Information Economics


More of a draft, where Brodey speculates on how what an “information economy” propelled by “pseudo-information” results in workers being dumbed down and further removed from enjoying life. Original is in the Brodey archives in Vienna.

Headings H. Intro

Stories 1) auto mobile

- overload

- underload

- operational

- spurt

- long period

- habituation

- internal economy

- external

- learning to drive

- habit driving

- emergency driving

Factory Worker

- same

- going anywhere?

- participation & road feel.

The Irish Factory

- pseudo (?) information must be sitted

Advertising family relations + T.V.

So many words! Why add new ones? People use words to justify what they do because they see no real choice. What happens when there is too little choice in our lives, when there is too much?

So we begin by understanding each other lets think of an experience many people have in common:

You are driving your car home from work. 

Drive at the usual speed. You are comfortable, you talk to the other passengers, or daydream, or watch the scenery. You realize you are late and push up the speed. All your attention is required for driving. There is a relatively sharp upper limit – you can speed faster but you will notice that if you go faster than this limit you are working at driving, below the limit your driving is largely by habit. Accelerating to a speed of several kilometers per hour more you can shift over the threshold. You as a human have some sharp levels where you shift your level of information processing or lose control.

We are used to thinking of a car engine being power overloaded – too many revolutions per minute – so we shift gears. But we are not used to thinking of ourselves as going into information overload and shifting gears, finally getting to the point that we have more decisions to make per minute than we can manage. Then we’d better slow, or we risk experiencing the fine feeling of hunting dangerously – keenly guiding every response (pushing the limit) like a race track driver to arrive home safe and exhausted at the end of the chase.

But perhaps the job we worked at all was a whole day of routine with no sense of control of anything, and, at last – the car does respond. The chase clears our mind. Though it makes the trip dangerous. Sometimes there is no way to drive home at a personally controlled speed we must go at the speed of the [line? live?] of cars. If there has been an accident this may be very slow. It is not so clear but equally true, that for a particular road, car, and person there is a lower speed which tends to put us to sleep. Particularly on a long drive. This is surely a common experience.

At the upper threshold we gave full attention to driving, told everyone to be quiet and at the low limit we turn on the radio, day dream, start argumentative conversations. Anything to bring the information load up, to manageable levels – but without care we easily pass into a kind of day dream sleep walking automatic driving, which on a familiar route takes us home sometimes without having the slightest notion of how we arrived back at the usual destination. 

There are sharp upper and lower inputs to the range of information processing humans manage well. This is very important to my argument.

Most people know that they are comfortable within a certain range of oxygen in the air they breath (sic) a certain range of food or they get hungry or stuffed a certain range of cold and hot, too, – but  how often do we think that there is a range of information that we need to be managing – if it is too low at the job all day we may try to increase it by using the car to bring the required challenge into our daily life, or we may reach home and start a fight just cause were bored.

I have used the automobile driving example so that we would have a common use of the word imagination, in the term information economy. And I should warn you now that my purpose is that we think through together what happens when increased production of material goods via centralized industry – and even more centralized monopoly – capital creates a sharp reduction in the information quantity available to the worker. Or another way to say that is – more goods, more security, more control in the hands of the experts in central city and more of a sense of wasting time, half asleep, day dreaming, sleep walking by habit to the same old destination. Except when on a dangerous binge of recklessnes – or terrorism, or just plain drunkenness with alcohol or Television or any of the many ways of artificially creating the feeling of challenge. The pseudo challenge of the day dream while driving your auto slowly in a long line of traffic, is not unlike driving an internal T.V. set.

Pseudo-information, can be tiring but it does not provide the constructive challenge that people need to keep awake. But I shall speak of the problem of keeping awake in a moment. In the financially rich countries we are a few are very well paid to keep awake; and many are poorly paid to stay asleep – just enough awake to pay their taxes and the like.

Thinking of ‘psuedo information’ may not be easy to us for we are in the last several generation carefully trained in the school system to stuff our brains with data unrelated to our true financial and information economic situation. Perhaps the process of stupidification is told in another example, a particular story this time: An architect friend returned to a factory building he had built in an ‘isolated’ community, where labour was cheap. He asked the manager – the owner was not living in the region – how the plant was going. “Fine” the manager replied. “We have had the usual problems, but we’ve dealt with those before.” “It would help to know what problems you mean” said the architect. “After several months, the girls working the machines began quitting.” Why. They were making more cash than they ever had before in their lives. They did not want to work any longer.” “What was the consequence?” We put in a hair dressing parlor and some stylish clothing stores and a little shop with style magazines – and they began work again.”

Good for soaking up money, for exchange, have a pseudo information quality. Such style selling and buying has meaning in a different – than clothes for warmth food for hunger; it is the way the user gets absorbed into giving up real choice by choosing between pseudo alternatives. Here the reader may justifiably enter into a strong criticism of my position. But if “the girls” in the factory referred to above had control over the factory and its production within a context of people shared control, they would have had the exciting choices of how to deal with the fact they were earning more money than they wished to spend and that this was disorganizing the non-money exchange in [something] . Their decisions instead of having to do with the straightness or curl of their hair would have to do with the future of their community, and its relation to other communities. But historically this is not the territory of woman workers’ interest. Anyway, the manager had learned to solve the problem of maintaining his factory before the workers had considered the consequences to their community. The manager did not have to struggle boredom. He could drive the factory faster or slower so as to maintain his information rate. He was the controller of the plant; much like the auto driver controlled his auto.