Akademické zamyšlení nad vývojem postindustriální společnosti v informační éře
Crisis in the Post-industrial Age: Welcome to Role-play
Sergey A. Stroev
Already in the second half of the past century such insightful thinkers as Daniel Bell and Alvin Toffler discerned the beginnings of the transition from the industrial to the information level of social development. By the end of the 20th century and especially today this awareness has become almost universal. The question is now not whether the information society is real, but rather how to define its still forming structure, what are the contradictions that determine the dynamics of its development.
With the development of productive forces, labor productivity reaches a level at which the needs of the society in real industrial products can be met by a smaller proportion of the working members of this society. The labor reserves that are left unengaged are distributed between services and information production. As a result, the production of information increases drastically. However, at a very early stage of information society, when the old industrial paradigms of public consciousness held undivided sway, the information was seen primarily as a system of technologies, an applied science for increasing production. Therefore, the increase in the volume of information, brought about by the influx of labor force, resulted in the increase of technological knowledge, including the information production itself. There was a typical loop of positive feedback – a powerful mechanism of self-empowerment, leading to an explosion, which within a few years revolutionized the world civilization in almost all its aspects.
Any development, arising from contradictions and instability, in turn, itself gives rise to new contradictions, the preconditions of a new crisis, the resolving of which is a source of further development. That is why the main attention should be paid not to the already discovered opportunities determining a current process, but to the restrictions and contradictions maturing within this process, to the crisis looming in the background of current trends. Only such an analysis makes sense for the prediction of the future trajectory of development and, consequently, maximizes of the benefit of this knowledge. As for the linear approximation of current processes, it does not only lead to confusion, but creates an illusion of an imminent disaster. For example, a well-known „catastrophic“ prediction of this kind was that cities would be destroyed under the horse manure, the amount of which was supposed to increase indefinitely with the development of the only then-known horse transport. Now this prediction seems ludicrous, but exactly the same kind of catastrophic predictions are made today.
So, what are the crisis phenomena, maturing within the observable developments of the society? Of course, we are far from pretending to give the full picture of crisis prerequisites. On the contrary, we intend to consider only some of them, which most attracted our attention, leaving others outside of this work.
As noted above, within the previous industrial paradigms of thinking that corresponded to the then level of productive forces, information was treated from an instrumental perspective and understood as a kind of knowledge valuable for a particular practice, in most cases, for production. In other words, information was considered mainly as an industrial technology. With the transition to a new type of civilization this view was overturned. Information has been regarded as a self-sufficient value, independent of its applicability in the manufacturing process.