How widespread is social engineering?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by darksidZz, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. darksidZz Valued Senior Member

    I'm interested in hearing whether you believe social engineering is taking place in a controlled manner, or if it's more or less randomized. For instance is there any evidence that leads you to conclude there is a new world order subtly influencing societies through ads, etc.? Is there a corporate entity doing social engineering to sell product?

    Really this is an open ended question with many possible comments and insights, may I have some of your own.

    I'm starting to become interested in this area and may be getting some books on the subject soon, although part of me does see how it may be occuring on small scales I can't yet buy into the idea it's ever been done on a massive scale. Anything you can contribute please thanks!
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  3. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    I lived through the Cold War, when social engineering was a term we would have attributed to communist countries, Nazi Germany, and several dozen dictatorships that cropped up all over the world. They took severe measures to avoid what they seemed to think was an unacceptable form of social engineering: capitalism. But the West had its teeth sunk in deeply in the puppet states and fledgling democracies it was shoring up. We talk a lot about the anti-American atrocities, but the West was no saint. I recommend Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism which paints the era I speak of, in colors I vividly remember.

    You may have had a different more modern perspective, but this is what I think of when you mention social engineering.
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  5. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Of course, it's going on all the time, but there isn't one group or person controlling it all. Mostly we lie to ourselves.
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    One common form of social engineering in the US is the organized and well-funded campaign to establish the social norms of the Christian Church based religious fundamentalists as the coerced behavioral norms for the entire society.

    Similar efforts in Muslim dominated societies are perhaps more obvious or easier for Americans to see, since they are alien and more easily recognized as impositions.
  8. whatif Registered Member

    The world's largest social engineering lab is called Australia. You do the historical research. Check all the tested people management tools that were subsequently implimented elsewhere! If you want to be totally "blown away" by what's really happening globally today, check out the Amazon eBOOK by S. W. Norton! Despite its title, its really historical and scientific. Now you can rewrite world history!
  9. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    Social engineering is a term that describes a non-technical kind of intrusion that relies heavily on human interaction and often involves tricking other people to break normal security procedures.

    A social engineer runs what used to be called a "con game." For example, a person using social engineering to break into a computer network might try to gain the confidence of an authorized user and get them to reveal information that compromises the network's security. Social engineers often rely on the natural helpfulness of people as well as on their weaknesses. They might, for example, call the authorized employee with some kind of urgent problem that requires immediate network access. Appeal to vanity, appeal to authority, appeal to greed, and old-fashioned eavesdropping are other typical social engineering techniques.

    Social engineering is a component of many, if not most, types of exploits. Virus writers use social engineering tactics to persuade people to run malware-laden email attachments, phishers use social engineering to convince people to divulge sensitive information, and scareware vendors use social engineering to frighten people into running software that is useless at best and dangerous at worst.

    Social engineering is a discipline in political science that refers to efforts to influence popular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments or private groups. In the political arena, the counterpart of social engineering is political engineering.

    For various reasons, the term has been imbued with negative connotations. However, virtually all law and governance has the effect of seeking to change behavior and could be considered "social engineering" to some extent. Prohibitions on murder, rape, suicide and littering are all policies aimed at discouraging undesirable behaviors. In British and Canadian jurisprudence, changing public attitudes about a behavior is accepted as one of the key functions of laws prohibiting it. Governments also influence behavior more subtly through incentives and disincentives built into economic policy and tax policy, for instance, and have done so for centuries.
  10. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    Whereas I have mostly heard the term in connection with the objectives of various laws (and mostly related to U.S. laws). Laws post-WWII for example were clearly geared towards pushing home ownership as a value, and that was social engineering. The tax code is replete with social engineering in that some favored activities (like having kids) get special benefits while others (like having pets) get none.
  11. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    It seems to me that the term "social engineering" is more misleading than useful. When society changes its doctrines, it is changing them to fit a perceived need or adopting a whole new set of doctrines as part of a needed new ideological system. But all change is in response to need.

    When the need comes for the change, it is recognized and newer or modified doctrines are proposed by "progressive" activists until the militant minority backing the new or modified doctrines is able to out-weight the passive majority and implement the change. In other words, it is all ideological. It is a sort of swarm-theory process and has been going on with us for up to a hundred thousand years.

