Is modern technology rendering our institutions obsolete?

Watch out for Big Brother and Little Brother

Professor H.A. Anderson, one of my best professors as an economics major, put this question on one of his tests in his undergraduate economic development course at Texas Tech, in which I was sitting, in 1961.

I couldn’t believe the question was on the test; I couldn’t remember anything like it being discussed in the course.

So I just made up an answer, starting with a bit of honesty, saying while I had never read anything about this it seemed to me modern technology was not rendering our institutions obsolete because institutions evolved in the first place to satisfy human needs, and those needs had not changed, and could not be changed by technology. I then rambled on for a few pages in my blue book just making stuff up, which I no longer remember.

Professor Anderson liked this. He said it proved I could think, which amazed me. I had no idea how relevant this question was; and I had no idea how much more relevant it would become.

Professor Anderson was a fan of Thorstein Veblen, a radical American economist, who wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1902), which is also more relevant today than it was then. Professor Anderson would assign whole books for his students to read and discuss in class, and this was one of them, along with books by socialist and communist writers, which I paid little attention to, being a typical right wing Texas undergraduate dedicated to free enterprise and capitalism, carrying around fantasies in my head of becoming a rich capitalist myself.

Technology in 1961 was nowhere near where it is today, especially computer technology, and it may have finally rendered our institutions obsolete. Who could have imagined in 1961 anything as insidious as the modern surveillance system that has recently burst into the consciousness of most humans, thanks to the evolution of electronics, personal computers and the Internet?

Big Brother governments can now spy on billions of citizens and subjects around Earth 24/7; but citizens and subjects, some of whom now being hounded around Earth by governments as whistleblowers, can also spy 24/7 on politicians and government bureaucrats, employees, police and military personnel, thanks to the same technology. No one can escape the eye of Big Brother, or Little Brother.

Just look at what happened to those poor Texas Republican buffoons who tried to lie about Wendy’s filibuster victory for intelligent women and men in the Texas legislature. I saw and understood the stark reality of the whole thing thanks to the Internet almost as it happened. Today, thanks to technology, almost anyone can become a reporter of truthful facts to millions of people in the flick of an eye.

Are mainstream newspapers and television stations now irrelevant?

Nobody knows for sure where evolution is heading. Nobody knows for sure what sorts of institutions shall evolve caused by the evolution of new technology and current realities.

For ramifications see Business Voyages: Mental Maps, Scripts, Schemata and Tools for Discovering and Co-Constructing Your Own Business Worlds, a business bible for people who would like to do the right thing for all Earthians.

Richard John Stapleton is an emeritus professor of business policy, ethics and entrepreneurship who writes on business and politics at and on Facebook.

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