Zellaby's Problem

    The scientific approach to the problem of the supply of material requirements is probably the most remarkable feature of modern society. The success of science in disclosing the relationship between matter and energy, and the practical application of this knowledge, comes with responsibilities unattended up to this time.

    The philosophy that underpins the success of modern manufacturing is materialistic and scientific. Its magnificent productive capacity is due to a strategy of associating energy and matter under pre-determined conditions to bring about predictable results. ‘The test of science is prophecy.’ Generations of accumulating understanding about how the relationships between matter and energy can be utilised to our benefit have brought us to the point where technological advance is our civilisation’s greatest achievement and also its greatest hazard.

With great power comes great responsibility.  In our enthusiasm to enjoy the benefits of available technology we have failed in spectacular fashion to understand the responsibilities that come with its use and as a society seem intent on ignoring the need for any reflection on the topic at all.

I think the monologue by John Wyndham’s colourful Mr Zellaby in The Midwich Cuckoos puts the matter neatly. It comes after he ignores the arrival of his future son-in-law, Alan, to his study, so he might finish listening to Bach on a record player –

   At last the music tied itself up with a neat bow, and ceased. Zellaby stopped the machine by a switch on the arm of his chair, opened his eyes and regarded Alan.

   ‘I hope you don’t mind,’ he apologized. ‘One feels that once Bach has started his pattern he should be allowed to finish it. Besides,’ he added, glancing at the playing-cabinet,‘we still lack a code for dealing with these innovations. Is the art of the musician less worthy of respect simply because he is not present in person? What is the gracious thing? – For me to defer to you, for you to defer to me, or for both of us to defer to genius – even genius at second-hand?

   ‘We don’t seem to be good at integrating novelties with our social lives, do we? The world of the etiquette book fell to pieces at the end of the last century, and there has been no code of manners to tell us how to deal with anything invented since. Not even rules for an individualist to break, which is itself rather a blow at freedom. Rather a pity, don’t you think?’

'Er, yes,’ said Alan. I – er –‘

   ‘Though, mind you,’ Mr Zellaby continued, ‘it is a trifle démodé even to perceive the  existence of the problem. The true fruit of this century has little interest in coming to living-terms with innovations; it just greedily grabs them all as they come along. Only when it encounters something really big does it become aware of a social problem at all, and then, rather than make concessions, it yammers for the impossibly easy way out, uninvention, suppression – as in the matter of The Bomb.’

    ‘Er – yes, I suppose so. What I – ‘

Mr Zellaby perceived a lack of fervour in the response.

   ‘When one is young,’ he said understandingly, ‘the unconventional, the unregulated, hand-to-mouth way of life has a romantic aspect. But such, you must agree, are not the lines on which to run a complex world. Luckily, we in the West still retain the skeleton of our ethics, but there are signs that the old bones are finding the weight of new knowledge difficult to carry with confidence don’t you think?’

   Alan drew breath. Recollections of previous entanglements in the web of Zellaby discourse forced him to the direct solution…

We are yet to come to grips with Zellaby’s problem. Since the onset of the industrial revolution with the ascendency of solar power in industry, which makes humans as a source of productive energy of trivial importance, we are confronted with the necessity for a complete rethink of our economic, industrial, political, financial and social systems. This thought is the accompanying responsibility of every person who insists on the use of technology.

Social Credit philosophy and its resultant policy provide us with an intellectually satisfying foundation on which to successfully integrate technology to achieve equilibrium in ourselves, with each other and our world.

 

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