    It really has nothing to do with "engineering." The "social engineering" term is merely buzzword. It is used to give the subject a physical science veneer and the "social" part makes it easier to be more oblique and abstract. (There is no single definition of "society" in academia).

  12. psikeyhackr Live Long and Suffer Valued Senior Member

    Our schools practice social engineering.

    I went to Catholic schools but got hooked on science fiction in 4th grade. I remember reading sci-fi books while having three encyclopedia open on my bed trying to understand what they were talking about in the story. So I learned more science from SF than I did from my grade school teachers.

    But the nuns would give out these little stars and stick them on a board that tracked all students progress.

    "Johnny you got a gold star now isn't the WONDERFUL?"

    "Yes I'm really excited about that you stupid bitch!

    But if you watch "Fog of War" that is kind of a biography of Robert McNamara the same kind of crap was done to him in grade school. But the sci-fi books showed me that the teachers were rewarding us for learning unimportant crap.

    So kids are not supposed to be motivated by innate curiosity. They are supposed to be motivated by rewards from AUTHORITY. Isn't that social engineering?

  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Don't forget the Jews. The Israeli government has been co-opted by the ultra-Orthodox, even though they're a minority of the voters.
    Your premise is valid. In a modern surplus-driven economy, what is taxation but a way to adjust the prices of various goods, services and other choices?

    As for your example of tax deductions as a tool for increasing the birth rate, I'm not sure that one is working. If Americans gave any thought at all to the economic consequences of having children, there would not be so many women having children before they even finish school, much less before they get a job or a husband. These choices are well-documented to virtually guarantee a life of poverty for the mother and to make such a life quite likely for the child as well, if not so nearly certain.
    But who is it who brings about those doctrinal changes? Certainly not you and I. It's the institutions of power: the government, the large corporations, the established churches, with an NAACP or a Sierra Club scoring an occasional success.

    This is what "social engineering" means: manipulation of the culture by the people who have accumulated power. When the institutions of power are all in agreement the manipulation can reach frightening proportions, such as three generations of Jim Crow.
    But whose need? The needs of the institutions of power. Sure, revolutions occasionally happen without erupting into actual warfare, but how often? What typically happens is that our democracy actually turns out to be effective but just damnably slow. The people begin electing politicians who agree with their opposition to the latest bout of social engineering, and after a few more years or a few more decades they finally become the majority and turn the rusty old crank on the system to eventually overturn the old laws. And, of course, once they've learned how to turn that crank they begin to embark on their own social engineering program!
    Yes, but this is a feeble echo of the process of social engineering compared to the massively powerful version of it that is exercised by the government, corporations and churches. In practice, from my quick mental review of the last century in the USA, I would say that the progressive activists always performed these feats by influencing the government (by slowly voting in a new majority), the corporations (by voting with their wallets), and the churches (by switching to a new denomination).

    This was often accomplished by enlisting another institution of power which I haven't mentioned so far: the press--or "the media" as we now say. There have often been media moguls with their own agendas who have helpfully given better reviews to their favorite social engineering programs and excoriated the competitors.

    Notice that the power of the grass-roots activists is exerted so slowly (due precisely to the way the system of institutions of power is put together) that in many cases they're lucky to live long enough to see their causes fulfilled. Many of the saints of the battle for civil rights were dead before Brown v. Board of Education, and many who weren't passed away before Ladybird Johnson browbeat her husband into welcoming Afro-Americans into the Great Society.
    I think that oversimplified the process. Our swarms are much more complex now, with our institutions of power that do not always (usually? ever?) reflect the external society's doctrines, and which often don't even agree among themselves.
    I think you're once again oversimplifying a complicated topic. Why do Americans grimace at the thought of driving vehicles with turbodiesel engines, when European think they're the greatest thing since indoor plumbing? It's because their petroleum industry has been nationalized so it's under the control of Institution of Power #1: the government. Ours is still under the control of IoP #3: corporate America. So the Europeans are being socially engineered into a doctrine with a long-term benefit (energy independence) by a government that will still be here in the long term. Whereas we are being socially engineered into a doctrine with a short-term benefit (higher profits for several industries) by the leaders of those industries who know they will be dead before anyone has to pay the consequences.
    That has almost no influence in our compulsively non-academic culture. As the Head Linguist in this place I can assure you that that never stopped anybody. We each have our own definition of the term. They seem to align well enough that hardly anybody argues over what it means. If you want an argument you have to come to a place like SciForums where people will argue over just about anything.
  14. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    I agree that the institutions you mention make changes in the doctrines society funtions by. I think the only disagreement we have over this is that I see that all change is doctrinal because our religious and secular ideologies combine to shape how we all think. For that reason, it seems confusing to me to refer to the process with the world "engineering" as it gives the impression the process is scientific or science caused. More accurately, it would come under the catagory of "swarm theory." It is a universal ideological process that has gone on for tens of thousands of years and indirectly accounts for the evolution each civilization has and continues to undergo---from beginning . . . to end.

