Reasons to be Cheerful
We felt pretty gloomy by the time we’d finished making notes about the world’s progress without justice. Is there any hope? Of course there is. First of all, there has to be. But we think there actually is.
Our greatest wish, of course, is always that Henry George’s teachings will come to prevail and in the possibility of sanity, as Aldous Huxley said:
If I were to re-write the book (Brave New World) I would offer a third alternative – the possibility of sanity – Economics would be decentralist and Henry Georgian.
What a shame he didn’t re-write the book. Of course, we must always strive for this Brave New World, because it is what is just, and we deserve nothing less. This really isn’t so fanciful, the ideas are still very much around in the world, and never completely went away in the USA. The bad ideas that run the world are seriously losing credibility, people are looking for explanations. Of course, this is the explanation.
But we can’t expect to magically morph into a just world anything like instantly, so, in casting around for other hopeful developments for the world, we’ll briefly note one or two things.
A search for good news should start here, with this work from Stephen Pinker.
The 21st century doesn’t look much like the past saw the future. No flying cars, houses on the moon, cities in the ocean. Certainly after the end of the 60s, beginning of the 70s, the world’s population may have expected to have seen a lot more space exploration. But, actually, something much more amazing came into being, and something that not many had really imagined: the wondrous miracle that is the World Wide Web, and here we are.
It’s not something that we can see yet in much context, except that it’s certainly an epic and fundamental development. It’s maybe the greatest advance since the printing press, or maybe much greater in scope. It might be the greatest advance since writing, maybe even speaking.
There must be a lot of hope for the world in this wondrous dimension being opened, everyone being able to reach everyone and everything. New kinds of communities, across borders, across everything, new ways of communication, even beyond identity. The whole world, collectively, has made a quantum leap in intelligence because of it, all sorts of things have changed that may not be immediately evident. The possibilities that the World Wide Web has brought to people are beyond value and beyond imagination.
Actually, if not for the Web: we may possibly, though much less likely, have, by chance, as it was, read Progress and Poverty; but we’d have had no idea at all that there was anyone else out there who had seen this. We found, through the Web, there was an extended community and a continuous and worldwide history going back 130 years. And we found a whole lot more.
There has been a wonderful collaborative spirit inspired by the World Wide Web which has led to many giving their efforts to enriching the space, bringing about things like open source software, nurturing the universal access to the Web and to all manner of facility.
Linux is an amazing example of this amateur, collaborative spirit and the development of what’s called open source software, which can be used and adapted for whatever use by anybody. This was a free operating system that now most computer hardware systems in the world are built around.
Maybe the human spirit and intelligence set free in this dimension will in time knit together the whole world, save human civilisation, find better ways to do everything.
The Web has opened up, for everyone, access to things that were previously only accessible to full-time academics. There’s been an explosion in knowledge-use.
Even in the most rarified arenas of thinking, where there are some huge questions in Physics - getting quantum mechanics to agree with Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, that kind of thing. The answers to knotty problems like this have eluded generations of scientists. Now, Eric Weinstein, a man from outside academia, actually an economist and hedge fund consultant, has come up with a theory which many are saying – very cautiously, of course – is of great interest. He has a theory called Geometric Unity, and according to his calculations, it’s a 14-dimensional observerse that has our standard model four-dimensional space-time continuum embedded within it. It’s a very radical idea.
It’s been described as phenomenal that someone coming from outside academia could come up with something like this.
Edward Frenkel of the University of California said:
I think this represents a new trend. It used to be that one had to be part of an academic hub, such as Harvard or Oxford, to produce cutting-edge research. But not any more. Part of the reason is the wide availability of scientific information on the internet. And I think this is a wonderful development, which should be supported.
People can now study for respectable Degrees through the World Wide Web at low cost.
And, crucially, it’s giving people views of history that they weren’t taught at schools, that they never even hear about at university, and giving access to any kind of knowledge. God bless Wikipedia and all the amateurs who have made the Web the commons that it is.
The power of the Web, for people to access, like nature, must stay unownable, unpoliceable, uncontrolled. Access to the Web is the only unowned natural resource, and it is infinitely precious. Of course, it has the facility to serve evil as well as good, as does printing, as does the air we all breathe. Its overwhelming tendency, like that of the human race that use it, is for good. It’s an invaluable thing that it’s free, because nothing else is. And, of course, state(s)/bank(s) are trying their utmost to get some control of it. And maybe, in some part, they have done.
Here’s a recent article by Tim Berners-Lee, where he’s calling for a bill of rights for the World Wide Web, warning that its neutrality faces sustained attack from governments and corporations:
The Web perhaps poses a similar threat to the existing order that the rise of independent America did to the old banking powers in the late 18th century. Maybe it could be like the Emperor’s New Clothes, that if everyone sees the truth of things, the power just disappears.
Thomas Jefferson said:
Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
(Jefferson: Political Writings (1999 edition), Cambridge University Press - ISBN: 9780521648417)
We really believe this.
The Web has changed a lot of rules in a way that are slowly becoming apparent, as this fascinating article on Nick Margerrison’s blog suggests, about what is termed here Orwell’s oversight.
It’s still a wonder that somehow, something magical, something non-proprietary, was allowed to just organically grow, everywhere, and be available to everybody. It just came into being and established itself as a force of nature. Almost immediately it was obvious that the world had changed. It wasn’t that long ago but already it’s strange to think of a world without it. It’s now used by almost a third of the world population and growing rapidly. This has already changed the world, in many ways not yet visible, and will carry on doing so.
The functionality of mobile phones now is astonishing. And from the moment that mobile phones became cameras, this unleashed a genie. Now, anyone is a photo journalist, and anyone is a publisher. Anywhere there’s a human being, there’s a high probability that there’s an audio-visual recording device present. And there’s sinister angles to that, of course.
After reading McConnachie and Tudge’s Rough Guide to Surveillance, we became uneasy, reading about the concept of smart dust, and how it could be used, a nightmare idea occurred to us, the thought of combining compulsory ID cards with the mobile phone; a compulsory ID device. And it would be on all the time, like the TV sets in 1984, andcollecting and transmitting data to some mega database linked to another mega database. The linked-in, turned-on society. It would also be your door key, car key, your payment device, of course. Maybe the device will even sound an alarm if you stray too far away from it. For a lot of people now this wouldn’t be intrusive, it would be a selling point. It would be wearable. Eventually it would be implanted for convenience. Maybe linked to sensors which record your heartbeats and monitor your health, monitor your brainwaves. Compulsory ID mobile device. We almost feel we should remove this, but then thought to leave it in.
But moving swiftly on because this is getting frightening again, and this is supposed to be the cheerful bit.