnologist credo has triumphed by default).

Implementation

But sanctified ritual is a long way from actual authority or Realpolitik. Still, there is this talk about things falling into line. Even the genies, it appears, can be so dazzled by the glitter of the wondrous means at their disposal, that they are blinded to the ends, which evolve from actual implementation. Or is the FBM disregard for the gutwork of societal implementation of enforced birth control or genetic mixing provocative in another sense? Do they tacitly recognize that scant option can be exercised in this matter of implementation, that the golden means come with graduated development programs built into them?

If so, they are privy to superior and secret knowledge. And why not? That is their job. But we worry just the same.

Received In New York April 4, 1969.