PDA

View Full Version : Changing Societies... How?


SFFWorld.com
Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum


TheEarCollector
May 7th, 2005, 09:47 PM
I have always been a radical, the way I see it, if change is necessary then you must completely dismantle the old way to keep it from interfering. Unfortunately, most people are scared of change which is why we result to "incrementalism," or the use of gradual incremental changes to achieve the desired goal.
Usually this is the case, but what happens when an entirely new idea is introduced?

For example, what happens when a society that uses vehicles solely for domestic transportation realizes that they need to restructure themselves to conduct massive shipping operations?

Of course they will use some of what they have now, it's cost effective and it won't require any development or training, but what about changing what they have to meet the new requirements? Would you go all out and design a fleet of new vehicles specially designed for the transportation of the goods? Would you resort to large convoys of the smaller vehicles that you already use? Would you even use vehicles or would you rely on the use of animals?
All of these choices have both pros and cons.

Also, for those who ARE using animals, when do they finally decide to make the change to vehicles? Is it when their animal is sick and cannot travel? Is it when conditions become too extreme one season for the animal to make the journey? Is it the cost of maintaining the animal? What kind of things factor into this change?

As always, feel free to throw around opinions so we can get a conversation going.

MrBF1V3
May 8th, 2005, 12:26 AM
On the one hand, societies tend to rise to the occasion. When there is a challenge, someone finds a way to win.

On the other hand, technology isn't self-leveling. Not everyone has state of the art. Not everyone wants it. I know people who drive '76 Chevys (in fact, there is a whole group of people who won't drive anything but horse drawn carriages). There are people, right now, using computers from five years ago. Some people make do with what they got, until they need something newer, or unitl they can afford it.

Business is like that too. There is a tendency to resist expendatures unless they can be demonstrated to positively effect the bottom line.

B5

milady
May 8th, 2005, 02:25 AM
On the one hand, societies tend to rise to the occasion. When there is a challenge, someone finds a way to win.

On the other hand, technology isn't self-leveling. Not everyone has state of the art. Not everyone wants it. I know people who drive '76 Chevys (in fact, there is a whole group of people who won't drive anything but horse drawn carriages). There are people, right now, using computers from five years ago. Some people make do with what they got, until they need something newer, or unitl they can afford it.

Business is like that too. There is a tendency to resist expendatures unless they can be demonstrated to positively effect the bottom line.

B5
Yeah, it'd just be like regular capitalism/economics.
Businesses and people would naturally be guided to choose whatever gives them the best profit - whatever's most efficient would in the end succeed. So some businesses, or individual businessmen would try one means, some would try another, and whatever gives the best returns would eventually dominate. But I think this would take a long time - like mr B said with the old cars, some people simply can't afford (or don't like) the change, and so will continue to use old-fashioned means of transportation.

If your society's communist, though, I'm not sure what would happen. The government would possibly try to look progressive and innovative and conscript in loads of workers to build the big ships or whatever, and commission scientists to design them - but it would likely be at a huge loss to the economy and tax would rise.

JamesL
May 8th, 2005, 02:43 AM
Depending on the situation/country change can be a negative thing, or at best have little impact at all on improving people's lives.

Farmers in Africa were provided with tractors and modern faming implements by the West in order to improve their yields of crop. What happened? The tractors eventually ran out of fuel, there was no money to pay for more and so the tractors were left to rust in the fields as the farmers went back to their traditional methods of farming.

Change needs to be implemented properly, with all possibilities acounted for.

Hereford Eye
May 8th, 2005, 07:36 AM
The trouble with change is that it affects the entire system so that unanticipated effects arise. No one understands a social system in enough detail to be able to anticipate all the effects of a given change so surprise is the order of the day. B.F. Skinner, to his chagrin, demonstrated this pretty thoroughly while Godel provided its underpinning logic. It does not matter if the social system is one person or many, a small business or large, a neighborhood or a country, no one understands everything there is to know about the sytem. Consequently, as the bumper sticker guarantees, when change is introduced: Stuff happens.

Even starting from scratch, as TheEarCollector initially proposed, cannot avoid the unanticipated effects. It's probably the nature of reality, the universe, and all the fishes, too.

Expendable
May 8th, 2005, 03:00 PM
Its a bit like cell phones and payphones. Payphones are gradually disappearing as more and more people become use to the convience of an always handy cell phone that now can do more than ever. Some people are even giving up regular phones in their homes.

