by Mike Meyer
What are we to do? What will we become? Rapid change and massive disruption is building around us. The old is crumbling and being replaced while the new is evolving by the month. What worked before has been, or will be, taken away and we have not yet learned the new.
In most cases we are still lamenting the old or trying to pretend that nothing is really changing but fewer and fewer people can hold on to that. In America this is the minority that still hangs onto small time sycophants such as Donald Trump. Other countries are going through the same hopeless reaction. But that is already starting to pale.
There is a new planet emerging and it is getting to its feet and beginning to shrug off the detritus of the old planet. Most of us were very worried that this wouldn't happen and we would be pulled back in time at the hands of the crude opportunists and the functionally ignorant.
But the new planet is starting take shape and we can begin to see its outlines. The process of collapse and change that continues around us will take years to work out but as we see the form we can begin to understand it. It was necessary to make us face the loss of the old so we could be ready to look for the new.
As a stunning example of the change the laughter that met Donald Trump’s ridiculous opening at the UN General Assembly was the most important thing that had happened in a long period of decline. World leaders could simply laugh at the fool and let us know that they knew this was not the way.
What Trump actually said will probably be quickly forgotten as the laughter echoes around the planet. It was important, though, as a direct denial of the new emerging planet. Trump and his minions are attempting to return to old nation states days of power and brutality with no rights except the power of threats. Trump tried to do this by furiously denying the International Criminal Court and the Treaty of Rome. These are finally ready to grow into the planetary unions that are critical to allow us to defeat global warming and the mass migrations this will bring.
We need to move on. Denials will be forgotten as laughter is often stronger and will be remembered.
The desperate attempts to resurrect nationalism is already a failure. People are beginning to see what the future can bring. But this is a major change and that is hard.
The rise of old style authoritarians and the failures of representative governments in the 18th century model have created a frightening vision of a return to the brutal past. But this change is more profound as we are beginning to understand where the problems lie.
It is not democracy that has failed but representative republics as a system of government. People make lousy administrators. They make worse representatives. This is the reality of humans and numbers. There are exceptional administrators and brilliant representatives but they are a rare exception. Just as the philosopher king was a (misogynistic) ideal, that form of government ended except as symbols in constitutional monarchies, because most people fail in those roles. Philosopher kings are rare creatures, indeed.
Representatives elected by communities was a far superior approach. But that was the only available option to involve the citizens in the process two hundred years ago. An exceptional representative would become expert in the process of government and work to understand the details of effective administration to represent thousands or even millions. That system was far too prone to corruption as we can see clearly now. It is neither reliable enough nor quick enough to handle millions of variables in a society that runs at light speed.
The pretense of representation requiring nearly continuous elections at tremendous expense made the people running for these positions totally dependent on their sources of funding. They must then represent their true owners and not the abstract concept of a district of citizens who they could ignore. This is the republic style of government that must be replaced.
And, no, the alternative is not a return to inherently ignorant and corrupt dictators but to direct democracy enabled and augmented by technology. This is the digital democracy that will return power and critical decisions to the people while, counter-intuitively, replacing people as government.
What decisions need to be managed and made by humans? We already use AI modeling and big data analysis to project the alternatives of the available options. That is steadily eliminating millions of jobs better handled by Machine Learning and data modeling. And that is part of the change that we must also manage probably through Universal Basic Income but that needs to be worked out along with the types of work that remain. For most people the work that they do will probably not be responsible for the way that they live.
The need for human design and control in government in increasingly advisory in order to make the automated administration humane and representative of human ideals. That is already becoming the reality day by day. This is how we can involve people in selective decisions that ensure human agreement without demanding more than people can or are willing to give. This involvement will be required so it must be within the ability of all citizens.
We have come to understand that the old American republic idea of liberty is easily distorted into freedom for the few and oppression for many. The quality of life is not a vague ideal of liberty but the realistic goals of well being. Those are the practical realities of sustenance, housing, health, and education that creates an environment of opportunity for everyone and cannot be at the whims of free market operators however efficient they may be.
Our future is a truer democracy than the 18th century republics could give and they understood that hence the conversion of ‘democracy’ to republic. Democracy was impractical and, hence, impossible for the reality of human societies even then. But it is possible now.