    What is the definition of society that linguists are aligned with?

  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Again, you seem to specifically ignore the (arguably most powerful) influence of the corporate world. Their "ideology" is neither religious nor secular, but commercial.
    Engineering was practiced long before science. The Romans were the most accomplished engineers of antiquity (some of their aqueducts are still in use and their sewers kept the European water supply potable until the Dark Ages, when everyone had to drink beer, lowering their aggregate IQ and making it impossible to recover from the Dark Ages until the introduction of coffee), yet they were absolutely not scientists even by the standards of the day.

    That said, when corporate leaders, deliberately, cleverly and with great expenditure of effort and money, create a strategy (invariably with advertising at its core) to inspire people to consume more of a product, to engage in habits that will make them more vulnerable to ailments for which they have the medicine, to form relationships that will be less influential than the advertisements, etc., I don't see how you cannot call that engineering.

    Especially now, when corporations have their own batallions of scientists who determine how to build those enticing products and how to make the enticements even more powerful. This is both corporate science (which I with great hostility distinguish from real science because a corporate scientist attempts to prove a hypothesis that will pay his salary whereas a real scientist attempts to find the truth) and social engineering.
    I have no problem with that, except for the fact that it's not detailed enough. Every Paradigm Shift our species has brought about (agriculture; the building of cities; bronze metallurgy; iron metallurgy; fossil fuel-powered industry; electronic storage, communication and manipulation of data) has brought about fundamental changes in the way humans interact with the external world, with our own internal biology and psychology, and with each other.

    Each paradigm shift overlays our fundamental psychology with a new layer of reasoned and learned rules and behaviors. To ignore this and regard our species as though we can still be usefully analyzed by a model that was perfect for the small extended-family tribes of nomadic hunter-gatherers in the Paloeolithic Era is not very helpful. I think a Klingon anthropologist could do a little better than that!

    As I have often pointed out, there is indeed a caveman inside each of us and we ignore him at our peril. He explains so much about our nature, from racism to sports to the Venus/Mars dichotomy. But that doesn't mean we should make the opposite mistake and ignore all the other guys in there: the farmer, the tinkerer, the bureaucrat, etc.
    Linguists record definitions, we don't approve or disapprove them. You're thinking of L'Académie française.

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    My own working definition, which is well articulated in Wikipedia, would probably not arouse any protests:
    A group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent members. Insofar as it is collaborative, a society can enable its members to benefit in ways that would not otherwise be possible on an individual basis; both individual and social (common) benefits can thus be distinguished, or in many cases found to overlap.​
    An extension to that definition that has become increasingly important as the technology of civilization has advanced, tells us specifically:
    A society may be described as an economic, social, or industrial infrastructure, made up of a varied collection of individuals. Members of a society may be from different ethnic groups.​
  16. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    What book are you referring to?

    RE: Social Engineering

    Hmmmm..... not really sure what to make of this. I'm not really sure what it even is. When I'm in Japan (and I'll be flying there this week) I find they have a "social engineering" aspect to their culture - and then I think, wait a minute, this IS Japanese culture!
  17. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    Of course the affluent class has power but they exercise it by either using the church (as the Republican Party does now) or they depend upon the secular social science doctrines which they regard as science to sway the media and accomplish their political intent. Commerce and business constitute just one of their tools. It is all ideological. Every thing we now think is shaped by these two ideologies, and it has nothing to do with engineering. I see it as a buzzworld that people are taught to use because it is what the social theory academics infer is "official." People should avoid buzzworlds . . .

