Social engineering is a discipline in social science that refers to efforts to influence particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments, media or private groups in order to produce desired characteristics in a target population. Social engineering can also be understood philosophically as a deterministic phenomenon where the intentions and goals of the architects of the new social construct are realized.
I guess one could look back over this series and identify many types types of social engineering whether it is cultural/social, political, Religious or philosophical Wikipedia notes that Social engineers use the scientific method to analyze and understand social systems in order to design the appropriate methods to achieve the desired results in the human subjects. (use link above)
Okay straight off the bat is it a good thing or bad thing? I guess that depends on whom is trying to change the attitudes and behavior of the group or society.
In all the groups and individuals I’ve mentioned in previous blogs we need to ask what are they up to. Is the use of influence such as religion, philosophy, politics or science ethical in their different approaches to advocating change. Is it a benevolent utilitarian device or is it something we should be suspicious of and avoid altogether?
What I have written previously is pretty damning it seems at every turn some con-artist is trying to dupe a person or persons out of something. (you name it some wants it or is trying to figure out a way to get it from you) In one sense any attempt to manipulate influence or groom others is a form of social engineering. It occurs both on a micro and macro level.
If we look at how society changes over time we often don’t understand the very subtle mechanics that cause change. Especially today we see change occur so quickly that we often wake and wonder where the good old days went. Some of these changes are due to population growth, some are economic and others might be considered social/moral changes. Those of us who are older may have memories of sleeping on the front lawn or camping in tents in the back yard over night with friends or family during the summer or on weekends and holidays. Others will recall the first colour TV’s and the kinds of shows we watched that we thought were pushing the boundaries but are tame by today’s standards. Who can remember lining up in the bank to deposit or withdraw money from the teller?
Some of this still happens but over time because of increasing population, changes in technology and even how economics are performed today; our behavior has modified or has been modified by social and institutional change. Some of this has had benefits for us in that money is more accessible, we can contact others through our cells wherever we are on the planet both by direct calls or social media and we can keep abreast of all the news and gossip. We can even watch shows and movies or listen to our favorite music just about anywhere.
Then there is the other side of the coin where that war that once seemed so far away is suddenly right up in your face. By far away I mean there was a time when we only saw it on TV or read about it in the Newspaper. With all the new technology there is the threat of all your money being stolen or your privacy invaded or you’re being spied on by security networks. We no longer sleep with our windows and doors open and children rarely walk home from school… It’s all pretty scary!
Are we really making our lives better with all this stuff or is it actually harmful? To be honest I wish for a time with far less technology that living was still comfortable but far more basic. I look back to a time when Education was far less intrusive of young peoples minds where critical thinking, comprehension and even logic were taught. Science was more about if you did A to B then C would be the result. It isn’t that I don’t like my TV or computer, I do! it’s simply that as time goes buy they become more complicated but are engineered to only last a limited amount of time so that you have to keep upgrading (I hate higher purchase) To be honest I have a stereo entertainment system that I barely know how to use (even after five or six years) Apparently it has both digital radio as well as FM that I can add channels to but for the life of me I wouldn’t know how. Apparently I can run my computer through my entertainment system or TV as well… that is never going to happen!
Apart from this I am confronted with music that would never have been allowed on public broadcasting. My mind is assaulted but such an array of of different groups with their various politics or social agenda’s. If we had said the kinds of things back in 1970 that some people are saying and wanting today I have no doubt in my mind that they would have been locked up in a padded cell with a straight jacket on. Some might assume that we were backward meat eating Neanderthals that washed clothes with our hands but then how forward must society be before it has gone too far?
So now we come to the Social Sciences and philosophies of the world… lets be honest social science is philosophy it isn’t real science. It might use the scientific method as its basic form of research but it is hardly objective. I should know I have a degree in social science! Does that make me an expert on the subject? No, not at all! It does however give me an insight into some of the methods and presuppositions that are used that they claim are quantitative (statistical) but in the end are basically qualitative (observational) I reject objectivity and I hope that any serious Doctor of sociology or Psychology will admit that objectivity is as grasping at snowflakes. Your findings depend on the premise you base your theory on so at the end of the day that is all they are is theories. If one accepts evolution as the basis or foundation of life it then depends which model you use as your premise and which one you will use when the one you’re using has been falsified and replaced with another model. If you’re a creationist or believe in Intelligent design then you findings will be very different from an evolutionist. I wonder how that would work if your presuppositions were based in Buddhism or Hinduism and you tried to practice that consistently within your modeling? The point here is that social science tries to explain everything through naturalistic means both in terms of behavior and of development. Some models work better than others while others may not work at all.
What is disconcerting is how behaviorists sometimes set up experiments that only prove what we already know about human behavior but they do it anyway sometimes it goes badly. Even more concerning is when social science is used to modify behavior on a mass scale so as to change the way people think and behave. My go to example is George Orwell’s 1984. I know it’s only a work of fiction and it hasn’t happened to that degree but one would have to be blind to see that it isn’t happening. It is happening, it is happening as I write these words and I don’t see it getting any better. Of course the latest trend is all the gender issues floating around. that said, if you haven’t read 1984 or watched the movie I encourage you to do so it is a mirror of all the political correctness, equality issues that are prevalent right now.
On an individual level there are some who have an agenda to push. It might be how they are made up or it could be that they are simply just a really nasty bad person who wants control over others weaker than themselves both in mind or body. Some use their knowledge power and influence for the good of others but generally speaking where religion is concerned the big honcho’s end up with bucket loads of money and hundreds even millions of followers to whom they make vain promises. Even those strange individuals that pop up in small church groups with ideas that sound good on the surface or they complement all the right people and know the right things to say; are to me just too nice. My experience is that 90% of them are okay, is 10% destroy the faith and trust of at least 70% of the people 99.9999% of the time. You don’t want tell the 70% you told them so but what else can you do? Then they repeat the same pattern time and time again…
I am going to close this off where I began and come back to our definition of social engineering. Social engineering is a discipline in social science that refers to efforts to influence particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments, media or private groups in order to produce desired characteristics in a target population. Social engineering can also be understood philosophically as a deterministic phenomenon where the intentions and goals of the architects of the new social construct are realized.
Social engineers use the scientific method to analyze and understand social systems in order to design the appropriate methods to achieve the desired results in the human subjects. (use link above)