There are all sorts of metaphors being tossed around the Internet about where the whole mess is headed over the next few years . There are “explosion” similes , comparisons to various types of “collapse” , coyotes (or sheep) plunging off of cliffs , and so on . Lot’s of attempts to create a simple memorable image of something visually familiar to which we can compare our current environment (which is definitely not simple or easily visualized at all.) What they all have in common is that it’s headed nowhere very good . What they all lack in common is a time frame that’s any better than a complete wild assed guess (called a “WAG”) , and what they would all benefit from in common is a little more science . . . in which case you would have a Scientific Wild Assed Guess ( a SWAG ).
That is not going to happen , of course , for the simplest of reasons . Funding . The only money bucket big enough to pay for such a Herculean undertaking is firmly (shall we say ‘death gripped’) in the hands of folks who really , really , really aren’t going to loosen that grip for any reason short of death itself . The only science they are interested in funding is science that might hopefully ensure their continued possession of the bucket . But that’s another story .
The issue is : where are we actually headed , and why , and when might we reasonably expect to impact ground zero ?
Barring the application of real Science , or the slightly more probable intervention of God , that leaves only one positive alternative : go to some really smart people and ask them .
The best example I’ve seen of anything like that (possibly not since Gandhi negotiated peace with the British Viceroy of India) was when Julian Assange met with a delegation headed up by none other than Eric Schmidt ( once CEO of Google , now cyber spy master billionaire ) last year while under house arrest in England , and answered their questions for about 5 hours .
In this Post-Snowden era it is now pretty obvious why Schmidt wanted to question Assange , but why Assange gave that pack of spies 5 hours of his time is a mystery . I can only speculate. Maybe he was bored and lonely & just wanted to talk with anyone . Or maybe it was for the same reason that Zorro always carved a “Z’ on the shirt front of an adversary (demonstration of disproportionate superiority) . It doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is that the conversation is perhaps the closest we’re ever going to get to a scientific wild assed guess about the end-state , agency and timing of our near future . I’m not even going to try summarizing or even recapping the whole conversation . To read it , go here [ http://wikileaks.org/Transcript-Meeting-Assange-Schmidt.html ] . As for my own input , after one very brief digression I’m going to skip straight to the punchline .
So first of all (note: this is the digression) , let me say this , because it’s just burning a hole in my forebrain. Eric Schmidt is the epitome of the enemy . He is only slightly less brilliant than Julian Assange , unquestioningly dedicated to his own amoral agenda , and not about to give anything less than his 100% best effort to win it. Think greedy Mao, not psycho Hitler.
So , now , here is the punchline , the answers to Who , What and When that you’ve all been waiting for .
First of all , “Who”.
Not too many surprises here , but maybe one or two worth mentioning .
The big surprise is that for the first time in history this is not primarily a battle between Rich & Poor , Haves & Have Nots . The Rich may think it is , but they never were the sharpest tacks in the box , so once again they are just plain wrong .
Their core beliefs ( that wealth conquers all , and that wealth can always hire half the poor people to kill the other half ) are outdated and superceded by a new fact : their money and all that it buys is only a keystroke away from abject poverty.
The battle this time is between the Knows & the Know Nots , the weapons are computers and the ammo is information .
One Army looks like an unassailable bastion of Espionage Masters , with legions of spooks and spies and the wealth of Midas . The other Army looks like a rag tag of starving students , oddballs , and hackers hard pressed to pay for the pizza and cokes they are rumored to subsist on.
Nice simple image , and quite colorful , but wrong.
The primary combatants are computer literati . On one side (Rich Spy Masters) sit those who are (or work for those who are) in control of the digital networks that create & dole out fake money , and identify/neutralize threats to that process . The entirety of humankind’s support structures depend on money , and modern money (i.e. fake money) utterly depends on computer networks . No computer networks = no fake money = no control = game over . On the other side ( the Rebels) is a largely anonymous and loosely knit assemblage of computer savvy (mostly young) people who increasingly come to understand that although the system depends on their skills that same system is designed from the ground up to treat them the same as it treats the rest of the hired help . . . which is to say , quite badly . As for the rest of us , well there is no nice way to say it . We are , as we have historically always been , chattel and canon fodder . Sorry.
Secondly, the “What”.
Lots of people have had a crack at this one , with the predictions ranging from extinction to Utopia (not too many in the Utopia camp lately) . Some envision gated enclaves of wealthy, surrounded by marauding hoards of psychopathic road warriors . Some forecast a dystopic , but stable , Police State along the lines of “1984” . You name it , someone has turned it into a book and movie .
Entertaining fiction , but totally worthless as predictions go .
The future is the present . . . extended . . . for as far as practicable . . . and beyond which prediction is not even a WAG. So , how far is “practicable.” Why , it’s as far as the money will take us , and remember that money depends on computer network control which depends on . . . computer literati (if you insist on calling them geeks , then smile when you say it.) And what is the present ? I can’t help you much with that one . All I can say is , “Well, look around ! What do you see ?” Are there any curtains hiding any secrets ? If there are , then the curtains , and the secrets , are simply part of your present . It’s all profoundly shaded by your personal world view , values , ignorance , knowledge and curiosity . Changing how you look changes what you see . Little of what I say is going to change any of those factors by much . You’ll change when you want to , or have to , and not one moment sooner .
As Assange explained to Schmidt (and which , being a sociopath, Schmidt could not fully internalize) human nature does not change . It can be considered as a constant . But the information humans use to direct their own behavior can change . And by changing that in the direction of receiving better information , faster , then the progression of change is toward even more of the same , and faster yet . This is what the Internet does , and since the young Technorati trend toward getting their information and values from their peers on the Net ( and not from the media controlled by the bad old guys ) the trend is now irreversible .
In support of Julian’s conclusion just look around for evidence in plain sight. lots of people are changing their minds about the present, aren’t they ? And in what direction are these changes trending ? Right . So there’s your present , and a large clue about your future .
And now for the “When ” :
The current crop of geeks , even those highly paid in the IT & Security industry like NSA and their cyber security contractors, are visibly chaffing , and the numbers are swinging ever more in that direction . One day soon they will realize that they don’t need the likes of Eric Schmidt or Keith Alexander telling them what they are worth. On that day , the system will reset, and they will run the show. How soon ? Some time between right now and “retirement” of the old guard represented by the likes of the two reptiles just mentioned. So , what’s that , 5 years? Maybe 10, give or take .
In terms of day to day life 5 or 10 years may feel rather gradual . Historically it’s one sweep of the EKG needle . For all practical purposes it is right now . In other words , the end is not near it’s here .
This is what the end feels like .
War , until further notice.