This is the brutal reality that has been ignored until it couldn’t be ignored anymore. The general techno optimism was a case of mistaking technology driven paradigm shift with impending utopia. That is easy to do in the largest paradigm shift in human history. We are all moving full speed into unknown territory and the absence of a roadmap has led to ugly surprises as well as the discovery that other entities see completely different opportunities. The newly learning tech corporations have made the dual, stomach clenching discoveries that: 1) They are not guaranteed a future, 2) Youthful innovation is great for breaking new ground but is weak on backup plans.
You’ve done an excellent job of laying this out in clear terms. Thank you. And it seems that SXSW is the first of the new order events to have been unable to ignore the problems. There will be more of this. As you noted billion dollar corporations founded by youthful innovators are stumped and have no experience for handling that let alone the mess they find themselves in. They made some serious miscalculations in the heady excitement of bringing down the old corporations and replacing lunch with avocado toast but are now suddenly realizing that China is determined to eat their dinner. China is big and old and about as dangerous as human organizations come.
China will win. Sorry to add fear to both insult and injury but at planetary scale China has the history and ability. Their intellectual and sociopolitical models are not the ones we have. Western Europe was built on seeded technology of China’s last great era which collapsed internally about 500 years ago. Funny how that syncs with the rise of the west. My point here is that preventing a total Chinese splinternet model becoming the future will require very aggressive analysis and change. China is basically rational, built on knowledge and they respect that but they feel they have already learned what America and the West has to offer and they see the political collapse very clearly and are using it. And that adds immense weight to your primary point.
The critical issues right now are complete restructuring of our political and economic systems. Politically this is the semi-representative model based on the 18th century enlightenment American and French revolutions plus English Common Law and layered parliamentary. With technocratic rule. Economically it is capitalism based on frantic exploitation of planetary resources and human populations. We are seeing that collapse accelerating over the last two years with the most extreme versions of capitalism and weakest republic models leading the way down. Parts are working but the center has collapsed in the West.
The biggest problem now is the strong tendency to panic. This is happening politically with the weakest parts of the population and those naturally frightened of change following the siren song of ancient feudal lords who will personally save “their” people. China knows what that means and deals with them as nasty but weak leaders easily consumed or simply ignored. Things are far more dangerous in a nuclear world, see Kim Jong Un and Trump, so they may need to act more forcefully. This is the time of bated breath.
Technology corporations need to align with new governmental models and not assume that the tricks that worked in the market will work in total human society. They need to find new ways of doing things in harmony with the population. There is alway the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water.
As you emphasize, complexity is the problem. There are no simple answers. In fact there are no linear answers. All of us need to come of age in a inherently complex and nonlinear world that include infinite virtual realities. That requires the ability to understand what those terms mean.