During this period of American history, average citizens became interested in technocracy because it held the promise that manual labor would no longer be needed. Machines would do everything for us and we would have nothing but leisure time. Of course, that was not exactly the case and technocracy eventually died out. Today, if I were to define technocracy, I would define it similarly, but with a twist.
The blend of political and monetary agendas has been around since governments were formed. What I see happening today is the manipulation of policy and established standards through technological or perceived technological advancements. Some are good but many of these manipulations are laced with self-serving agendas promoted by the use or misuse of technology, scientific data or research. In short, it is a blend of bureaucracy and technology, or what I would call the modern “technocracy.”
Looking back, governments and universities did research, produced studies and reports. Because of the source of the studies, the results were universally accepted without even blinking an eye. Today, similar tests and studies are still done. But now we get a study released by the media that warns us about drinking red wine, only to have another study from an equally respected institution refute the first study and prove that drinking red wine is good and promotes good health. Who do you believe?
Bought and SoldI have been involved with a few government types of studies and after being intimately involved in the process, I have a new perspective. I learned the universities are paid large grants to conduct many of these studies and the proponents of the study had an agenda. Not to find out the truth but to prove a conclusion the sponsors paying for the tests required. One such study was conducted and sponsored by government grants, private industry and conducted by a reputable university. I was on the esteemed panel of experts to determine if “strapped rainscreen”-type construction provided the promised convection drying the building scientist believed it would. Since there was no established ASTM test criteria for this, or none that would lead to the conclusion desired, a test protocol was created.
The various wall mock-ups were dropped into large vats of water and then monitored very closely as they dried out. The second-to-last meeting was held to review the data. It was noted with great disappointment to the committee that the rainscreen panels only provided a small percentage of drying improvement as compared to the conventional mock-ups. This was disconcerting to the politicians and scientists, as they had recently enacted laws mandating this type of construction for their city. Nobody argued that rainscreen-style walls still drained water faster, but the convection drying benefit was just not there. My shock was the released, written report accurately showed the test data numbers for drainage, but was very vague on drying rates, only to state that there was a “measurable benefit” in the drying of rainscreen wall assemblies. The report did not lie but was certainly misleading at best.
I wish I could say this was the only incident and an anomaly. I was involved in more testing for the hygrothermal transmission rates through exterior walls. I was talking with the head of the committee on the project test site during the initial phase of testing. I mentioned I was interested in how a particular assembly would perform. He replied in a matter-of-fact tone that this mock-up will surpass all others. How does he know that? What happened to an open mind? I waited for the final report and the report confirmed his previous comments to me, almost verbatim. I had to wonder if the test was legitimate. I have no idea but I was now more than just a little suspicious as it proved the point he was trying to make.
The unfortunate truth is some of these technological reports and studies are used to sway or even intimidate bureaucrats, designers and or politicians. Thus, they make their way to become law-in extreme cases to solve a problem that does not really exist. So this is what I term as the new technocracy. I love new innovation, but only when it is really needed, has real benefit and serves the public good; not to line someone’s pocket, build a cottage industry or unnecessarily increase construction costs.