Essays

The Penultimate Change

               I have always been amused by the phrase “organizational psychology” because it implies someone can psychoanalyze a corporation. I admit that I am guilty of anthropomorphizing corporations. That big word simply means our habit of humanizing inanimate objects. It is like calling our car “Betsy” and acting like our machines have human attributes.

               In my case, I start with the premise that organizations consist of human beings and therefore must act like and be treated as such. Of course, that overlooks the fact that organizations also consist of humans who must act according to rules, procedures and processes in the quest for profit-driven or altruistic efficiency and that we do so with the help of technology. We humans are wedded to our technology, starting with the day a human picked up a rock and killed or crushed something or someone to eat or wear. There is no soul in the machine

               The problem with the organization as human proposition is that we could lose control of it. The day of reckoning is coming when the bionic robot could decide that the human is inherently defective and not as efficient. And inefficient technology won’t do. That is a human moral equation that some fool human may accidentally or inadvertently program into some AI (artificial intelligence) device. And it may not be a robot.

               It might be the self-driven automobile which wonders why it is driving around an inferior organism. Can you say air bag deployment? After all, we are eminently replaceable because we are functionally defective. After all, it wasn't a machine that killed 6 million European Jews, 5 million Russian kulaks, or 2 million Southeast Asian Cambodians.

             The automobile replaced the horse and buggy and picture film was replace by the smart phone. Our being replaced is no more than the natural course of evolution. All ill-equipped species must die in order for the superior, adaptable species to thrive. Homo Sapiens replaced Neanderthal man and the Star Trek Borg replaced Homo Sapiens.

               It won’t happen overnight. The slow transmogrification has already started. We now use bionic heart and limbs. Remember the cornball television series the Six Million Dollar Man? Soon it will morph into an entirely new body wired to the old brain. And then the quest will be for the ultimate download. That is the ultimate frontier. The first prototypes will have “bugs.” But the plus is that the toilet will become an archaeologist’s future artifact. They will ponder its dulled porcelain exterior and ask, “I wonder what this was for?” Perhaps an ornate flower pot or a big mixing bowl.

            So what is the "penultimate change?" The last change will be the one that terminates humanity and civilization. The penultimate change, or second to the last,  will be the last change that we can make to survive -- if we take it.