Returning the Future to Individuals: What the UK Election Has to Say About the 21st Century

The decisive defeat of the British Labour party strongly suggests that a fundamental shift in the politics of the world has taken place — that the non-ideological wave of unrest sweeping the world really has deeper roots than Donald Trump or Fox News. Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the founders of Fusion GPS, tried to blame the fall of Labour on Putin.

Britain needs its own Mueller report: a full, independent and public accounting of Russian efforts to interfere in its politics. Few people will look forward to this process in a country already exhausted from fighting over Brexit. But it’s essential to halt Russia’s attack on Britain’s democracy and restore confidence in its politics.

But it's no use. Something tectonic has shifted. It is correct but not enough to say, as Andrew Sullivan observed, that "one lesson from the UK: if the Democrats don't stop their hard-left slide, they'll suffer the same fate as Labour. If they don't move off their support for mass immigration, they're toast. Ditto the wokeness. Left Twitter is not reality." Beyond this, it is essential to recognize that the age of giant state projects, unelected global organizations and millennial endeavors is over.

The componentization phase of globalization has begun. One can't roll the world back to pre-globalization days, but for it to be sustainable, things have to be encapsulated to safeguard protected memory spaces. There is a need for standard interfaces, not "open borders." The networked world has been overwhelmed by complexity, whether it takes the form of the breakdown of trusted authority or the dazzling profusion of "collusion." The intellectual challenge is how to make it safe for people to deal with strangers in a connected world. The problem can be solved but it can't be solved by people who don't think it's a potential problem.

One example of such dangers is the foreign funding of American universities. "An Education Department investigation revealed universities failed to report more than a billion dollars in foreign funding, which officials believe is only a sliver of the unreported overseas donations flowing onto campuses."

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the Washington Examiner she had launched a preliminary investigation into six universities but already turned up an alarming $1.3 billion in foreign funding over the past seven years from nations such as China, Russia, and Qatar that the schools hadn’t told the federal government about, despite their legal requirement to do so.

“It is already a reporting requirement for schools to report all foreign contributions. From my perspective, it’s a simple requirement: Report all foreign money you get.” DeVos said. “We’re going to continue to raise the flag on this, and we think, just given what we’ve seen scratching the surface, there’s a lot there that has gone undetected.

The future, far from being a stately progression of Five-Year Plans presided over by elites, has turned out to be a flood of destabilizing development, technology and discovery. Current institutions can't control the future; they can barely cope with it. The voters realized this before the elites did. We will have our hands full just answering the question: "what did we just learn?" "We live in a world whose unfoldings we often cannot prevision, prestate, or predict— a world of explosive creativity on all sides."

Claude Shannon would not have been shocked by this. He knew that information was surprisal. The media thought it was in control. The question is whether human society can withstand the unmediated impact of the 21st century without returning power to the personal world. In all probability, it cannot. The real agenda for the coming decades will consist of ways to empower individuals to deal with strangers while protecting their sacred narratives, culture and privacy.

The issues of the future will be things like "who owns your data," and how can we keep secrets from ruling over us? How can we cooperate without surrendering our freedom?

Orwell was wrong. The future does not consist of a boot stamping on a human face forever. The boot has rotted away, dissolved by the impact of the unforeseeable, by the furnace of creation.

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Books:

The Triumph Of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life, by I. Bernard Cohen. From the pyramids to mortality tables, Galileo to Florence Nightingale, this book explores how numbers have come to assume a leading role in science, government, business and in many other aspects of life. a vibrant history of numbers and the birth of statistics. Cohen shines a new light on familiar figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles Dickens, and reveals Florence Nightingale to be a passionate statistician. This is a vibrant history of numbers and the birth of statistics.

Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War, by Charles Bracelen Flood. The first book about the victorious partnership between William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War and the deep friendship that made it possible.

The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium, by Martin Gurri. This book tells the story of how insurgencies, enabled by digital devices and a vast information sphere, have mobilized millions of ordinary people around the world. It also ponders whether the current elite class can bring about a reformation of the democratic process, and whether new organizing principles, adapted to a digital world, can emerge from the present political turbulence.

I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa, by Charles Brandt. This book is the inspiration for the major motion picture "The Irishman" and is a true crime classic. Frank Sheeran’s confession that he killed Jimmy Hoffa in the manner described in the book is supported by forensic evidence, and solves the Hoffa mystery.

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Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

Open Curtains by George Spix and Richard Fernandez. Technology represents both unlimited promise and menace. Which transpires depends on whether people can claim ownership over their knowledge or whether human informational capital continues to suffer the Tragedy of the Commons.

The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific.