We all have blind spots. And some blind spots are universal, particularly in these days of fast change.
I realized this as I was thinking of one of the back-list short stories I brought out under Goldport Press. It was written… eighteen? Years ago, published ten years ago (I think in Absolute Magnitude, but I’d have to check and I’m lazy.)
Ten years ago – heck, fifteen years ago – I was using Internet searches to find information and reading most of my news online. And yet, this story assumes the character, being out of the country has no access to information. Her family members don’t send her email.
Yes, it is a period piece, having been written eighteen years ago, but all the same, I read it over, edited it and brought it – ALL without, EVER hearing alarm bells at the back of my head or thinking “people finding this first won’t know it was written eighteen years ago” and making the necessary adjustments (it would be a little more work.) I just didn’t NOTICE.
Politically I think the left has more blind spots than the right simply because the left is accommodated by entertainment and mass media and has been for decades. It’s easy to dismiss the new media and to proudly proclaim that you are mainstream.
And you might very well be mainstream, but you’ll have blindspots the size of the Taj Mahal. There is nothing quite so cute as American socialists being totally unaware of socialism’s many failures (no, truly, Sweden is not getting trotted out again. Sweden is tiny and has a peculiar culture – and even there it’s failing under impact of hordes of foreign takers. Also, no one would mistake it for a dynamic land of innovation, even though it was just that before the present regime. Deal.) Or the fact that they don’t know that all over the world “socialism” is the euphemism for “communism that isn’t ready to shoot people.”
But it’s not their fault. Our mass media never reported how rotten the stinking corpse of communism was by the time the USSR fell. It also never reported the millions used to subvert American institutions. (And anyone, anyone claiming that “capitalism has failed too” will have to point me out to ONE example of unbridled capitalism in the modern world. Doesn’t exist. It’s all hemmed in with “regulations” – er… sealed for our protection, I guess. The closest we come to it is the sort of crony capitalism of Asian countries and that’s closest to fascism than anything else. If you think that America is “unbridled capitalism, you REALLY do have a blind spot.)
The right has some blind spots too, usually in “moral” areas. People who are otherwise smart enough not to believe Cuba has “world class” health care actually believe that Cuba has eliminated AIDS by quarantining those infected. The fact that I travel semi-regularly to a country where tourism to Cuba is not unusual and HAVE read advisories about er… frequenting ladies (and presumably gentlemen) of uneasy virtue over there BECAUSE HIV is rampant, would say otherwise.
It is sort of like believing there are no homosexuals in Muslim countries because their leaders tell us so.
Or believing that China is a raging economic success (which I grant seems to affect leftist economists too.) Or believing that Brazil is (Bother! If someone had pumped as much money in here as we have in Brazil we too would be an “economic success.” It won’t last, the timber is bad, even if the house is pretty.) Or believing the population figures out of Arab countries where – come on guys – an army of ten thousand is reported as an army of a million. (And there are never any Americans at the airport.) Apply the same divider to population figures. It is what it is.
But right or left, we ALL have blind spots when it comes to where we’re going. Right and left, we have to work at focusing. We have to work at seeing where the changes are – and where we’re going.
Yeah, I’d challenge those on the left harder and demand they look closer, because they believe in central planning — which means they have to work harder to come up with a coherent plan in the face of a tech that’s moving so fast it has the possibility of taking us – and rapidly too – out of all known parameters of human civilization so far. (And please don’t come up with the plan where you create superior humans to lead us. I wrote those books. It doesn’t end well.)
Ori talked in the comments yesterday about perhaps the Constitution having to be rewritten to accommodate the new tech. I don’t think he’s right. Amended in the particulars perhaps, but not in the fundamentals.
The particulars, however, are a doozy. Let’s start with representation. All the representation in the Constitution has to do with the area in which you live.
How will this apply when we’re entering an era where someone might live in an area they have absolutely no ties with? No?
Come on. To a great extent, we are already there. I work for out of state companies, have colleagues I talk to all over the country (and a few all over the world.) I buy stuff from all over the world, via Amazon. My economic interests and my associations are impacted by a multitude of out-of-state events and decisions.
Yes, what my state does can affect me too (for instance I can’t get money with an Amazon Associate’s Account, I have to pay local tax and my city is saving money by turning off lights on the cross streets. [I wish I were joking on that last one.])
And please, please please don’t say we just need “A stronger federal government” because the wind that’s a-coming respects no federal governments better than it respects state ones. This is where the left is caught with its pants down and the Russian winter howling up their backside. Their whole model is based on the idea that a country’s government can redistribute and “make things less competitive and more fair.”
The cracks (pardon for using the word with the image in the last paragraph) in this are already obvious when it comes to outsourcing and customer service and other jobs that are easily exported leaking out of the country at speed.
But that trickle is about to become an hemorrhage, and you can’t stop it with regulation. It won’t work. Once the tech is there that anyone can work from anywhere at all (and we’re very, very close) countries and governments that try to hold their populace in an outmoded form of territorial subjugation are going to find themselves holding nothing.
Yeah, we can all go North Korea, and sometimes I think that’s the end game of most “progressive” tactics “turn back, turn back” to the early twentieth century when this stuff could work. It won’t work. Not world-wide. North Korea, like Sweden, is a peculiar instance of place and people and culture. It won’t apply universally.
