Every once and a while, an article or story gets thrust into one's awareness that must be shared. This morning, a good friend - the man who introduced me to the world of cryptocurrency, nearly three years ago as we journeyed together through other realms in an ayahuasca ceremony - randomly shared the following news story with me via Facebook:
While it's a great read I'd recommend, herein I'll be summing up a few points that stood out for me with some commentary. To begin...
"After decades of exaggerated prediction, the internet is finally transforming politics, but not in the way the digital prophets expected. The 90s, you may recall, were awash with optimism about our online future: limitless information and total connection would make us more informed, less bigoted and kinder citizens. But the internet is an overwhelming mess of competing facts, claims, blogs, data, propaganda, misinformation, investigative journalism, charts, different charts, commentary and reportage. It’s not the slow and careful politicians who have thrived in this busy environment, it’s the people with the shareable cut-through messages. Donald Trump might very well be the first truly social-media politician: his emotion-filled, simplistic blasts are perfect for the medium.
"As a result, society is currently gripped by a curious consensus: that the internet has conspired with rightwing populists to sew up the future of politics. Noting the emergence of populist strongmen and demagogues, who seem to be digital wizards like recovering Twitter addict Trump, and violent opponents who seem only to bolster their support, many are comparing – with a certain grim fascination – our current turbulence with the 1930s. That is a very short-term view of things. The supremacy of the populist right is not the inevitable future. The rise of the right is better seen as an early skirmish in a much longer, and far more significant, technology-led restructuring of our politics and society. Digital technology has helped the populist right for now, but it will soon swallow them up, along with many other political movements unable or unwilling to see how the world is changing.
"Consider for a moment how your life has changed thanks to digital technology. You can become friends with 2 billion connected people, chose your own news, and watch/date/order whatever you want, on demand. Infinite choice and control is now the norm, and yet formal politics has barely evolved since the days of Robert Peel. Our modern political system came of age in the industrial revolution, which was a time of massive organisations and centralised control. We are now, however, firmly in a new industrial revolution, characterised by endless choice, digital technology, data, automation and artificial intelligence. The economy, identity, political allegiances, perhaps even the essence of what it is to be human, are all starting to change, and our politics will have to change with it. The current set-up, including the populist right, will cling on for a while, like a legacy IT system that’s too pricey to update, but it will shortly become redundant."
Indeed, times are changing.
As the author, Jamie Bartlett addresses - our world's entire political system was born out of an age that's well-past. Both politics and government have not adapted along with technological development, human consciousness, and cultural evolution. Huge institutions are playing the same old games, struggling to maintain control and do they're best to keep relevant - but let's face it: they're dinosaurs.
Granted, there are components of governmental infrastructures that may be vital to leverage as we move forward in the progression of organically-developed societal & economical organizational models that effectively serve us in this rapidly-transforming world. However, it's more likely we're overdue for some serious radical revisions in the way governance is conducted. *And of course, we're all familiar by now with the outlook that increasing decentralization is a big part of the picture."
In researching for his new book, Radicals, Bartlett has been travelling the globe connecting with all kinds of groups forging new ways of living reflecting a shifting consciousness away from the outdated systems, towards forward-thinking innovation and shaking up the status quo.
"The concept of authoritative state is gradually becoming obsolete. The rise of sharing economies with reputation models, digital contracts and cryptocurrencies makes the role of central governments useless."
Whether he'd been influenced prior or had his eyes opened at the conference, it seems Bartlett sees "crypto-anarchists" as quite the force in bringing about this (needed) change in the evolution of politics...
"Crypto-anarchists are mostly computer-hacking, anti-state libertarians who have been kicking around the political fringes for two decades, trying to warn a mostly uninterested public about the dangers of a world where everything is connected and online. They also believe that digital technology, provided citizens are able to use encryption themselves, is the route to a stateless paradise, since it undermines government’s ability to monitor, control and tax its people. Crypto-anarchists build software – think of it as political computer code – that can protect us online. Julian Assange is a crypto-anarchist (before WikiLeaks he was an active member of the movement’s most important mailing list), and so perhaps is Edward Snowden. Once the obsessive and nerdy kids in school, they are now the ones who fix your ransomware blunder or start up unicorn tech firms. They are the sort of people who run the technology that runs the world.
While the masses turn to the boob-tube viewing the men in suits with government titles as "our leaders," Bartlett paints a different picture here. While politicians chase their own tails and compete for attention and votes within a broken system, there is an entirely new generation of leadership emerging from the realm of cyberspace.
Satoshi Nakamoto just didn't create some simple cove. He dropped an atomic bomb into the existing system whose ripple effects have spurred millions of others sharing a vision of a better system into action to forward the decentralization movement. While government continues to fail, new systems are being built digitally.
And, no doubt - seeing the threat blockchain technology poses to incumbents, enterprise and government has been quick to pounce in, desparate to understand this new "trend" and stay competitive through the technological shift. Though as Bartlett outlines, they may be fighting a battle they can't win...
" That governments, businesses and friendly liberal types are falling over themselves to import exciting new tech that has been explicitly designed to undermine them is a bit of an inside joke. Most of us chase their latest shiny toys and have no real understanding of what we’re doing.
"The rise of crypto-anarchism might be good news for individual users – and there are plenty working on ways of using this technology for decent social purposes – but it’s also bad news for governments. It’s not a direct path, but digital technology tends to empower the individual at the expense of the state. Police forces complain they can’t keep up with new forms of online crime, partly because of the spread of freely available encryption tools. Information of all types – secrets, copyright, creative content, illegal images – is becoming increasingly difficult to contain and control. The rash of ransomware is certainly going to get worse, exposing the fragility of our always connected systems. (It’s easily available to buy on the dark net, a network of hidden websites that are difficult to censor and accessed with an anonymous web browser.) Who knows where this might end.
The psychology of collective minds is an interesting thing - how planetary entities such as governments and corporations take on a life of their own, exercising their dynamics through their constituents. i.e. The "bad news for governments..."
T'is quite possible. Yes, governments shall soon be forced to relinquish much of their power. And it's odd to think of how often we refer to governments as "they" - as though these entities are antagonistic structures run at the whim of some elite puppet masters - which there may be some element of truth to. It's a complex web of underlying factors giving rise to this perception of an us-against-them war, in which "political leaders" are viewed more as enemies than fellow human beings with whom to cooperate in adapting to ensure the survival of the human race.
Yes, "technology tends to empower the individual at the expense of the state." And perhaps, so it should. What is "the state" if not merely a man-made construct from hundreds of years ago, which did serve a purpose in organizing aspects of societal progression during a certain time period? Who says "the state" is relevant in any of the ways it used to, when the world has changed so drastically since its conceptual inception?
Of course, not all humans are smart. Nor are all flexible enough to abandon played-out ideological identities for the sake of evolution. "Old habits die hard." And so too, may many - literally or metaphorically - who choose to remain rigidly fighting for outdated systems and ideologies rather than open to new ideas and innovations that truly are shaping a future for the greater good of the whole through the underground…