Friday, April 2, 2010

The Future of Industrial Man, Chapter 7: Section 4

The last part of this chapter traces the ideas of 20th century totalitarianism back to Rousseau. Intellectually, such work is fun. At the same time, it begs the question “So what?” “Why should I care?” Drucker seems to be interested in it as a kind of apostolic succession or diabolic succession I suppose. The ideas are bad because the roots are bad.

Occasionally, I meet someone who has a direct connection to the early days of the computer. At the last meeting of the Computer Society, I discovered that a friend was a grandstudent of Howard Aiken, the 1940s computer pioneer who built the Mark I at Harvard. My colleague had studied with Fred Brooks, the designer of the IBM 360, who was the student of Aiken.

I am astute enough to know that ideas can move from teacher to student but there has to be some freedom of thought from generation to generation, or perhaps a backlash of thought. Certainly we all know the truism that kinds are often like their grandparents because the two generations can find a common enemy in the parents. We also know that system designers are often trying to correct the errors in their last system when they design a new program.

Yet, we like to trace ideas, good and bad, to their roots. Hayeck does some of the same thing in his book on the origins of the social sciences. In that book August Comte is the villain. Comte, of course, spent time in Geneva, a city he shares with Calivin, Voltaire, Piaget, Byron, Mary Shelley and the Geneva Bible. And what is common there?

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