Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


Letters from Downunder

The journey of a lifetime

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

And now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. George W Bush, March 7, 1991

(2/2017) Someone once likened the 20th century to a runaway train. We knew where it was headed, but the stations kept flipping past so quickly that we barely had time to register the names. Of course they were talking about technology, but it was an apt simile; from tape recorders to CD’s to bluetooth, wifi; from satellites to www to smart phone to tablets to facebook, twitter, the cloud, the spinoffs and lots in between. We just had to go along for the ride. We enjoyed it, the rush, the sheer wonder of it all, we declared a new day had dawned. New friends, new liberty, new information, new connections.

Someone else wrote, as a follow up to the first observation, that the rate of this change was gathering pace so quickly that it would soon be approaching infinity. No one knew what that meant, where it would finish up, or the turns it would take – and once again they were right and it would prove to be the ride of a lifetime.

What they could not predict was the cultural shock that some of the new developments would bring; the rise of the algorithm, the robot takeover, the automated rise of the elites or the alienation of an increasing percentage of citizens. Above all they could not have predicted the development of things like Stuxnet or the ciber warfare that is now sweeping the world. Add a reawakening awareness of the possibility of atomic warfare, and the result is societies that are no longer able to absorb the feelings of intense anxiety that have been generated. Understanding and adjusting to the incomprehensible realities this new age is introducing is nigh on impossible, making either numb resignation or free ranging rage the norm.

Up to now we have managed to cope with the new, we had time to familiarise ourselves with it and learn to use it. Any threats were external – terrorists, manic gun toters, ISIS, even government policy – but these new developments are permeating the skin, lodging in the brain like aliens, and no one can explain them or suggest ways we will be able to handle them.

Here’s some of the known known’s: Within the next ten years robotics will destroy 80% of the work currently done by humans. (The first fully roboticised accountancy office has just opened in Tokyo. This will be replicated as fast as possible. Robots cost very little to run).

Information will be further tailored to suit the powerful. Dissenting opinions will be corralled. The net will close around freedom and be drawn tight. Cyber security, already compromised, will remain a shadowy and increasingly dangerous battleground for supremacy and survival.

Algorithms will decide our fate. Their use is already causing acute distress, financial ruin and impossible demands to be met. We here have just been faced with pensioners receiving algorithmic generated demands for repayment of supposed overpayments, many so ludicrous as to cause a media storm. Algorithms are also the instant traders of the neo-capitalist system, helping cement the top 10% in their spot.

Automated warfare will be used far more indiscriminately. Pilotless drones are already the weapon of choice, with robot controlled artillery and driverless vehicles soon to follow. The threat of atomic weapons will rise, with no real means of dealing with it.

The swing to the right is already heading toward totalitarian states - in your place, ours, in Europe, Russia, South America, while it will continue unabated in China.

This goes way beyond politics. It is also goes beyond nations, meaning it affects most of the population of the planet. And this is not scaremongering. It’s as certain as death and taxes.

Which raises the next conundrum: A decline in the number of workers means a decline in taxation revenue. The rise of the right means business will be taxed less. Where will the money come from for government to function? Where will the money needed for something more than the minimum of existence come from? If there is no disposable income who will buy the goods produced? How will the elites make their profits except from each other? Gifting is being tried – where the governments hand out money to citizens to keep the economy running – but is almost certainly unsustainable. Add to this the refugee crisis that is going to increase as pacific islands become uninhabitable, and a very dark picture emerges. There are no experts in the overall field; plenty in the individual pieces of the jigsaw, but no one, so far as I can find, who can talk to the whole picture of post-capitalism.

So in a strange way it may be the best for America to have Mr. Trump in charge. Certainly the establishment seems to have no handle of the future – except more of the status quo – while he, unschooled in those ways, may by some miracle begin to pull rabbits out of hats. That’s unlikely, of course, as this really is a brave new world with dystopian scenery, but who knows.

The rest of today’s problems seem trivial by comparison, but as societies across the world are being drop-pressed into new shapes with unknown stresses and strains, an odd possibility emerges: A new union of cultures could emerge. Humanity has a long history of coming through cataclysms and as a result produce new societies. Nationalities would remain but have so much more in common with each other that a new sense of brotherhood might emerge – the rise of the right across Europe could well produce political and philosophical rapport with the U.S.A. and become a new world order. Maybe president Bush was indeed prescient.

Not one any liberal would want, but the tectonics of society are as unpredictable as those of the earth’s shifting plates. Thank heavens I won’t be here to experience the earthquakes.

From the (old) New World,

Lindsay in Melbourne, Australia.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker