Friday, October 28, 2005

So You Say You Want a Singularity

Apologies to John Lennon.

Peggy Noonan has a piece regarding a supposed sense that the world is on the edge of falling apart. Numerous commentators at Protein Wisdom observe that there always prophets of doom, that cycles have down turns, or that it is a matter of reacting differently this time around.

I'm with those who see cycles, not only in nature but in society. Consider it a continuation of the gene/meme analogy. One of those cycles, a Giant Red Spot in the sea of variables that make up human history, is the United States of America. Using this image, I do get a sense that the cycle may be broken in the mid-term, if not short-term. Perhaps I should tighten down my vocabulary here: I think the government of the United States of America is going to be breaking down in a history relative short term in a manner very similar to that described in the Bruce Sterling book Distraction.
It's the year 2044, and America has gone to hell. A disenfranchised U.S. Air Force base has turned to highway robbery in order to pay the bills. Vast chunks of the population live nomadic lives fueled by cheap transportation and even cheaper computer power. Warfare has shifted from the battlefield to the global networks, and China holds the information edge over all comers. Global warming is raising sea level, which in turn is drowning coastal cities. And the U.S. government has become nearly meaningless.

The most telling part of what is coming is that last part. I think we are already seeing it. From Noonan's piece:
Roiling history, daily dangers, big demands; a government that is itself too big and rolling in too much money and ever needing more to do the latest important, necessary, crucial thing.
Everyone was laughing. Then, writes Mr. Lawford, Teddy [Kennedy] "took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. 'I'm glad I'm not going to be around when you guys are my age.' I asked him why, and he said, 'Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.' "

Right now, we have cycles that have happened before and things on the horizon that haven't, and we don't know what cycles are going to survive the changes, the government and nation of the United States of America included. I can't say whether my feeling (and yes I say "feel" as opposed to "think", a distinction I make very conciously) is accurate, because the whole point of a singularity is that it is the breakdown of causality. What happens immediately after a historical singularity is unpredictable because all patterns had been wiped clean for new ones to form. Maybe not wiped clean utterly, but it would certainly be the end of the world as we know it.

I think one sign of the singularity will be a critical mass of the population will realize that the Federal Government as we know it has become impotent and unimportant. Hurricane Katrina showed the impotence of all of the applicable levels. Hurricane Wilma in Florida showed that even an experienced and capable government can only do so much. Some signs point to the fact that people are learning that they need to provide their own security in addition to food and water after a disaster.

I will be the end of the world as we know it. We don't know what it will be afterward. Sometimes, I wonder if it would be better?

Thus endeth the ramble.

Link via Protein Wisdom

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