Not Seeing the Solution
by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ January 11. 2020
Seeing is what we are not doing. We have long demanded visibility into the the things that affect and, even, control our lives. This has been a long and contentious struggle for visibility and input into the management of our societies.
This produced the first written agreement to open that process to a select few with the English Magna Carta of 1215. This was an early effort to protect the rights of someone other than the monarch and extended family. It was an effort to give the feudal baron’s visibility and some say in any effort to remove their rights or affect the security. Needless to say it didn’t really work but it kept coming back and being extended.
Under the Provisions of Oxford in 1258, perhaps the first written constitution, the king was to rule through a council of twenty-four members overseen by a parliament. This was visibility and process input for a few of special rank but the concept was implemented. This was concurrent with the evolution of other forms of visibility in government administration by councils in European city states and representation by Estates of the Realm in France around 1025.
The great Western revolutions in England, America, and France from the 17th to 18th centuries were able to seriously limit the monarch or to eliminate that position completely. This continued with the rise of socialist systems in the 19th and 20th centuries extending the ‘visibility’ granted to those deeper in society with incremental but mixed results.
The problem with the concept of democracy as citizen visibility into the process of administration (a more appropriate word than ‘rule’ for modern organizations) is the willingness to participate but also the simple logistics of discussion and decision with some 30,000 citizens in 4th century BCE Athens. A working subgroup or forms of selected representatives of this population has always been the only option. But that is no longer true.
The struggle continues in the 21st century but with massive technological disruption that is still poorly understood. But this is becoming understood by the indigenous generational population of the 21st century that assumes the old socialist demands as given and is pushing into total openness with power only in the mass population.
This is the paradigmatic shift that has created the leaderless, populous revolts starting with Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and Hong Kong now. These are diverse movements with the usual mixed results but they are growing and not going away despite the traditional power structures refusal to see them as meaningless or simply mobs.
Make no mistake this is about visibility by the people into the process of social (political) administration. It is becoming a demand for total transparency in a way that has never existed before. Adding to the confusion is the abandonment of leaders as wielders of power. Personal power was always how leadership was defined in our evolutionary history. But management of vast structures with massive complexity is now, obviously, moving beyond the human scope. But there are, now, answers for that also in rapidly evolving forms of AI.
To the old order this is confusing because it is not about taking power but about directly influencing power when necessary. It does not fit the old rules of revolution dating back to the histories highlighted above which demanded power to be reallocated to a larger group but through a new, equivalent set of rulers. But if government is almost all administration of services and facilities then that is being and will be automated.
The most interesting change is that people say they fear robots and AI control but we now know that they are very open and trusting with work robots and their Virtual Assistants, such as Alexa, and take pleasure in working with them. This also includes the growing range of robot pets that are increasingly objects of affection. This suggests a logical shift to administration as process and not something appropriate for human expressions of power except at a much higher and more abstract level.
The core issue that is driving the extreme polarization of some post industrial and post modern states is the failure to understand the rules of transparency and visibility in society. As is standard now this is a complex and changing environment that represents very different realities. To start teasing this apart we need to identify those layers.
Much of the confusion is the result of older people, and those under their control, struggling to protect secrecy, hidden motives, and hidden actions that traditionally allow those with power to benefit themselves and their associates. This is cause of massive misinformation campaigns, fake news, deep fakes video, picture, and the open denial of scientific reality. The old realm of hidden power is threatened because it is almost impossible to hide anything now large or small. Three or more billion people on this planet have instant visibility into everything that is happening despite increasingly desperate efforts by the traditional governments to lock that horse back in the barn.
The goal is the maintenance of the traditional power structure that lives in secrecy and in the dark. The age old struggle for visibility is dedicated to opening up decisions and illuminating self dealing. It has always been that way as people, with power, tend to develop new motivations and personal quests for power that are not in the general population’s interest. In all previous eras this could only be countered by appointing (electing) representatives that would act as eyes for different parts of the population. Now those people can see for themselves what is happening. This is a profound and structurally transformative change
The difference between the old world and the new can be seen in the attitude toward online visibility. Millennials and Gen Z tend to be very visible on social media even as they learn to deal with personal information issues. They are much more open than anyone older. That is their world.
Older people, and those still in control, may use social media for their own ends but will either hide as much information as possible (whether or not it is actually hidden) and will repeat and repost information that fits their self image. While they were originally open on the internet that was purely a result of ignorance of the how information moves, is stored, and captured for many purposes. Once they learned that their information could be captured they became very reluctant to put out anything ‘real’.
The new leaderless mass movements completely rely on the natural multipath diversity of internet technology to build instant actions and instant communities. These put people at risk so diverse user names are used but it is surprisingly open in a way that is difficult for older people to grasp.
For the older, existing power group, they are frightened and threatened by the total lack of intuitive understanding of the new reality. Their reaction is to find and cling to conspiracy theories, misinformation, and distortions of reality in order to avoid seeing what is happening. On a personal level this is grasping at the old concept of privacy as invisibility from an illegitimate society. The acceptance and creation of fake realities is better than revealing themselves.
This is an effort to create an overly simplistic model of what is dividing the residents of the current, overlapping eras. If you think about this it becomes obvious how the different realities fail to communicate as they start from very different, if not opposite, assumptions about information and what that means to them.
An excellent example of this communication (and reality) breakdown is any Twitter exchange between Greta Thunberg and anyone maintaining denial of the Climate Crisis. Her recent response to an aging pop musician is repeated many times. It is not about you or me but about the science which is available to all of us. The science, as fact, is visible. In the new world that is where everything starts with factual visibility and not personal power.
This struggle for visibility has changed from what had become a traditional struggle for an alternative group to rule with greater or lesser secrecy to “Why do we need these ruling groups when we can see everything and say what we think?” This, of course, seems both laughable and incredibly threatening to the existing power elites and their generations.
But what does this mean? Not what the old order thinks. Great visibility into the planetary information flow as well as the full panoply of alternative realities that represent entertainment now reduces naivete and ignorance. The world is not friendly to Millennials as it has been pillaged and despoiled and they will have less, maybe much less, than their parents and grandparents.
They are focused on doing what they can for their future and starting an old fashioned political revolution or insurrection is not what they are looking for. I would also suggest another reality that these generations face and that is the bleakness of most career opportunities. These will be mostly automated out of human existence. That includes government.
This is a new type of leaderless struggle for a better planet and a better life and that means, unfortunately, getting the Boomers with screwed up ideas, greed, and little understanding of reality, out of positions of power as soon as possible. This realization is typified, now, in the acerbic meme: Okay, Boomer.
The Trump regime, while a massive planetary disaster, is fully symptomatic and has, inadvertently, spotlighted why the old elite has become completely dysfunctional. This is now visible to the entire planet and misinformation, lies and secret deals won’t cover it up much longer. The desperate campaign to hide information on Trump becomes more absurd by the hour but illustrates the terminal disease of the old order. Trump’s illegal assassination of General Soleimani blew up in his regime’s face so completely because it was completely visible.
The Iranians were much more capable, ironically, in managing information in a completely open forum. But they are subject to this visibility also and we are all watching. That realization forced them to admit their responsibility for the inadvertent death of almost two hundred people but also puts responsibility on the US regime as the instigator of the military action that resulted in this terrible error. Real time visibility removes the options of power games whether the old players even if the old rulers refuse to admit it.
Our world is now overwhelmingly visible and that changes how major, and minor, events are managed. This is not a choice but the reality of our world as it is coming to exist now. It is no longer possible to manage it in the old ways and the failures of those ways has become blindingly obvious over the last five days.