It doesn’t matter how much governments want everyone to travel in trains, people are not going to forget the private automobile. And no matter how much you want us to read the approved papers, we have the Internet. And no matter how much you want us to live in certain areas, if we can work from others and it’s cheaper – we will.
I’ve read some truly scary stuff from the seventies about representation by groups you claimed membership in. Mind you, this was from the left side, so it was bizarre nonsense. Congress would have to accommodate representation for several unions, plus “collectives.” For instance, I’d be a member of a Writer’s collective, an artist’s collective, a mother’s collective, a woman’s collective.
Just the name alone is enough to make me gag and fall in a fit of Tourette’s. But let’s forget that for a moment.
Some book – Diamond Age? – had people swearing allegiance to various groups and those groups represented them. I’m closer to liking that, of course, except that it feels like an incomplete solution because it’s unenforceable.
Look, you can enforce authority locally and territorially, because you can march troops in and physically make the subject comply. You try that in a group – say neo-techno libertarians – that’s spread all over the world. In the end government and its authority ALWAYS comes down to “you and whose army?” The idea that it’s anything else is a fairytale for grownups. (In the US it’s our army, but it is still someone’s army.)
The best I can imagine is that you pay an amount to belong to a certain group which will then fight for your interests, (which, yes, might involve physical force. Read the account of the revolution/terrorism in Friday for how.)
But if things are going to go that crazy, you’ll also have to pay some sort of local fee to belong to your local polity. Why? Because it don’t matter if your entire neighborhood is sitting on its front porch, reading its Bible. If the central government for your area loses control (or goes completely bonkers, which looks likely at least for me) then some bad dudes can still come along an beat y’all up. Unless you hire defenders.
“But Sarah” you say “You’re talking about a sort of poll tax. A place where people pay to have a say in the common governance of the groups they belong to, including their neighborhood.”
And? I’m not saying that this is moral or right or just or any of that stuff – in the end that stuff is always secondary to survival – I’m just saying it MIGHT work. I don’t see how our present form does, though. Not long term.
No? See, this … dislocated residence versus work, versus shopping is going to hit EVERYTHING – not just politics. EVERYTHING.
Yeah, they can put patches on it for a moment, like making Amazon pay tax. But catalogs haven’t traditionally, and if Amazon has to, it just means smaller companies spring up to do what Amazon does and they won’t… In the end it all spins out of local control. And fast, too.
Right now, your livelihood depends to a great extent on where you live, how much your house is worth, the cost of living for your area, its relative safety, etc etc etc.
Spin all those out in different directions. Suppose I CAN work in NYC and live in Iowa. Yeah, many of us (okay, I like big cities. Deal) would still want to live in the big city for a variety of reasons, but we don’t have to, and my guess is the majority of people wouldn’t want to. (I realized the other day that at least one of the reasons I used to like living in big cities — access to entertainment, lectures and books — is irrelevant because Amazon.) So… what does that do to … property values? Cost of living? Availability of stuff that has to be shipped in? (The enormous costs of feeding a place like NYC are offset by the sheer size of the population being fed, so it’s worth to have a lot of things available that would, in other places, not be worth the price of shipping. I.e. there is more variety because there are more people there. Even losing half the population will affect that.)
Real estate prices are going to go insane. EVERYWHERE.
Now take in account all the people who will be caught five years from retirement, and their house is suddenly worth nothing. It’s much much worse than 2008. In fact, 2008 might have been the first foreshock of what’s to come. As for real estate, just having people start to telecommute preferentially (no, it’s not science fiction. Like ebooks it’s something we’ve been talking about for decades, but I suspect when it hits it will be with stunning rapidity. I also expect it not to be more than ten years out.) will cause a huge upheaval. No? Commercial buildings. Yeah, sure they can be converted to residential, but at the same time people will be moving out to Podunk where they can have forty acres…
And yet stuff like the infrastructure for the Internet will still have to be maintained, as will highways and… Yes, there are solutions for it, other than what we’ve been using. But it will take removing the blinders and looking – REALLY LOOKING – at what’s coming down the pike.
Neither the left as it exists now, nor the right, as it exists now, have the solution to what is happening because we’re all prisoners of the time we were born in, and the tech we learned as kids. No matter how much we think, really think we’re up to date, we’ll forget that the Internet exists, or that people can google-search someone. Or at least we will when reading an old story. And then we’ll fail to see all the ways the “new way of doing things” affects us and everyone we know.
The tech we have – the future we’re speeding towards – is one of greater individual freedom and choice and less ability to enforce conformity. This is good and bad, as anyone has found out who has homeschooled a kid in the age of Internet courses, and also as anyone has found out who has had to warn their kids off the more bizarre Internet sites. (And not just porn.)
It is good because in the battle between those who want to control others and those who just want to be left the f*ck alone, those who want to be left alone are about to have the upper hand.
But human nature doesn’t change overnight, and there will be bullies, local, national, international, trying to create their own little North Koreas in their lifetime.
Which means the rest of us need to be very aware of where the blind spots are, and where we can escape them and how.
In other words – the future is great, but there will be very, very rough patches before we get to a place where we’ve figured out what works.
Until then, kindly tighten your seatbelts. Also, to quote Heinlein, keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark. And take off your blinders.
(Because today is Wednesday, there is a new and writing-related post at Mad Genius Club. [In this case Writing Business Related post.])