The Parable of the Industrial Age
by Ray Strackbein
The goal of the Industrial Age was Utopia: the perfect civilization. A predictable civilization. A civilization that ran as well as a machine. The Information Revolution ends the abuse of the Industrial
If only we could be perfect. Hmmm . . . God is perfect. God makes things move in circles. God uses circles of time -- rhythms. The planets circle. God provides consistency in all things. The
more consistent things are, the more perfect things are.
Perfection is only an idea. The true perfect tree is but an idea, because it does not in fact exist. Perfection is an idea in the mind of God. The true perfect tree, if it existed, would be like all other true,
perfect trees. Perfect trees would all be alike.
To compensate for our own imperfections, we invented machines. We invented mass production. We invented factories. Factory assembly lines make everything alike. Assembly lines make things perfect.
Factories make perfect circles. They make tires and gears. They make engines. They make things which go around and around, just like our world goes around and around. God makes things which go around and around.
God's things are planets and atoms. The biggest and the smallest, God makes them go around and around.
We make things which go around and around. If only we could make things more perfect -- more alike -- we would be like God. Then we could worship ourselves -- we could finally accept ourselves.
We make perfect and uniform things in our factories, but that is not enough. We as people must become alike and perfect.
We are too different. To have the perfect society, we must all have the same features; we must all have the same ideas; we must all have the same values. We must all be
identical. We must all be clones and robots. Our world will be perfect when we are all clones and robots.
Perhaps we could think perfectly. We could all think like computers. Give a problem to 100 computers and each computer will return the same answer. Give the same problem to 100 people and get many
different answers. We humans are not perfect. We are different. If only we were perfect like computers.
The above parable reveals that our dehumanization is the ultimate consequence of Industrial Age thinking: we will be perfect when we are no longer human.
Did your friends in school all want to be like robots and think like computers? Mine did. But I was a nerd; perhaps just nerds did.
In my youth, we started connecting computers into networks. At that time, all of the computers we connected together were the same. They were all IBM computers. The perfect network for the perfect society. One
network of identical computers serving a world of identical people all working in identical cubicles.
The goal of the Industrial Age was Utopia -- the perfect civilization. A predictable civilization. A civilization that ran as well as a machine.
We engineered our society to be perfect as part of a social machine: people warehoused in schools, prisons and housing projects, served by an assembly-line bureaucracy. Without worry about food, shelter, or
crime, we would be happy.
Model T World
Not only did we develop uniform Model T cars for the uniform people, but we developed the perfect strain of hybrid wheat and shipped it to all the farms in the USA. It was the Perfect Wheat. We even
shipped it to India. It was science's answer to famine.
Native wheat survived in India while perfect, uniform American wheat died. We observed that with a single hybrid wheat, where each wheat stalk is a perfect clone of its neighbor, one
particular disease or insect destroyed the whole crop.
Indian wheat consisted of a variety of strains. A disease or insect would attack a few of the stalks, but the remainder had the resistance to fight off the attack. The Indian wheat produced a low
yield, but was resistant to most pestilence, preventing famine. Perhaps uniformity is not desirable in nature after all.
Discover Your Uniqueness
The lesson for the Information Age is: uniformity threatens our planet, variety supports it. Just as variety flourished with Indian wheat, so it flourishes with people.
Life itself thrives on variety. We are learning that as species become endangered, other species associated with them decline as well. The rich variety of life supports the earth's ecosystem.
Another place to see variety flourishing is in television broadcasting. The trend shows that instead of monolithic networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- becoming stronger, they are losing share to a variety of
networks like CNN, HBO, ESPN, the Discovery Channel, the Family Channel, the Comedy Channel, Animal Planet, and even the Weather Channel.
This has implications for business and even your personal life. The way to get ahead personally in a career is not to become a standardized commodity with specific certifiable skills, but to discover and
capitalize on talents and experiences which make you unique. To succeed in a career, discover your uniqueness and use that to your advantage.
A similar strategy works in business. To succeed in business, discover your uniqueness
and use that to your advantage. Build a better mousetrap or find a cure for cancer. Do something new and unique. The competition in existing markets is deadly; make your own market.
The Information Age encourages us to become human again, to accept ourselves as unique, and even cherish our differences.
The transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age gives us the opportunity to reinvent civilization -- a civilization which values living things over machines.
So, we have gone from the Industrial Age of control: the age of uniformity, standardization, and perfection to discover that we can control ourselves right out of existence
by insisting on one correct way. We are experimenting with its opposite: the age of information and communication, the age of variety.