The Eloi and the Morlocks of the future

The Triumph of Inequality by Spengler, PJ Media:

We spent a great deal of time talking about inequality of opportunity and outcomes. The tech industry  is fanatically progressive in its opinions, as the unfortunate James Damore, formerly of Google, recently learned. The tech industry’s drivel about diversity and equality masks a guilty conscience:  Digital technology creates inequality of a kind we have never seen before in human history.

Instead of talking about inequality of outcomes, suppose we talked about inequality of knowledge?

Three hundred years ago, pretty much everyone knew how their technology worked. Europe had lived for a millennium on the innovations of the Carolingian Renaissance: the water wheel, the horse collar, and three-field crop rotation. Everyone knew how a water wheel worked. Water pushed the paddles and gears turned the millstones. Not everyone knew how a steam engine worked, but a lot of people did. The same applied to internal combustion engines.

Not only were those technologies easy to understand: They were easy to make. Any competent carpenter could build a water wheel. The Wright brothers built their first airplane in a bicycle shop. Henry Ford made his first internal combustion engine out of spare parts in a backroom at the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit.

How many people know how a computer works? Solid-state electronics depends on quantum theory, which is understood by one in 10,000 Americans at best. To build a competitive integrated circuit now requires a multi-billion-dollar plant. A numerically minuscule elite invents the technologies we use every day, and a handful of large corporations access the capital required to manufacture them. Apple and Microsoft dominate their industries by making them easy to use. How long has it been since anyone typed an instruction into a computer, as we did in the antediluvian days of DOS? We use an “intuitive” graphic interface that does all the work for us.

The new age of technology in which only a few understand how it works will divide us in ways we’ve never seen before. Eloi who play video games and Morlocks who program them is how Spengler characterizes the future that awaits us. Inequality will be between the talented few and the mediocre masses. The society that focuses on equality over excellence will be overwhelmed by those who do the opposite. The byword in American education is “No child left behind.” In Singapore, it’s “You must be exceptional to survive.”

In H.G. Wells Time Machine the Eloi became cattle for the Morlocks. I remember sitting in a darkened theater watching that film, must have been in 1960, the year the film was released.  The Time Traveler speaks this line, “What is to become of the Eloi?’

This was followed by a pause in the sound from the film during which a member of the audience uttered quietly but within earshot of everyone, “They are eaten.”

The theater audience broke out in sustained laughter.

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