When committing things to publication, it is usually good practice to at least try to ensure that the things committed are mostly correct. During academic research it is advisable to step only lightly away from the carefully worn path and be able to show exactly where the new step was taken and why. This of course means that others can verify your new step and then step on from there, a good system.
Yet growing older means that you (I) have a head full of the distillation of other peoples minds and a little of your (my) own. This distillation is a little like the original ideas but collectively the ideas and thoughts all get mushed together in, what, well maybe wisdom, but that is a tall claim. Count this early declaration as a disclaimer in case the rest of this is nonsense.
Radical in this sense means far reaching or sort of significant and maybe new. Yet not all radical ideas are new, some are old ideas which have long been neglected and supersede. Consider business approaches such as lean manufacturing or just in time etc. These are all really quite ridiculous and they make brittle companies and not resilient ones. Of course, brittle companies make lots of profit before they break and so that might be attractive. We can think of the lesson’s nature has taught us as our science has unravelled more of its secrets. Nature does not do lean anything. Imagine just one type of version of a successful creature and progress made along a single track using this highly successful model. It’s brittle, if that model fails then the entire species fails. Nature does makes lots of versions of everything and over produces so that survival is more likely.
Getting back down to earth for a little, just in time manufacturing is really quite close to Just too late manufacturing. Parts in warehouses are costly if you choose to keep accounts in this way but they cost little more than just in time if you do the accounting differently. Now during a pandemic for instance, as unlikely as that might be, you still have parts to continue manufacturing. Failure to manufacture the small brass screw does not stop the manufacture of the printing press.
I think lean manufacturing means being efficient. Yet being efficient is not what nature teaches us. Yes, it will make more profit for a few for a short time but it is not sustainable and it takes no account of the needs of the human race. It is useful at this point to notice that machines do not buy products. Products produced entirely by machines are more efficient. Do I really need to complete this? People are really at the centre of everything we do. Of course, the well being of our planet is central, but to us, only because the well being of the planet means that we can survive. We are beginning to notice that the highly interconnected nature of planetary systems and life is also essential for our survival. One more slice of bat for you sir, what possible harm could it do?
Designing business and indeed progress to make a few people very rich is an interesting concept. I suppose that it can go on as long as it doesn’t take over. The nationalisation of companies is seen as a political bias. It was shown, sort of, that nationalised companies were inefficient and if only people were running them for greed, everything would be ok. And so, it was ok until the greed ultimately took the companies to places where people would work for very little reward and the mother country was left without. Actions have consequences. I think everyone knows that. But what fails to be noticed often enough is that consequences keep on going. They don’t just stop when the desired state of affairs is reached. Could nationalised companies have worked better with better education and a stronger moral commitment to life and progress.
Having a strong moral commitment to progress, fairness, collective growth and a very strong commitment to understanding and education might mean that individual greed is less common and collective prosperity and well being is more common.
I can try to list things that are wrong with the way the human lives but the consequences of this life are becoming all too obvious. Lack of education and understanding often means war. Greed often means poverty and hardship. Progress often means destruction. We spend lots of time thinking about how we can get a little more than we already have but not much time thinking carefully about where we want to be.
What sort of world, or maybe planets, do we really want and what sort of life do we want for the human race? Certainly, our views will evolve as we make progress but what is wrong with that. If we think more about where we want to be rather than what we want to have then we might change the things we do next. I hope it is obvious that where we want to be means the state of our collective societies and not which holiday resort we want to live in.
Making the business more efficient to drive up profit and reduce the workforce is not taking us to a place where society will be more comfortable, stable or even desirable. Efficiency is not the golden chalice which some believe it to be.
Let’s make everything more robust and less brittle by design.
John L. Gordon – February 2021