We are witnessing in real time the impossibility of totalitarian control.
Governments want us to believe they follow “the science”. They imply this makes their rulings valid and wise and thus beyond dispute. But there is not now, nor has there ever been, only one ‘science’. Such is an immature fantasy. Science is never in total consensus about anything; even the most rigorously produced and unambiguous data can be interpreted in multiple ways.
But even allowing that One Science is real, there follows the problem of developing wise or clear policy from its decrees. For example, what if science were to definitively prove that TV is bad for humans? What is the scientifically correct policy response to that truth? And how easy would it be to address the finding that the profit motive is primarily destructive to the environment? More generally, what if science were to prove the opposite of what governments need to be true? This simple thought exercise tells us all we need to know: governments cannot follow objective science; they wield The Science in a way that suits their purposes, that delivers only those interpretations of the data that support their ambitions and requirements.
In “following” (whatever that means) “the science” (whatever that means), governments forcefully imply there can be no disagreement with their rulings and guidelines. Even accepting the idea that government should issue laws that cannot ever be disputed, how could such total power be practically implemented? How can all argument be halted? Can totalitarianism accomplish this eery ambition? Can government, or science, or the greatest genius communicator alive, issue constant instructions about how all 7.x billion of us are to behave from moment to moment such that there is no room for confusion or interpretation? And how healthy or desirable would machine humans in a machine system be? No matter how much we might want it to be so, humans are not programmable machines. (And even programmable machines behave like wilful children much of the time!) Life is not a programmable machine.
The more we reach for control, the more we create its opposite. The genie the Powers That Be have released – in their ivory-tower wisdom – is inadvertently exposing the impossibility of top down rule. Lockdown and relentless fear mongering have set people against each other so profoundly that there is now no possible way of agreeing on the best way forward. Each side has scientists. Each side has authorities and data to support their position. How can the ever-growing mountain of that data be correctly interpreted? We’re assessing effects and ramifications of an invisible particle – SARS-CoV-2 – that cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt. And on top of that, even if we could agree on how deadly it is (if it is deadly), how can we agree on what best to do about it? If Sweden or Texas or Florida or South Dakota or wherever achieves herd immunity in the next few days or weeks – if we can even ‘prove’ to everyone’s satisfaction this has occurred – comparing one country to another is deemed unscientific by many. In the absence of comparisons, there can be no healthy scientific debate. We’re thus left with The Science that produces what each government needs it to ‘prove’.
Which brings us back to totalitarian control. Which is impossible.
Can top-down rule work at all now that debate and discussion can happen between billions of people 24/7? How is that policeable? How can all that chatter be effectively censored? How can humanity’s endless talking be orchestrated such that its outcomes are invariably favourable to The Powers That Be? With AI? But how would the AI instructions be implemented, interpreted? By a separate AI system? By robot armies? How would they be controlled? And so on.
All this seems to beg these final questions: Are we being directed towards direct democracy even though we’re not ready for it? Are our amazing communication technologies inexorably herding us towards a challenge most don’t want to face?
And doesn’t history always do this to us?