Fear of the unknown

The success of a movie is arguably linked with how much the people can relate to it.
The last year 3 movies caught my attention; not much individually, but when I saw the third of them I began to perceive them as a mark of our time:

  • Annihilation
  • A quiet place
  • Bird box

I am not much of a film connoisseur, so these are all pretty mainstream and relatively successful movies, and they all have quite a bit in common: they describe an unknown and unintelligible threat that impends over humanity. The threat remains hardly explained throughout the movie, and has the potential to change or destroy the world as we know it.

It appears our collective subconscious resonated pretty well with this type of story in 2018, and looking at the current status of technology, society and geopolitics, it seems hardly surprising!

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Slow Democracy

In the current wave of populism, and revamped risk of totalitarianism, I came to wonder how can democracy survive. What I was after was a realistic path to success that would overcome the inherent slowness to reaction, to adoption of new technologies, the inertia to change.

Framing the question in those terms, made it crystal clear that populism -and even more so totalitarianism- are simply more agile in times of change. 

When this realization came to mind, considering the supertechnologies about to rise -like Robotics and A.I.– and the risks these technologies bring together with them if not handled promptly, for the first time I came to wonder: is saving democracy the way to go at this point in history?

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Recap 2018 – Putting it all together

Robots will bring down 30% of the jobs within a decade.
Neoliberalism is starting to be antagonized by vaste parts of the population, igniting the fire of populism.
Social Media exploited and society fell for it and social divisiveness is already building up.
In short, the Belle Epoque of our century has come to an abrupt end: the mandatory happiness that characterized the first 15 years of our century, is quickly transforming into anger.

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Cold war 2.0 and Europe

Nato conducts a military drill in Norway with over 50,000 soldiers and 10,000 between military vehicles, aircrafts and ships.

Russia launches the operation Vostok-2018: about 300,000 soldiers, nearly 40,000 between military vehicles, aircrafts, ships, helicopters and drones. China contributes with 3,500 troops.

The American administration is questioning at the highest level the role of USA within NATO (Trump), all while supporting anti-European populist parties (Bannon).

All of this happened in the last few months alone. There’s enough to start considering whether we should concern ourselves with what the future may bring.

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The Bee and the Beehive

That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.

Marcus Aurelius, in –Meditations

The guy lived -and ruled large part of Europe- nearly 2000 years ago.

What is interesting is that this quote was used in multiple occasions by the mind behind one of the European oldest populist parties -Gianroberto Casaleggio of the italian 5 stars movement- and that it symbolizes in more than a way the founding principle of many other populist values.

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Deglobalization

What would happen if Capitalism was to come to a peaceful end at some point in the coming decades, as I proposed in this post?

Culture is a complex system of communicating vessels, and it would be impossible to shut down capitalism without causing a chain reaction of cultural consequences that are seemingly far away from it: it won’t be enough to imagine a different model for our economy to understand how our world would change.

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Post-Individualism

I wrote recently about how individualism has been a cornerstone of western civilization for over 2 centuries now, and how this may be coming under a little bit of fire.

I do not believe individualism is entirely coming to an end, but I do believe that it is about to be downsized as a value in our society. This is often the case with cultural waves, and subsequent over-reacting counterwaves.

But what would a post-individualistic world be like? Individualism sprung from romanticism together with the exaltation of passion, the seed of anti-conformism, and many aspects of our culture that are deeply interconnected, so it’s not a case of shutting down a single value, but rather the interconnected network of values that we call our current culture.

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Private Debt Apocalypse

I like the title… It’s a little apocalyptic, but it conveys the idea. We all know about public debt, a constant reminder of how many countries have been living beyond their means for decades now. I am not talking about public debt tho, I am considering private debt, and specifically the debt of individuals, as opposed that of companies.

When we say that many people in western countries live beyond their means, at an individual level means that each person has an average debt of several thousand euro / dollars. For many a large portion of it constitutes their mortgage, but also student debt, and even just the credit card debts account in average for several thousand dollars/euro.

If you google today “unemployment rate  2030” you will find wildly ranging estimates, only rarely they are lower than 30% tho.

When you have hundreds of millions of unemployed people being unable to repay their debt, you may as well call that a private debt apocalypse.

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Supernatural Matter and Socrates

I found recently that scientists estimate at least 90% of our universe is made of dark matter and energy: invisible, untouchable, undetectable.

How can we claim to know much about our universe, when over 90% is entirely beyond our comprehension? For all we know dark matter might have supernatural properties beyond our imagination, and yet, we have a condescending approach to anything that cannot be scientifically explained.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a strong believer in the scientific method and the burden of proof does belong to supporters of new theories if we don’t want to be stuck in a Flying Spaghetti Monster paradox, where the burden of proof is on the skeptics!

Yet, our inability to even perceive or interact with over 90% of our universe dwarfs every piece of knowledge we have -or even just think to have- about it.

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