The Phaserl


Doug Casey on “The Diamond Age”

by Doug Casey, Casey Research:

Science fiction has always offered both a more accurate and more timely look at the future than any think tank. For one thing, a good book is the product of a genius, not a committee of suits trying to reach a consensus. And a format of fiction allows one to speculate in ways that a “serious person” can’t do in nonfiction.

Every educated person should have read the classics by Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C Clarke, among others. Add Neal Stephenson to that list. I’ve been a fan of Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age since it was published in 1995. I strongly recommend you read the book.

There are many themes in Diamond Age, which refers to a near-term future (I’ll guess around 2050) when nanotechnology has transformed much of life. Although not nearly as radically as I believe will actually be the case. (See my essays on the future here and here.)

But one theme in the book is quite a breakthrough, and spot-on. It posits the creation of “phyles” as the major form of social and political organization. The word comes from the same root as phylum, from the Greek, meaning “tribe” or “clan”. But I think it’s also a pun on the word “filial”, with its connotations of family.

The book posits, I believe correctly, that in the near future most nation states will have broken down. Many will have ceased to exist. It’s quite logical, because they’re a dysfunctional way for people to organize. And it’s happening right before our eyes. None of the countries in the Mid-East, Africa, or Central Asia have any coherence. They’re just the result of some ruler’s military prowess, or some politicians drawing lines on a distant map. Nation states themselves have really only been around since the 17th century. Before that, people weren’t loyal to a country; they were loyal to a chief, a king or an emperor.

Loyalty to a country can make some sense, on at least a primitive atavistic level, as long as the inhabitants of the “country” share a common language, religion, ethnicity, and customs. But it makes no sense when they have little in common. So it’s natural, and salubrious, for the various religious, ethnic, racial, cultural or economic groups within a country that’s become too big, too “diverse”, and too “inclusive”, to want to get out. Everyone recognizes—even if they don’t say it—that a national government is just a vehicle for theft, benefitting the group that controls it.

As the world becomes more educated, the average man becomes more acutely aware of that fact. And as jet travel and the Internet become universal, people start to realize they might have almost nothing in common with their so-called “countrymen”. And a lot more in common with people who may be on the other side of the globe, many of whom will feel the same way about their own countrymen.

I can tell you that I have much more in common with friends in the Congo or China than I do with my fellow Americans living down the road from me in a trailer park. I have nothing in common with them. These people not only aren’t my friends, they’re liabilities. And may turn into active enemies under the right circumstances. I’d rather associate with people with whom I share common values and interests, not just the same government ID.

In any event, almost all the world’s nation-states are terminally burdened with debt, taxes, regulations and, increasingly, strife between groups fighting for either a teat on the milk cow, or political power. The nation state is a dinosaur; it no longer makes sense in a world with today’s technology and demographics.

This explains what we’ve seen in the last generation: the breakup of states. The USSR into 15 components. Yugoslavia into six. Czechoslovakia into two. Sudan into two. This is just the opening round. Most European countries have secessionist movements. Russia should eventually break up into a dozen new states. China into at least a half-dozen. Brazil into at least two. Bolivia into at least two. Etc. Etc.

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