The History of the Future
Timmy went straight from the breakfast table to class. Class happened in a sphere 15 feet in diameter magnetically levitated above the floor in a room across from the den. As the holographic displays were activated the rest of his class appeared around him. He got up and walked over to Bob, the floor moving like a treadmill beneath him so that he could walk in any direction endlessly while the virtual images kept their relative positions in 4D (time correct) space.
Bob returned a game to Timmy. The game representation flickered momentarily in his virtual hand until the 3 TB of data steadied when the download had completed a tenth of a second later. The moving floor and the 360 holographic displays put Timmy in the center of an unlimited virtual world that he had long regarded as real.
Today's session was titled: Prelude to the Jovian Revolt. Suddenly the class was back in the early 21st century, a hundred years before, in a place that used to be called Manhattan. The people wore crude clothes of the era and carried ridiculously primitive communications devices which they talked into through input devices connected by wires. The voiceover said:
In 2014 people still identified themselves by 'nationalities' or by 'countries'. Nearly of the people shown walking through these scenes would have said "I am this nationality". But even then they were in the irreversible process of moving to subnational identities. Nearly everyone in this scene already carried plastic cards with embedded information which entitled them to do different things; drive cars or fly planes, admit them into certain places, allow them to walk out of a store with certain things. People were already operationally defined, not by national identity, but by their individual identity and status.
But not all the relevant information was imprinted on a card. The most important descriptor was not stored locally. It existed instead as poorly defined token that other people assigned to the individual. We now know this token as "reputation".
Only after the 30th Amendment, the so-called "David Gregory" Amendment did the concept of reputation become formal enshrined. The 30th Amendment, which repeals the Second, reads "the right of the enlightened people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." It establishes the primacy of the person over the law; of reputation over fact. It soon became actually impossible for persons of a high reputation to do a legal wrong. The 31st Amendment, sometimes called the "Ta-Nehisi Coates Rejection amendment" actually reads "good people cannot be racist and their actions must be construed in accordance with their high moral standards".
From then on the principle that "it is not what a person does but who a person is" gained legal momentum. Everywhere people began treating each other in a differentiated manner. Gun companies reserved the right to sell their goods only to selected sorts of people, some stores actually refused to sell weapons to persons who had voted for a President Obama.
By the same token individuals who belonged to certain races, sexual orientations, etc were accorded special privileges by the Obamites. To counter the 'clingers' the Obamites declared themselves born special and the anti-Obamites retaliated by classifying them as dirt.
What the law of the land said mattered less and less. What mattered more and more was which group you belonged to. The breaking point came when so-called illegal aliens were given more legal rights by the Obamites than the legal citizens of a given nation. From that time forward the central role of nationality as an identifier was doomed because it was clear it counted for nothing.
The class found itself walking through Mumbai, 2025. It looked much more modern than Manhattan. And then the scene shifted to public housing in Blackburn, Lancashire. The contrast between dark English speaking professionals and white European drunks collapsed in the walkways was illustrative. Those who were walking in Blackburn spoke in a barely recognizable, almost illiterate form of English. Those in Mumbai were clearly better educated and functional.
By the second quarter of the 21st century the distinction between the First and Third Worlds was nearly erased. Most research, production and distribution was performed on a largely individual basis. Companies were virtual. Since all workflows were virtual the actual physical location of persons invovled in a process was irrelevant. Remote manufacturing, design and automated logistical technologies made it possible to perform any role except manufacturing anywhere -- even from an airliner flying across an ocean.
Parts in large and small sizes were made in a myriad locations and picked up by self-driving vans and combined into vast streams of goods which were aggregated and redistributed endlessly throughout the world. It was possible to be rich anywhere and also to be poor anywhere. Every community resembled every other in the sense that the dividing lines were between individuals rather than by national boundary.
Mumbai and England are shown here in the process of convergence. By 2040 there would be more educated English speakers in an average Indian town than in Britain, though after the welfare state collapsed in the former United Kingdom a period of of Reform took place (Britain became like the rest of the world) and the standard of wealth and individual education rose again.
By 2050 income and activity profiles across the world were remarkably flat. By then there was no net benefit to being British or Indian or Chinese. All that mattered was what you knew; where you "were" became an increasingly meaningless concept in a world of universal connectivity.
There only remained one problem. Who would perform the role formerly belonging to the State?
The class was now walking through a virtual Schipol Airport, 2030. A young man in blue jeans was pulling his travel bags towards the entrance. Suddenly dozen objects, no larger than crickets converged on him from all sides and detonated small shaped charges against his skull. He fell to the ground, smoke pouring from his eye sockets. A gold, ceremonial drone hopped on to him and spray painted on the corpse: "enemy combatant, US citizen, list number 117.c.8
You have just witnessed actual scene of Drone Justice reconstructed from security 'video'. The person was killed in connection with an affair that historians are debating to this day. By 2025 jurisdictions were beginning to dissolve.
The dissolution of borders began is often reckoned from when Barack Obama asserted the right to punish anyone, anywhere for crimes that he alone knew.
What was not known until later was that other nations began asserting the same rights. A link from the old Internet shows how the same President Obama had tacitly granted immunity to the Chinese for committing crimes in what used to be America. "President Barack Obama two years ago rejected a series of tough actions against China, including counter-cyber attacks and economic sanctions, for Beijing’s aggressive campaign of cyber espionage against the U.S. government and private businesses networks, according to administration officials."
