Sunday, March 22, 2009
Trip on Diversity,
This is the point that most of our social critics - most of whom are technologically naive - fail to understand: it is only primitive technology that imposes standardization. Automation, in contrast, frees the path to endless, blinding, mind-numbing diversity.
'The rigid uniformity and long runs of identical products which characterize our traditional mass-production plants are becoming less important, Numerically controlled machines can readily shift from one product model or size to another by a simple change of programmes ... Short product runs becomes economically feasible.' Automated equipment ... permits the production of a wide variety of products in short runs at almost "mass-production" costs. Many "engineers and business experts" foresee the day when diversity will cost no more than uniformity.
Customers wanted custom - like cars that would give them an illusion of having 'one-of-a-kind.' To provide that illusion would have been impossible with the old technology; and new computerized assembly systems, however, make possible not merely the illusion, but even - before long - the reality.
Thus the beautiful and spectacularly successful "Mustang" is promoted by "Ford" as 'the one you design yourself", because there isn't a dung - regular "Mustang" anymore, just a stockpile of options. This does not even take into account the possible variations in color, upholstery and additional equipment.
And, anyone who has attempted to buy a car lately, as I have, soon finds out that the task of learning about various brands, lines, models and options (even within a fixed price range) requires daze of shopping !!!! The material goods of the future will be may things; but they will not be standardized. We are, in fact, racing towards 'over-choice' - the point at which the advantages of diversity and individualization are cancelled by the complexity of the "buyer's decision-making process."