Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, starts a recent blog post very smartly:
Even better, Adams continues with what might be an excellent idea:
But unfortunately, in the very next sentence he goes and ruins things:
Rats. Right off the rails. As we continue, it's apparent that he's not really talking about "from the ground up" design at all. Instead it's top-down—based on Adams' notions, whims, and overweening hubris—and relatively totalitarian. Sample:
In my book The Dilbert Future I imagined a world with cameras in every room, and on every street corner, recording all the time, but encrypted so that literally no one could view the video without a court order. You wouldn't need much of a police force in that scenario because every crime would be on video, along with the entire escape route, all the way to the criminal's bedroom. Maybe that's too Big Brother for you, but if you reflect on how much privacy you've already given up to technology, it's not that much of a stretch.
That's just a blurb; Adams' post contains many more constraints and stipulations that sacrifice liberty and privacy to the goal of imagined "efficiency." Unsurprisingly, a few of his commenters refer to The Prisoner. And not in a complimentary way.
Coincidentally, Thomas Sowell touched on this mentality in a recent column:
One of the ideas that has proved to be almost impervious to evidence is the idea that wise and far-sighted people need to take control, and plan economic and social policies so that there will be a rational and just order, rather than chaos resulting from things being allowed to take their own course. It sounds so logical and plausible that demanding hard evidence would seem almost like nit-picking.
Adams imagines himself to be one of those "wise and far-sighted" people to which Sowell refers, of course. Although Adams proposes that his "startup countries" would "test a lot of concepts for building, banking, economy, energy, and lifestyle", he doesn't seem to notice that his grand "design" would preclude much, if not all, of the "testing" by pre-deciding most of the concepts. Adams is oblivious to the dynamism that results when free people are "allowed to take their own course."
So, Scott: good idea, but the implementation is straight from the brain of a pointy-haired boss.