Local Government and Planetary Alliance
We already have the basis for the planetary alliance through the Treaty of Rome, the United Nations Rights Commission, Migratory commission, and many more. The Universal Declaration of Rights and the International Criminal Court are the evolved institutions that are already the foundation for the new planetary alliance. Directly democratic local governments must build on these. We have seventy years of evolution of the UN and the planetary institutions that have brought peace, prosperity, and well being to billions of people within the fragile, volatile, and clumsy structure of nationalist states.
Sovereignty must be brought to each of us. Eliminating the old world of representation and corruption also eliminates the basis of nationalist states. We are each sovereign in our own planetary citizenship with our directly controlled regional administrations as our servants and protectors. The sovereignty of the local government is built on the sovereignty of its citizens who are also citizens of the planet. That is the critical need at this stage in human history.
As everyone knows we are now an urban species. We are at roughly 50% of our population in urban environments. Our regional metropoles are the primary administrative structures in which we live. Current estimates show that percentage rising to something like 80% in the next thirty years.
From an administrative perspective we have great governmental redundancy far from the residence of most people. These are state or provincial governments under sovereign nation states. What does this accomplish in the 21st century new planetary society?
One hundred years ago most people lived in rural areas with minimal services. The nation states had become planetary regional governments and represented the highest level of administration. Beyond that was unregulated trade and warfare. Now we have planetary trade and global climate disasters affecting all of us directly. Warfare is in steady and rapid decline except in hotspots fostered by global power conflicts as proxies for resource exploitation. What do we need these extra levels of government for?
Regional cities now act directly at the international level with their own foreign offices and international trade administrations. It doesn’t take too much to see the inefficiency of the older political infrastructure.
The rapid rise of augmented administration based on AI/ML data mining and analysis is the future and already makes government much more efficient than at any point in history. It’s time to begin to formalize the restructuring already in progress. Even without this we will see urban regional governments expanding. In America this may be the role of states in some regions, the Northeast as an example, while California has been edging toward breakup into predominantly metropolitan units. Regional metropoles such as Atlanta, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, others are the already the equivalent of provinces or states.
The pressures of technological change are driving this. Interestingly the complaint that I have most often receive when stating the future should be metropoles as the regional administrative unit is what about the farmers? Where does the food come for the cities?
Agricultural workers represent 2% of the American population with farms as industrial units managed remotely. This will continue. As we move to autonomous vehicles, the nature of our metropoles will evolve and expand. Millennials seem to prefer urban living and that may continue particularly as self driving cars eliminate the need for garages and parking structures in city centers. This will also open opportunities for more human centered city areas with more open park areas replace the old parking lots.
At the same time this will greatly expand the suburban opportunities for people wishing more openness or diversity by making for longer commutes an easy option. Being able to sleep, read, or work on something while your car moves you to the urban hub where you wish to go makes a two hour commute an option if desired. This would obviously make more rural areas options for living or working thus incorporating them directly into the metropole as regional governmental center. Effectively our metropolitan regions will be able to expand, as they have politically, to incorporate suburbs and suburban centers.
In short the technologies that are making a new type of local and planetary government possible will greatly increase both options for living and efficiency of administration. We will need to immediately begin dealing with all of these changes.
Not if but how to manage change
None of these changes are optional. They will happen and are evolving around us now. The failure or even regression in the old political systems is making political change an urgent issue. The paradigmatic changes driven by technology are forcing fast evolution of human societies to new forms. We need to let the old fail and pass away because it will take all of our abilities as a species to transform to a new planetary civilization.
This, of course, makes the bleating of reactionaries and opportunists attempting to play old power games not only more annoying but dangerous as our time runs out to control the details of how we will manage our selves and our societies. The first big timer in our history, global warming, is running and appears to be speeding up. Our options may begin to disappear within a few years. Many think that they have already begun to have slipped away.
I have no doubt that what I have described is broadly accurate in outline of how this will evolve if we avoid complete collapse into authoritarian fascism. We are, I think, already moving beyond that interregnum that allowed the most insecure and threatened to trigger regression illuminating the weaknesses of the republican, pseudo representative systems.
Sadly, governmental systems have tremendous inertia even in failure. Populations include a percentage that are reluctant to understand let alone manage massive change. But that is the challenge we face as a species.
If we take control of our social evolution we may be able to actually go forth and prosper. The alternative is visible also in the ignorance and corruption of the latest round of regressive systems. We cannot allow the Trump’s America, Erdogan’s Turkey, Duterte in the Philippines, or other nation states who have fallen into the trap of authoritarian reaction to trip us into disaster at the planetary level.
We must leave the past behind and work toward the future that is growing around us now.