Thursday, January 08, 2009

I'm gonna miss those guys...

Remember the studies that showed that a person in a room with a photograph of Abraham Lincoln's glowering image was less likely to steal than a person in a room with an empty wall? The idea is that our deep psychological architecture is more likely to behave ethically when we feel we are being observed. Thus, it should not surprise that deeply unethical people (Foucault?) conflate surveillance with punishment. So maybe the Bush administration was watching out for us, by watching us, and we should not be so quick to abandon his utopian vision of an intrusive 24-hour government, watching our internet usage financial transactions, and telephone calls.

Bernie Madoff is not a refutation of this -- he succeeded because of a lack of surveillance rather than a surplus. And, the one unfortunate psychological byproduct of surveillance -- the squelching of creativity and independent thought (*) -- was apparent in excess among his customers.

(*) This, of course, is why certain philosophies of software project management, which look great on paper and seem compellingly logical, often completely destroy all productivity, and why -- even when they work -- dictatorships tend towards a toxic groupthink that dissociates from reality and ultimately collapses.


Blogger Richard Ryan said...

Wait - Madoff suffered from a lack of surveillance and his customers/victims suffered from an excess of it?

And the waterfall methodology for software development is somehow analogous to the Bush administration? While the agile developers are the stepchildren of Foucault? I'm so confused...

3:07 PM  

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