Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Future Revolutions

Preparedness is all about anticipating future possibilities. You don't need to determine whether events or developments are probabilities or longshots, you just want to know that there is a reasonable chance of their occurence, thereby justifying in your own mind a logic in positioning yourself appropriately. In this blog entry, I depart a bit from the standard disaster-planning angle. Instead, I offer up a different view of the future that might be worth considering. The way to prepare for that potential future is to commit to a personal principle of open-mindedness; fighting the urge to pre-conceive the world as you want it to be (while maintaining the ability and willingness to stand up for what is right).

You ever wake-up to one of those "aha" revelations that suddenly put things into a whole new perspective for you?

This morning was one of those moments for me, though admittedly at the time, it seemed a bit more clarifying than it does now. Still, it is worth addressing here. I figure this personal realization was largely the result of two things that I had been exposed to in the previous 24 hours, somehow bringing about a bit of a subconscious convergence of information ...

First--I had read (or at least scanned) the current Time magazine issue's, "The Road Ahead," one of those panel-of-geniuses-discussing-future-trends kinds of articles. I found it particularly obtuse and unsatisfying. But nonetheless, it got me once again stewing over our global direction.

Second--last night I was able to watch much of a PBS program, "Three Presidents, East of the Blue Ridge" on how Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe, "enlightened" Virginia neighbors and friends, had become core founding fathers to ideas that changed the course of history. Interesting points addressed included the fact that they embraced the newest technologies of the time to run their plantations. So also, they together actively endeavored to combine classical insights with the latest range of knowledge, creating a degree of higher awareness that brought about the birth of a new nation.

Continuing Revolutions

As much as many of us would like to believe that we can hold fast to the ideals that over 230 years ago created the United States of America, time itself proves otherwise. I mean to emphasize that we are no longer a nation in and of ourselves ... and popular ideas and practices are not the same as what they were 20 years ago, let alone what they were over 200 years ago.

We are today inextricably interconnected among global cultures everywhere via commercial technologies. Of course, most significantly it is the global economy that is spreading and solidifying that connectivity more everyday (for an excellent look at where we stand today, see "The Pentagon's New Map").

Personally, I've never been a fan of globalization, but by now there's no turning back. To deny that we are global citizens on the fast track to erasing all types of nationalistic boundaries is to put oneself at a serious disadvantage in dealing with reality. It's not coming; it's here, and we're getting in deeper as we speak.

A World Without Borders?

International boundaries will remain on our maps for a while. Maybe for a long while. But the reasons for their being there are diminishing and their practicality will one day be universally challenged.

Perhaps we can still prevent the United Nations from becoming anymore of an albatross to our existence than it already is, but one way or the other, we're finding our way into a whole 'nother understanding of our time and place. (Heck, you need look no further today than how wars are not even about nations at odds with each other anymore. Assymetetrical warfare of the 21st century is about enemies confronting each other over ideas via economic and cultural tactics, confrontations in neighborhoods some of them share, and attacks in cyberspace.)

Let's face it--technologies, maps, cultures, and governments are historically ever-changing. Today, technologies are enabling an exponential acceleration in our societal evolution, and ultimately national boundaries are obstacles that will be fully overwhelmed and erased. Most people in America today still get bogged down in the nationalistic aspect of globalization, as there ARE supremely important issues of self preservation and self determination at stake. But unfortunately, denial is not an adequate strategy or defense.

United "States of Awareness"

This is where my light bulb was illuminated. Maybe the following new context for life has already been obvious to others, but to me, it's become an imminent possibility that opens up a whole different way of anticipating what our tomorrows may be like--or at least our children's tomorrows. And given current realities, I do see it as being a very real revolution.

Let's assume that life goes on for a few years uninterrupted by any MAJOR international conflict, or by a global pandemic that totally reshuffles the deck, or by a major asteroid strike, or a deep economic depression, etc. Corporate interests and investor profits continue to dominate governmental agendas. The economy and the environment make periodic demands of us to make adjustments in how we deal with day-to-day life. We as people are motivated by self-serving causes.

In other words, "the business of big business" continues to fuel the global economy, while the people of the planet buy into all the latest technological marvels. Apart from occasional limited-attention-span diversions, the global population becomes more and more self-absorbed, often enabled by the technologies out there that they can plug into.

In a sense, consumerism and technological advances often centered on the entertainment industries become unifying experiences for the peoples of the world. Inevitably, as they already have been, traditional cultural barriers continue to blur. "Crossover" relationships between people of various backgrounds are increasingly enabled by the internet and similar connections, and markets and constituencies become less about geography and more about common interests.

Think about that. It's already evident that one of the most powerful results coming about out of the internet's discussion forum and blogging cultures is that people of similar beliefs and interests find each other, sometimes magnifying their individual power to accomplish things by more than a factor of two, just by virtue of the connection between them. When larger groups bound by a shared passion come together online, potential for dynamic action becomes significant, even across artificial borders.

But while there are obvious unifying possibilities in technology, so too are there possibilites, even tendencies, for inflating the inevitable clashes ... with the chance for conflicts of epic proportions.

Bottom line, I'm talking about influence over the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Are we susceptible to purposeful mind control through our media? Yes. Unquestionably, that will always be a risk. But we may be most vulnerable to our own viewpoints, if that makes any sense.

Wars of Words and Ideas

I suspect that a reasonable conclusion is that this coming together of minds from around the world will not result in a single homogenized perspective. Indeed, I believe the greater potential is toward a proliferation of fervent special interests and a subsequent empowerment and enflamed wars of words and ideas ... wars that can erupt anywhere and everywhere, flashing across traditional borders.

It's a human trait ... we naturally are attracted to other people who think much like we do. We tend to congregate and reinforce those common viewpoints, often to the exclusion of strong counterpoints, or at least straining our capacity to tolerate them.

Talk politics or religion or ethnicity or even money and taxes--these are the kinds of topics that can spell trouble. Interest groups of this ilk naturally find inspired passions among participants. It doesn't take much to stoke the fires of discontent within a like-minded group if there is adequate fuel to pour.

Does it matter if the group is not a physically gathered mob? I believe there are many folks who can draw energy from online associations, for good or for bad. In the right situations, if a cause is justifiable in the minds of those who support it, the power of online suggestion and reinforcement can be considerable. The end result? Potentially, widely scattered unrest that can, if prevalent enough and focused enough, quickly bring about system failures throughout society and perhaps even pockets of anarchy. I suspect the greatest danger from something like this would come about as a follow-on to some other event that previously weakens the society's infrastructure.

Unify or Divide?

My main point is that as physical, geographic boundaries become less relevant, and national loyalties fade away, people will find common bonds with others who share interests and passions and viewpoints. As they develop those personalized bonds, they naturally become more exposed to emotional manipulation on various levels.

Potential for the development of countless, interspersed "nations" of special interests mainlining specialized information designed to incite discord creates a dynamic for the future that is worth thinking about.

Is it farfetched? I think not.

No comments: