10.31: From Facts to Values

We tend to seek the causes of change on our planet in the objective world. However, we should perhaps look more closely at our various subjective maps of this objective world, as defined in Figure 6-2. The arena is indeed the objective world but the contestants are our various subjective maps.

There will be no practical limits to the amount of information which can be stored and the rate at which it can be processed. The only limitation is our imagination. The arena thus shifts to the human mind. Which will triumph? Our dull or our bright imaginations? Our evil or our good imaginations? Thus, whereas it is easy to predict that informatics will penetrate industrial societies, it is not as easy to predict the social impacts of this penetration. It depends on imponderables like visions and values, self-fulfilling and self-denying prophecies. However it is reasonable to assume that our visions, positive and negative, can fulfill themselves. We may as well, then, have positive visions.

In this book, I have not yet talked much about values. However, I have talked values. The whole book is saturated with values. Indeed, one of my values is that one can not tag on a section at the end of a book about "values" but must include values as an intrinsic ingredient.

The "Three Interfaces of Adam" model (whether in the one-story version of Figure 3-2 or the two-story version of Figure 6-2) is impregnated with values. The person is central. One must have an integrated vision of the person within the total environment. One must distinguish between the ecosphere, the sociosphere, and the technosphere. To ask which is most important is like asking which leg of a three-legged stool is most important. One must consider not only the objective world but also our various subjective maps of it. Those value statements are all built into the model.

A subtle bias in favour of the ecosphere over the sociosphere and the technosphere is, also, built in (at first unconsciously and later consciously) by drawing it at the top of the model. That is, the natural environment (ecosphere) was here before us (sociosphere) and our various inventions (technosphere) and will be here after we are gone. Nature bats last. The organic model accepts this primacy of the ecosphere. It is certainly to be favoured over the mechanical model, which by some bizarre logic, models ourselves on our various creations in the technosphere. The author thus clearly welcomes the shifts from environment-as-cause to person-as-cause scenarios, from mechanical to organic models, and from a behaviouristic to a humanistic concept of the person.

Values become more important than facts for theoretical reasons, if the above argument, that the subjective map rather than the objective world is the source of social change, is accepted. However, they also become more important for practical reasons. We have reached a stage in which technology permits us more power than we have ever had. Info-technology and bio-technology promises to help us realize the human potential to an extent unimaginable only a few decades ago. Nuclear technology threatens to set the human potential movement back several billion years. Such conditions shift emphasis from means to ends. A life devoted to means must shift to one contemplating ends, with often disastrous results. Ask any lottery winner!

We can do anything but we can not do everything. Choice is necessary and we need values to decide among the rich smorgesbord of options opening up before us. Existential questions about how to spend one's time are a luxury for those who do not need to spend most of it securing the means of survival. This mixed blessing is being bestowed on more and more of us. The more alternatives open, the more difficult the choices, the more important a system of values to guide those choices. Our future is perched, rather precariously, in our own heads.