NEW πŸ“—Story: The Fountain ❌

High and Low Technology in Vekllei

ί· Part of the bulletin series of articles

Summary

  • Vekllei is a high-technology, high-productivity, high-education society.
  • Large segments of its industry are partially or completely automatic thanks to the computerisation of data, planning, and mechanical labour.
  • Thanks to the marriage of incentive and capability, Vekllei is among the most advanced technological societies in the world, and its quality of life is dependent on these advances.
  • Nonetheless, Vekllei is not technocratic, and does not have utopian aspirations for its technology.
  • Beneath the visible successes of technological progress, much of Vekllei society operates on technology, machines and systems that have been superseded or outdated.
  • Consequently, Vekllei is best characterised as a high and low-technology society simultaneously, which speaks to their technological pragmatism, social beliefs and moral scientism.

Make no mistake, this bulletin is not describing a society where technology is straightforwardly fairer and people sacrifice petty comforts for better communities. This is not the case, and the use of technology in Vekllei is much more complicated.

Vekllei is famous for its technology around the world. In fact, owing to its cultural obscurity, Vekllei sciences have a quasi-mythical status in international competition. Routinely, the country contributes substantial advances in the nuclear, medicinal, material, and computer sciences. These breakthroughs leave impressions on foreigners and their press, since they are most visible in public life; in their cities, shops and communities.

Under the surface, however, things are much more complicated. Unlike most foreign societies, where advances in industrial or military science often trickles down into the household, Vekllei homes are simple and uncomplicated. In fact, to an American or European, Vekllei households are technologically austere and even backwards. It is not uncommon, for example, for Vekllei people to wash their clothes by hand in a tub or carry them to a laundromat. They do not own computers, televisions or personal massagers.

It is not accurate to describe Vekllei society as technocratic. Vekllei people are basically social utopians, not techno utopians,1 and their use to technology reflects this. Instead, it is more accurate to describe Vekllei people as being fascinated by technology, which understood literally applies not just to cutting-edge nuclear engines and biosciences but to types of technology that are discarded elsewhere, including steam engines and propeller aircraft.2 This distinction is obvious when you spend time in Vekllei societies and notice that, despite sending tourists to the moon daily, they still operate a steam locomotives on timetabled passenger service.

Example

Vekllei operates some of the most advanced forms of transportation in the world, including the Obsidia series of super-conductive trainsets (maglevs) and commercial space aviation. These are highly visible, and make good press in Vekllei and overseas. But Vekllei is a nation of rail, and most of their rolling stock are simple electrified units that are not so different from the types made at the turn of the millennium, because they are reliable and do their job well.

Even more dramatically, Vekllei still operates nearly a hundred steam locomotives in regular service across its republics. This is not simply for nostalgia or tourism, but because they are good engines that do their job well. In a social economy, the value of technology is determined socially, and steam locomotives are subsequently valuable here.

Technology in Vekllei is not just a question of efficiency or value but what people like. Human labour remains the most expensive aspect of their economy and in a participatory economy there is no means to compel labour outside of compulsory service. Consequently, people have to like their tools, machines etc. and this paradigm is at odds with pure technocratic utopianism because it makes inefficient choices.

A steam locomotive is slower, more labour-intensive and requires more maintenance than modern electric trainsets, but some people like them more so they put in the effort to use them. To that end, they do their job well, and represent a more holistic and personal use of technology determined by ordinary people.

This is a fundamental aspect of Vekllei society – not just that the government should hand down tools and provisions through central resources in an egalitarian fashion, but instead be forced to preempt the whims of a population who are idle, curious, irregular and often motivated by abstract social reasons rather than economic or ideological logic. This is why, despite their standard of living being dependent on huge centralised resources and organisations, Vekllei remains a voluntarist and quasi-anarchist society – because while they often choose space travel over televisions, sometimes they’ll choose steam trains over space travel.


  1. The use of utopia here refers to the ultimate social dream of their society. Americans, for example, have a utopia made up of the individual, family, success via wealth or community, and duty. Vekllei has a social utopia made up of its systems, beliefs and systems of government rather than machines, robots and interstellar travel. This does not mean an opposition to technology, just describes which serves what. ↩︎

  2. The opposite of technocracy, different from neutral and objective technology, is not backwardness and Luddism, but a belief in social relations i.e. democracy. ↩︎