A New Way Out
The straight and narrow path to the Future.
|Sep 14, 2020||1|
The Gordian Knot of Politics
We have been quarantined, indefinitely. Would anyone in their right mind argue that this is the ideal end state? The left and right have their own descriptions of the current predicament, but needless to say, the political system is not geared to produce feasible solutions. Broadly speaking, the left focuses on the unjustness of violence, and the right focuses on how a certain amount of violence is necessary to keep society intact. Both the left and the right are correct in their own way, and yet, they both deconstruct each other.
Consider immigration. The left thinks that the injustice is directed towards outsiders, and the right thinks that the injustice is directed towards insiders. While neither side is entirely wrong, political responses swing towards extremes: from open borders on the left to closed borders on the right. In fact, the optimal answer might be to find more efficient solutions that do more with less but this is typically not the solution that gets chosen. If we think of the US immigration system as perhaps the DMV applied to immigration, which on some level it literally is, it is not surprising that everything is so broken. The truth is that the very best no longer work for the government like they used to in the early New Deal days.
Hence, the net result of the left-right dialectic is not utopia, but a total mess. The dialectical synthesis of the left and right is not automatic. Instead, it will require the heroic efforts of individuals. Absent human agency, things tend to disorder and not order. Therefore, politics will produce an increasingly stagnant or deteriorating world, a world with rising costs for basic needs such as healthcare, housing and education, impoverished neighborhoods, loss of community and sense of belonging, a military state (or total anarchy in certain areas), and an inability to keep life-threatening diseases under control.
Perhaps we can go so far as to say that the left-right dialectic is not a dialectic at all. A dialectic would require the give-and-take of debate. Maybe the left-right dialectic is merely a clash of orthodoxies. Since we no longer live in a static and ahistorical world, the future is going to be different from the present. And if nothing is done to find an alternative to the left-right scapegoating system, we might inadvertently stumble into a catastrophe we might never recover from.
Progress and History
How did we end up with this political scapegoating system? The theory is that civilization was founded on the murder of a scapegoat, and history is nothing but the playing out of the revelation of this founding murder. Since the revelation of this founding murder, the scapegoating process has been greatly weakened, and what is left of it is called “elections”, in which every 4 years or so, we have a ritual mimetic crises that is sublimated by the deposition of a leader.
The troubling question then is, if this process is getting weaker, where do we go from here? Can politics itself come to an end? And if it does come to an end, what would that leave us with? One thing is certain, that we would be robbed of the efficacy of the scapegoating process that helps keep violence in check. Furthermore, in the path towards the end of scapegoating, we might see an acceleration of violence akin to the violence directed against the Jews in the 20th century.
If we apply this model of the end of scapegoating to nation states, we realize that maybe the mega nation state might not be forever. The nation state contains violence in both senses of the word. That is, it contains violence, in the sense that it prevents violence, by crafting law, applying military and police force, and judging people to deter crimes, but simultaneously, in order to contain violence, it must use violence, which suggests that violence is part of the very being of the nation state. A minimal level of violence directed at a few individuals helps keep the community at large safe. As people realize the true nature of the state, they will become increasingly repulsed by it, and direct their anger against it.
Paths to Renewal
Thus, we are forced to find a different way out. The new way out would be defined by some sort of human agency that produces a dialectical synthesis of left-right politics, and results in a novel solution to our current predicament. Founders must find a new way out between the Scylla of Progressivism that believes that progress is automatic, and the Charybdis of Conservatism, that believes that history can be stopped or reversed. As always, there is the impossibility of a way out if and only if there is an absolute belief in the impossibility of a way out.
Since politics combined with an understanding of the historical process ensures that relying on politics is a fool's errand, we should instead consider the creation of new cities or states (within the existing system) that are run like startups. The goal of such states would be to find practical solutions to the most serious problems we face today without the destructive distractions of partisan politics. We already know from startups that Founders are able to efficiently run organizations, and there is no reason to believe that Founders won’t be able to solve serious problems of governance if they are given control over them.
Fractal Localism for Mediating Violence
The primary advantage of new states within the existing system is to find practical ways of reform. From systems theory, we know that we can improve broken systems by focusing on parts of the system rather than the whole, since solving all problems at once is difficult. Accordingly, we should find ways to slice up the existing system while not agitating any powerful players to get to a good starting point for even more reform.
Furthermore, with new states, we can have more fractal localism. With fractal structures, the need for violence emanates less frequently, and when it does, the total amount of violence necessary to keep the violence under check is also smaller. So when mimetic rivalries emanate, they can spread very quickly within the large nation state because there are no boundaries that keeps the violence from spreading. And in consequence, a large amount of violence calls for a large amount of counter-violence.
When the whole world is globalized, you're going to be able to set fire to the whole thing with a single match - Rene Girard
With fractal boundaries, violence can no longer spread as easily. People are radically differentiated between jurisdictions. A mimetic crisis of one community might be thought of having nothing to do with the other communities. And since the total violence emanating is smaller, the amount of police-work necessary to control the violence is also smaller. The result is a net reduction in violence.