It was reciprocal. Obama could kill people and China would remain silent, but other Presidents could do the same and he too would remain silent. And so it went. Washington would "drone" its enemies. The Chinese and the Russians and the Islamic power groups would contract assassins to do similar things. Each turned a blind eye to the other for so long as members of key elite groups were left off the list of targets.
By 2030 it was clear that there was no protection in mere citizenship -- being 'American' or 'Canadian' meant nothing; it granted no protection. Even in 2015 people would no longer say, as they formerly did "you can't do this to me! I'm an American! Or I'm British!" No they would appeal to their individual status. They would say, "I'm David Gregory or I'm Piers Morgan".
In 2032 Jason Boyd established Boyd's of London to fill new need for governance services in the newly fragmented world. People stopped paying taxes to maintain militaries which would not defend them. Instead, they took out policies at Boyd's which guaranteed reprisal against any capricious act of violence directed against you. The way it worked is that if some killed you for an insufficient reason, the policy would fund a reprisal.
This curbed the capricious drone killings. By 2040, Boyd's was selling the Alpha policy which protected its holder from a unjustifiable murder hit even when ordered by a head of state. A contemporary ad states: "even the Russian president respects Boyd's Alpha. Alpha: the only game in town.
All legal processes were now consensual between individuals and their reputation groups. All legal proceedings occurred through what was called the Arbitration. In the Arbitration, evidence was presented against a person and if it was credible and serious, he would be surrendered for punishment or made to perform restitution in exchange for a Reciprocity Coupon, which entitled that Rep Group to points in any Arbitration it brought against any other group.
The new governance in many ways resembled that of the Ottoman Empire. You belonged to a community. 'Country' was just a geographical descriptor.
The class is now walking through the near-modern world of 2085. Automated road trains ply the roads. People on physical errands rode self-driving vehicles. There was a lot of bustle, but not a lot of people on the streets. There are almost no signs of differentiating nationality to the scene. The place shown could have been Mumbai. It could also have been Blackburn, Lancashire.
The next scene pans upward to a time lapse depiction of a lunar city that appears to show it growing like an organism. This was the next revolution.
This is Moon Base Alpha, 2085: the first self-replicating city in the Solar System. Luna was chosen as a pilot site because of fears by GreenNation that the first commercial nano-construction could spin out of control, like a virus on earth. It was deemed safe enough to try on the moon. There, microprogrammed nanobots soon made anything out of anything. Whole streets, factories, homes, complexes -- towers a mile high -- rose directly from the the lunar dust or from material moved around through automated vehicles and handling systems.
Moon Base Alpha's demonstrated success brought a revolution in costs. Not only did it become unimaginably cheap to build anything out of anything, it tilted the costs of manufacturing from Earth to any place off-world. Once the costs of living and manufacturing in outer space depended only on the local availability, distance became a minor consideration in human expansion. The barriers to economic activity in the Solar System fell everywhere. And the biggest source of raw material was in planets, where cheap development was possible because it did not have to avoid for cultural sites, deal with human governments or build around pre-existing settlements of people, that was where the building happened.
Then followed the next big project, which as you all know, was the bulk carrier network on the low-energy gravitational pathways of the interplanetary superhighway. Today, more than four billion bulk carriers circulate along this gravitational highway which now plays a role analogous to the sea-routes of the 20th century.
Which brings us to the subject of the Jovian Revolt. Within a few short years human activity had essentially escaped the power of bureaucratic control. By 2099, via the exponential potentialities of self-replication the output of offworld manufacturing exceeded for the first time the entire cumulative economic output of earth. Sensing a crisis, the United Nations attempted to impose what was known as Terran Sovereignty, the principle that all human outposts where ever they might be were "indissolubly linked" to the authority of the Human Race as represented by the United Nations and it's "enlightened representatives".
It was, depending on your point of view, either the last gasp of government or the beginning of the present conflict. You know how matters have stood since the colonies on Mars were destroyed. The most burning political question is now whether whether humanity can still move to a reconciliation or whether the off worlders because of the injuries endured have acquired the "inalienable right to disappear into the heavens"; to hide as it were from those who would reimpose governance.
In 1776 a group of men on North America, earth, assumed the right "to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them". The current dilemma goes much deeper. The issue is whether individuals have the right to free themselves of the powers of the earth entirely and deal directly with God and nature.
Perhaps the most vocal proponents of the Right of Disappearance are the Jews, who are now secretively based in the Oort Cloud. After the historical Israel was destroyed in 2070 by the Caliphate it became an article of faith among the survivors that God's promise to them of a place flowing with milk and honey still stood; that while the Old Jerusalem had expired in radioactive rubble, a New Jerusalem, far greater than the first, was reserved for them.And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
Then the lights in the virtual room dimmed as class was dismissed. Timmy stepped out of the holosphere, and as was his wont, he climbed the stair to the upper cupola. And there above him, through the transparent panels, Saturn cast its soft glow upon his home. Timmy looked up a the vast, beautiful planet. And then he went down to lunch.
Article printed from Belmont Club: https://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez
URL to article: https://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2013/3/12/the-history-of-the-future