    What is the difference between a "civilization" and a "society?" Is Islam one society or two, or many? Are we the same society as that of Ancient Greece and Rome? Do the descendents of the Mayans still have a society? Is Marxist China a new Chinese society? How many different societies did we change into as we evolved through the Dark Ages, the Feudal Age, the Enlightenment and now with our modern civilization?

    I manage to deal with such questions because I took the trouble to do what others in social theory have neglected. I settled on one, functional, definition for each term (such as "society") and am consistent with it.
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I see commerce as a secular social doctrine unto itself. (I don't understand why you use the term "social science doctrine.") The affluent class is the commercial class. Commerce is not a tool to them: it is their way of life. They clash with the church often enough that it hardly seems accurate to call it one of their tools. For example, if it were up to the commercial class, all drugs would be legal and it is they who would be reaping the profits from that sizeable market, rather than the Taliban (who have a virtual monopoly on the multibillion-dollar world heroin market). But arguably their largest opponent on that issue is the church.
    Again you won't find a lot of agreement on that, but I haven't gotten much disagreement with my definition. Civilization is the technology of city-building (that part of the definition is universal); a city differs from a village by size; people must live in harmony and cooperation with complete strangers; this requires a complex multi-level government to maintain order and resolve disputes; and it also requires a formal system of commerce to ensure the fairness of time-displaced transactions among strangers. Civilization has arisen independently on this planet only six times: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Olmec and Inca. Two of those (Inca and Olmec/Maya/Aztec) were obliterated by the Children of Abraham; a third (Egypt) was in decline when the Children of Abraham finished it off.

    The civilization of Mesopotamia has spread to dominate the planet, while splitting into two somewhat distinct and considerably hostile parts: Christendom (Europe, the New World, Australia/NZ, and bits and pieces all over the globe) and Islam (the Middle East, much of Africa and Oceania, and bits and pieces of its own, once including most of India and a big chunk of Europe but now just holding steady).

    The civilization of India has seen better days, having been conquered first by the Islamic faction of Mesopotamian civilization and then by the Christian faction, and losing much of its area (Pakistan and Bangladesh) along the way. Today its Indian roots may be dominant but it is as much a hybrid as a tigon or a zonkey. It has offshoots in nearby lands which have also been heavily influenced by China. It has exported Buddhism to nearby lands, making them hybrids also.

    The civilization of China has endured for thousands of years and spread to nearby lands, especially after being culturally colonized by the Buddhist monks from India. In recent centuries it was influenced by the British brand of Mesopotamianism, and lately it was even more heavily influenced by communism, which is an offshoot of Christianity ("to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability" is Marx's reworking of a line from the Book of Acts) and therefore thoroughly rooted in Mesopotamia. So China is also a hybrid.
    A society is a smaller community than a civilization. As a Westerner I'm hardly an expert on Islam, but clearly Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Nigeria, Indonesia and Albania are distinct societies, with their own languages, traditions, morality and entertainment. Whether Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Syria, Morocco and all the smaller and/or less newsworthy countries between them are separate societies or just satellites is a question I can't answer and which doesn't seem too important in this context.
    We are their descendants but we are hardly the same. Even ancient Greece and Rome were not the same society. We talk about Greco-Roman civilization, which by my definition is merely an offshoot of Mesopotamian civilization, but nobody talks about Greco-Roman society.
    I think so. They still have their language and various traditions and practices that distinguish them from the Mexican and Guatemalteca mainstreams. Of course their DNA is an olio, but as noted previously, a society is not necessarily composed of people from a single ethnic group, and that becomes more true with every generation. Whether this society should be called "Mayan" is a more difficult question. Especially considering that the Aztecs conquered the Mayans and took over their empire!
    Societies are like languages. There's no date on the calendar we can point to and say, "This is when the people of Iberia stopped speaking Latin and started speaking Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan." It's just as pointless to look for a date when they stopped being Romans and started being Spaniards, Portuguese and Catalonians.
    That's a nice achievement, but it only counts if other people at least understand your words and even better adopt them.

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  19. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    You are acutely aware of world history and I agree with much of what you say, but my fault is that I do not have the patience to respond to such a long and detailed, bit by bit, post. If you have the patience, I would respond if you took what seems to be the most important point and get to that point . . .

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