It is important to note that fractal structures are possible within a single sovereign like it did in feudal Europe. A disruption in the structure of power might not be ideal, but due to the paradox of power and the coming end of scapegoating, it might just be the case that even the most singular sovereign entities won’t be able to keep the violence in check without the aid of fractal, localized, and decentralized structures.
New Cities to Accelerate Technological Progress
New cities are important not only since they enable more fractal localism, but also because they will help us get back to a world of accelerating technological progress. The question of technological progress is critical to the future because it is difficult to imagine a stable equilibrium in which we persist a stagnant world forever. Thus, technology will help usher in the next age of prosperity by dissipating problems of scarcity.
But technological progress only happens in small structures, such as startups. In the 21st century, the development of radical new forms of technology, such as new forms of aerospace, nuclear, biotech, finance, law, and pretty much any heavily regulated industry will need innovation on the state level to allow for the existence of new forms of technology. However, complexity and large bureaucracies do not work well together. Startups are agile and fast-moving entities, whereas large political nation states are the exact opposite.
As we move towards a world of increasing technological complexity, because only technological complexity can help create a cornucopian and less-violent world, we also must move into a world with more agile and nimble structures. This is already the trend today, as see companies like Palantir and SpaceX providing state capacity. Smaller and nimble states will be able to adapt much faster to changes in technology, and will be able to reform their laws much quicker in order to enable the creation of more radical forms of technology.
The most important of all forms of technology is biotech, and the domination of medical and pharmaceutical mafias in our healthcare sector suggests that there will be a powerful moral force towards the creation of new states. It would not be surprising if we see the first successful longevity pushes in these new smaller states (the US on the other hand has had declining life expectancy in recent years).
Characteristics of Utopia
A lack of imagination is one of the biggest roadblocks to the creation of new cities. People have lived in decrepit and deteriorating cities for so long that they've grown accustomed to it, and cannot imagine better. And while a comfortable pastoral life is still available to those who want them, those are not lives that the very best will choose in a world that requires accelerating technological change. Cities will continue to remain power centers, and thus, contrary to common wisdom which claims that the future is working remotely from some farm, the future is in fact still in cities, albeit in functional ones. The challenge is that there are few remaining functional cities.
We must look forward to a new golden age of cities and make it happen. In the future city, the New Atlantis, the inhabitants might get the following (non-exhaustive) list of perks:
advanced transportation leading to negligible commute times and affordable housing
single-tax a la Henry George on natural resources incentivizing productive labor and disincentivizing rent-seeking behavior
no state surveillance
a fair and humanitarian immigration system
industry allowed to flourish without the chokehold of regulatory apparatus
vastly cheaper healthcare with radically better outcomes
family-friendly streets which means children are free to roam around without parental supervision
high-trust community life where nobody aggresses against anyone else (and thus no crime)
electricity and internet too cheap to meter
automation and advanced robotics providing abundance to the populace, allowing a life of creative and high-agency activity
These goals are not achieved automatically on the creation of a New City, but they will only be possible in a New City. We know that these are all desirable things. There is little debate around that. However, we must not accept the stagnation of our lives, and the stagnation of our existing cities. We must realize that all of this is not only achievable, but achievable within our lifetimes. It hard but doable. The only limiting factor is the absence of Founders, people who are able to will these new utopian cities into existence.
Against Anarchic Ontologies
Unfortunately, one cannot simply code up a new city in their dorm room. This time around, the model of ignoring the entire world to just focus on product will not work. In the real world, exit is no longer an option, and politics cannot merely be relegated to the margins. Therefore, nothing less than a total ontological therapy is necessary. In short, the anarchic view of world affairs is totally incorrect. Founders interested in city building have to become firmly abreast with the world of power.
Founders should thus focus on acquiring a power sponsor. So instead of building a seastead to escape from sovereign pressure, Founders should instead go straight to sovereigns, and offer themselves up. For example, a Founder might go straight to a government, telling them that new bases on the ocean (read “seasteads”) might be a more efficient way to continue to exert influence around the world. Or they might go tell a government that look, your city and state bureaucracies are corrupt and broken, just let us make this new city and we will give you a chunk of our revenue. In short, the model is to form mutually beneficial relationships with existing sovereigns in order to get started, and then being prudent about protecting your new city when you start becoming successful. Ultimately, the question of security will be critical for any new city. For that reason, one must find ways to secure actual defenses by the time you start seeing success.
All the winds are blowing in the direction of new cities. Founders are now armed with a fresh and correct ontology, citizenry are frustrated with the status quo, and people no longer want to be locked up in quarantine indefinitely. There is a new way out, and we must stop at nothing to build new utopian cities that will not only define the 21st century, but have eternal value in changing the course of history for the better.