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Computer systems necessarily require maintenance by qualified people, though this is less true today than was once the case. Both in online communities and in other computer applications, decision-making is sometimes delegated to the technical specialist who implements the decision. The result is a TechnoCracy — that is, a political system dominated by a technical elite.
Technocracy was at its height in the early 1980s when computer systems had advanced the point where their operation mattered, but before the point was reached where it was common for decision-making (on access control to a resource, for example) to be logically separate from technical operations tasks. During the BBS era from about 1985 to 1995, a BBS had a "sysop" who could make decisions about the BBS but, generally, could not delegate this authority due to technical limitations. In business, the DOS-based LANs of the same era also were largely administered by technocrats.
TechnoCracy is reinforced by:
and is limited by:
- All-or-nothing access controls (e.g. root on UNIX systems)
- Weak or nonexistent oversight
- Recreational resource (e.g. game or online community)
- Difficult user interface
- Volunteer or poorly paid technical staff (attracts people motivated by power)
- Access controls that support delegation of individual privileges
- Strong outside oversight
- Important resource (e.g. research, government or business use): leads to more accountability
- Formal procedures and criteria for decision making