Not only does this reduce recidivism to zero, the prospect of being supervised by a drone for the rest of one’s life also serves as a powerful deterrent to crime.
For instance, once there is no need for a criminal justice system, one of the central functions of the state has been eliminated
Both were crucial in helping us to understand that the real technological revolution occurring in our society was not mechanical, but involved the collection, transmission and processing of information.
Banks, by contrast, imagined a future transformed by the evolution of culture first and foremost, and by technology only secondarily.
In fact, modern science fiction writers have had so little to say about the evolution of culture and society that it has become a standard trope of the genre to imagine a technologically advanced future that contains archaic social structures
For me, it established Banks as one the great visionaries of late 20th century science fiction. Compared to the other “visionary” writers working at the time – William Gibson, Neal Stephenson – Banks is underappreciated.
Put in more contemporary terms, Marx’s claim is that there are functional relations between technology and social structure, so that you can’t just combine them any old way.
Feudalism with energy weapons makes no sense – a feudal society could not produce energy weapons, and energy weapons would undermine feudal social relations.
For example, once a society has semi-intelligent drones that can be assigned to supervise individuals at all times, what need is there for a criminal justice system?
For instance, once there is no need for a criminal justice system, one of the central functions of the state has been eliminated.
The term “meme” was introduced by Richard Dawkins, in an attempt to articulate some cultural equivalent to the role that the “gene” plays in biological evolution.2
A society that is under constant military threat will have a culture that celebrates martial virtues, a society that features a cooperative economy will strongly stigmatize laziness, an egalitarian society will treat bossiness as a major personality flaw, an industrial society with highly regimented work schedules will prize punctuality, and so on.
Thus, for example, it is difficult to create bureaucracies in cultures that strongly value family ties, because the latter generate nepotism and corruption.
Similarly, one can see the emergence of “hypercultures,” which serve as basins of attraction for all of the others.
Consider the enormous influence that Roman culture exercised in the West.
The fact that, one thousand years after the fall of Rome, schoolboys were still memorizing Cicero, the Justinian code remained de facto law throughout vast regions, and Latin was still the written language of the learned classes of Europe, is an extraordinary legacy.
Societies with strong institutions become wealthier, more powerful militarily, or some combination of the two.
Most importantly, there has been practically universal acceptance of the need for a market economy and a bureaucratic state as the only desirable social structure at the national level.
One can think of this as the basic blueprint of a “successful” society. This has led to an incredible narrowing of cultural possibilities, as cultures that are functionally incompatible with capitalism or bureaucracy are slowly extinguished or transformed.
This winnowing down of cultural possibilities is what constitutes the trend that is often falsely described as “Westernization.” Much of it is actually just a process of adaptation that any society must undergo, in order to bring its culture into alignment with the functional requirements of capitalism and bureaucracy.
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