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Archive for December 9th, 2017

Walden Two”  (1948©, 1976©)  —  book review
This is another “classic” book (novel) I’ve wanted to read for some time.  No, it’s not the original “Walden Or Life In The Woods“, by Thoreau, or its sequel.  It is the fictional description of a “scientifically” created utopian community used by the author (B. F. Skinner) to promote his theories about (what is now known as) applied behavioral analysis.  It was Skinner’s belief that most of an individual’s actions (and cultural preferences) are determined by the environmental factors / variables / cultural norms one is exposed to.  While Skinner did not start the nature vs. nurture debate, he did go some distance in promoting his side (nurture) of the argument.
Basically, the novel revolves around an academic who is approached by two students to find out if stories about Utopia’s are real or even possible.  They have heard of one (in the professor’s class) and wonder if the professor would approach the person who organized it (the utopian society) so they could visit it.  The professor writes to his old friend who agrees to host them (the visitors) for a time.  The group of visitors ends up being the original professor, another academic / current friend, the two students and their two girl-friends.  The visit is to “Walden Two” – a play on Thoreau’s Walden which uses the sequence / numeric (two) instead of the “also” (too).  In other words, “we follow, but we are not the same.”
The “visit” allows the author to present his theories about how to “properly” arrange a society so it can maximize leisure time as well as efficient productivity to generate just enough to cover more than what the society needs, but never to exceed requirements so much that people do not have time to be and to become themselves.  As an example, everyone is “expected” to do a certain amount of work / chores, and you receive “credits” for the time spent doing them.  The “jobs” average to four hours per day and the remainder of the time is yours to use any way you see fit – eat, sleep, art, play, whatever…  The job credits are scored based on the number of staff who want to do the job, which presumes fewer folks want to do “harder”, “more tedious”, or “dirtier” jobs.  This, in turn, means you can earn your four hours of credit in less than four hours of work.  The “science” comes from the statistical analysis of how many folks ask to do the job.  Of course, the majority of jobs are also shifted periodically (again using analysis) to even out the more favorable jobs, too.  For those, you have to work more than four hours to get the four hours of credit.  The “surplus” generated by efficient productivity is used to deal with external entities – to pay taxes and for buying supplies which cannot be generated within the society.
This pretty much covers the general economics of the utopia.  The social engineering and politics are also covered and they are what was found so objectionable about the book that it was banned in some places.
Can man play God?  Can we make life so pleasant that free will becomes a lost / legacy concept?  Can we eliminate greed and/or the desire to rule others?  I don’t know.  My instinct is to say “no”.  And if we could do any of these things, is it a society I would want to live in?  Again, I don’t know…  But the book sure did make it sound appealing.  What happens to the six visitors?  I’m afraid  that would be telling, so you have to read the book to find out…
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!  This is a book which made me think about my own values and what I’d be willing to give up in my “society” to have a civilization where wealth was not the “be-all / end-all”.  If nothing else, that (“it made me think”) is a pretty good description of a “classic”.  …And, of course, quotes / excerpts will follow in good time.  (LOL)
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On This Day In:
2016 Learning Subtle Differences
2015 Dog Eat Dog World?
2014 And Sometimes Blogs About It
2013 Outside-In
2012 They Are All Perfect
2011 Delegation – The “How-To’s”
2009 Diet Update and Other Bits & Bobs…

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The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is courage.
   —  Thucydides
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On This Day In:
2016 Learning Subtle Differences
2015 Dog Eat Dog World?
2014 And Sometimes Blogs About It
2013 Outside-In
2012 They Are All Perfect
2011 Delegation – The “How-To’s”
2009 Diet Update and Other Bits & Bobs…

Read Full Post »

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