Finding Earth 2: The Signs
As we have all heard prediction is a difficult and risky process particularly when the future is involved. With luck, however, I have managed to lay out the currents we are contending with in Finding Earth 2: Casting Off that are about to capsize our ship. In short we are dealing with the failure of 1) The 18th century model nation-state, 2) Democratic systems of government in the semi representative forms, 3) Attacks on Liberalism that is the basis of both 1 and 2 above, in seeming favor of 4) Authoritarianism or illiberal democratic systems with, 5) Post-capitalist economics that is . hopefully, sustainable with greater equitable asset allocation.
Hopefully I’ve done this with enough objectivity that some judgments can be made on the natural outcomes of this massive shift. Another area of greatly expanded knowledge is the process of evolution. This is particularly unpopular with both the exploiters of confusion and the owners of the old systems of wealth who want to keep control of all change in their own hands. But that does not happen at the planetary and species scale that we are dealing with now.
Without pursuing this into the philosophical weeds, we understand evolutionary change as inherent in the structure of our universe. We induce change and react to it. We do that individually and in both small and large groups. Unfortunately we have only recently become aware enough to begin to look at the limits of our ability to understand and predict the implications of what we do and what happens around us. In short we are riding the tiger of rapid evolution that is changing us, our planet, and creating our future whether we understand it or not.
Many people are looking at these things and seeing different parts of the elephant but I think some things are increasingly clear. The currents leading to these are all around us now but they could be blocked if the current confusion allows the forces of reaction and exploitation to control our societies. I’m betting that language changes, that is the power of the paradigm change, makes that unlikely but the results, if I am not correct, are probably terminal for many of us. We just don’t have a lot of time to get things changed so that we can survive. The “we” that survives will be organized and will speak languages that are very different than the ones we are using today. The most important and hopeful signs that I see are summarized here:
I. Automation and Universal Basic Income
An area of growing concern and confusion is automation and what is popularly understood as Artificial Intelligence but is better understood as Machine Learning. This is understood as a threat to many if not most jobs. This is both true and false but for our purposes here it clearly defines a line of difference between the old and the new. The old, whether existing oligarchic organizations or opportunist exploiters, cannot allow this to be discussed. The basis of their control are the workers in their corporations. They must be maintained in fear and on the edges of poverty so that they will not demand changes that would take hoarded capital away from the oligarchs. While the logical response to high levels of automation and robotized work as it already exists is to begin looking at alternative work that will be required. In every case this will need higher levels of technical training or, worse from the perspective employment, higher levels of innovation and creativity. Both of these would suggest serious government study of these trends and of the type of training needed for a larger creative workforce. This is not being done.
The larger picture of this process is being addressed by Universal Basic Income. While this is being discussed among a large part of the population, the oligarchic and opportunists who refuse to see the future are denouncing it as absurd if they mention it at all. And where, as in the US, these forces have control of both the government and the mainstream media they can lock out any information for the mass of the workforce that believes the current government. The reality is that we are quickly moving away from even the pretense of living wage market employment for a significant part of the total population.
The Positive Trends: Primarily younger workers have identified this and are working to acquire skills that are usable in the gig economy. They are anticipating having to work multiple types of activities to earn money and maintain necessary healthcare benefits that have been denied to them by a failing government. The implementation of free education for life and UBI to supplement individual skills and interests will merge together very easily to improve living standards.
AI/ML (Machine Learning) will directly affect administrative work as automated learning systems and very large data analysis will easily handle much of the analysis, planning, middle management work of bureaucracy. This will provide another group that will require full UBI to be implemented while being able to take advantage of lifetime education to move into available and diverse activities. With adequate UBI this will provide, in effect, a large retired population that may choose to forego additional income for social activities, ongoing education, arts, and crafts. For those with the aptitude and skills will work in creative and social fields assisting in education, day care for young and old, and other public service ventures.
The Positive Trends: The expansion of the gig economy is positive but is limited without UBI or similar income supplements. Automation of administration with higher levels of Machine Learning approaching true Artificial Intelligence will continue to move local administration to automation and local government away from politics.There has been a tendency to keep local government increasingly neutral in areas where services are viewed as the right of the citizen. This could expand contingent upon other trends below.