If you don't have a cell phone, you've got problems because you're not always reachable now. If you need to make a phone call, you have to search a while before you can find one. Of course, if you've lived without a cellphone, you probably can remember your friend's number to call.

But to answer your question, if there is a good enough need for a bulk transportation system, then its going to be built. Look at the Panama Canal. The trans-continental railroad. Airlines.

Someone is going to see it as a challenge, like Charles Lindbergh's nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, just 24 years after the Wright Brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk. Lindbergh wasn't the first person to try to fly across the atlantic nonstop - he was the first one to succeed.

Not everyone's going to get it right.

KatG
May 8th, 2005, 05:04 PM
Ear -- I think this topic needs to go into the General Discussion Forum, unless you come up with a way to link it to writing or publishing. I'll give you the chance to do that and then otherwise move it.

In the meantime, some stuff to think about:

Path Dependence -- This is a social sciences term. It refers to the situation where a society or group has done something one way for a long time and though it would be a good idea to do things another way -- take a different path -- the amount of effort and cost to change paths because the society has become dependent on the old path, would be so much as to not provide enough incentive for the society to change.

Trickle Down Costs -- The reason change when it comes to inventions is often incremental is not because people are overall afraid of change but because at first they cannot afford the new invention. When Ford introduced cars, the wealthy could afford them, others could not. Eventually, even rapidly, more and more people had cars and cars came down in price and improved in quality. The more people who could afford cars and the gas to run them, the more people turned to cars over animals and wagons. Same for the telephone, television, DVD players and many other inventions.

You might want to look at an interesting book called "The Tipping Point" as it is relevant to your topic.

kongming
May 8th, 2005, 06:32 PM
I can think of a reason this thread belongs here:

The ideas posted will help me with something I plan to write.

As for a response to this:

I remember reading that the reason that the industrial revolution came to the west first was one of need. Specifically to the Great Powers. They were struggling with lower populations and therefore needed to find some way to work the land. Slavery was one answer but it was more "expensive" still than the serf system. For what I mean by expensive take a look at the systems from around the world that relied on slavery to see what I mean: The US south, Rome, Korea, Ottoman Empire etc... I think that inherent in a slave system is stagnation but also it creates an internal collapse as well.

So to compensate for the lack of manpower the west was forced to build more tools. Of course this wasn't limited to farming but for war as well. Maybe the two were just linked. The west needed to stave off the east and its greater manpower. The reason for this lack of manpower is mostly due to the black plague and partly to the little ice age.

So fast forward and you have a group of nations that have become tool happy. The tools have now become bigger and better and they have become cheaper to create and use than before simply because of supply side economics. Now compare these Nations to Imperial (and later communist) China. Under the Manchus China was isolationist but also not lacking for manpower at all. They could service their fields and field large armies if needed. The tools that the west had were more expensive to them than serfs. At first they could still compete because their manpower was huge. But their manpower was useless when creating a trade based empire. They required tools for that: specifically sea power. Therefore they couldn't participate in the global race to conquer other nations intercontinentally. Later this would set them at a HUGE disadvantage because the Great Powers tools became that much cheaper because they now commanded nearly all the resources needed for these tools. Even if China were to step up and begin the tool race they would be left far behind because while they had almost all the resources needed locally, the cost of acquiring them would be greater due again to supply side economics and also the geography of China and the political system therein. Of course when I say China all this could apply to the Ottomans, Russia, Korea, The Southeast, and Africa.

So to link this to the first post, I think that if a nation was required to create a transportation system then it would. But first you'd need to look at the WHY. In the case of Great Britain some of the answers to their fleet are 1) the Spanish, 2) Need for cheaper supplies, 3) Holding Power, 4) Speed... etc.

Of course the Goverments themselves had the need for a fleet of merchant ships but they weren't the only ones who created it and I don't think it was all the organized. People themselves needed said fleet for trading and therefore I would say that the bullk of it was built at the impetus of the middle class.

KatG
May 9th, 2005, 11:10 AM
That's one theory on the development of the West -- it's disputed by other theories. However, you've sufficiently come up with enough of a reason to leave the thread in Writing -- historical development regarding our own stories, so I'll let it stay. :)

TheEarCollector
May 9th, 2005, 02:30 PM
Well he answered for me, but it was basically a worldbuilding question ;)