III. Shrinking government
The large scale currents as described above would suggest that large regional governments, specifically nation-states are no longer productive. The collapse of large parliamentary or representative types of government has soured a full generation on the usefulness of politics as a means of managing services to citizens. Accelerating urbanization will quickly move up to 80% of the planet’s population into large urban regions. In many smaller countries the metropolitan areas actually represent the majority of the population. The duplication of government administration makes little sense and creates only opportunity for corruption. The growth of automated administration and rapid expansion of block chain technology creates automated and transparent contracts that replace the traditional intermediary role of bureaucracy both public and private. This will expand to eliminate much of the business of local and regional governments.
The general disgust with what are known as democratic forms of government distorted by the structural failure of the current paradigm have produced a generation that may well welcome administrative efficiency with non-political automation if rights and services are guaranteed and transparent in blockchain based delivery. This is the potential benefits advocated by the Chinese system of government although this puts that system as much at risk of replacement as western systems of rule. But the Chinese may be able to adapt to this and to regional models, Hong Kong is a possible example, more easily than the older forms of western government.
This shrinking it not the tired theme of distorted conservative parties seeking to end government for corporate oligarchic rule but, in fact, the expansion of public ownership of services for none political and efficient delivery without corruption of the capitalist collapse. The expansion of blockchain technology removing unnecessary intermediation will also accelerate the movement to digital citizenship that may eventually allow membership in groups with similar ideas without tying those ideas to geographic based entities.
The Positive Trends: Western governments moving to more local focus of administration including digitization in Estonia and other Baltic states as well as the rise of city-states. Major metro areas are increasingly active internationally in their own right and that is increasing with the growth of foreign affairs departments in major cities. This duplication will flow in favor of cities and away from nation-states.
III. Expanded rights and common ethics
A major problem in the current paradigm is the subjugation of human rights to nation-states ruled by groups with no interest in delivering those rights as they may conflict with short term financial gain for the elite. The need to provide equal rights to a diverse population has long been recognized as requiring absolute standards of rights that are above politics. This will need to be guaranteed to all people regardless of the membership in form of citizenship. This is the level that will need to be planetary is scope and will grow to deal with all life and the planet itself. This is being driven the struggle to survive accelerating climate change. It is also inherent in recognition of diversity and the inter-relatedness of all life on this planet.
This must be limited or ignored by the current paradigm rulers because greed must rule to meet the demands of extreme capitalism. You cannot actually give rights to people you intend to exploit. As the sorry history of the US shows a long history racism and misogyny distorts all efforts effective and open government.
The Positive Trends: The rapid growth of rights for diverse groups, sexual orientations, are an obvious example of this change.
IV. Complete rethinking of the ownership
This is more difficult to predict but, again, I’m being as positive as possible. We may always end up in a short term worst case scenario that is worst of extreme capitalism with wealth almost exclusively in the hands of a small elite and power in the hands of megalomaniac dictator or “Trump’s Dream Job”.
The problem of sustainability on a small planet with a probable target of 10 billion humans at the peak cannot be reasonably achieved without massive changes economically and that almost certainly means changes in ownership of property. As has long been understood balanced populations seemed to consistently maintaining the land and its output as shared. One of the primary early changes to a capitalist system was the destruction of the “commons” or the concept of shared property used for the common good. This had been something effectively owned by a monarch or lord of the demesne in feudal type societies with parts reserved for the aristocracy but with all people having rights to use parts of the domain.
We have been returning to that concept in a way for most of the 21st century with the rise of subscription services replacing full, private ownership. With rapid technology change and increased cost due that change it has proven easier to deal with things as subscription services. This, in a way, is a partial return to the commons.
With signs of the rise of metropolitan areas as the strongest administrative agent the concept of commons is still alive. Major cities retain parks and services in public ownership along with highways and infrastructure. In the most progressive cities this may include communal internet access. In terms of communication the move to 5G micro-cell services is a major change that may well be seen as a closer partnership between cities and communication providers. The connection of these services to a full range of infrastructure needs from self driving cars to emergency and medical services suggests a major distribution of wealth via local administrative services.
For the folks still in Earth 1 this will immediately be interpreted as the battle between capitalism and communism. Obviously it is not in Earth 2 as those no longer have any meaning. It appears that we are becoming more clearly focused on wealth in the form of common services and freedom based on control of our personal information. It may be that the goal will be no ownership except in the virtual sense of owning our selves as an information resource with everything else being a service. Our UBI will most likely be directly tied to that information asset value that is our birthright.
How these things work out must vary by region and city. The only absolutely common idea is the expanded rights of living beings on the planet. The only essential ownership is sovereignty over our information, that is of ourselves as the source of information of value to organizational units on this planet. That must be protected. Diversity and sustainability are the only other essentials.