Response, Part 2

by Charles Stross on January 27, 2009

3. Thank God it’s Friday … (Ken MacLeod)

What can I say? I think Ken nailed most of the easter-eggs in “Saturn’s Children”. (There’s a really tongue-in-cheek piece of meta-commentary implicit in the title—a book about what might appear at first sight to be a libertarian utopia, given that we have engineered the right kinds of libertarians to inhabit it—riffing off the title of an earlier book by a noted British libertarian/conservative ideologue; but at this point the tongue is so firmly embedded in the cheek that its owner is in danger of acquiring a fistula.)

Actually, “Saturn’s Children” was the comic pratfall to go alongside “Halting State”. When I pitched “Halting State” at my publishers (“it’s going to be a near-future Scottish police procedural told in the second person present tense! About gaming!”) they were understandably skeptical; in the end, they agreed to take it—on condition that I signed a two-book contract, the other book being a bankable space opera. It doesn’t get much more bankable than Heinlein, especially writing in the 100th anniversary of his birth, so Heinlein it was going to be—and it was the imp of the perverse that nudged me into tackling late-period Heinlein. (Because everybody and their dog writes an early Heinlein hommage at a certain point in their career …)

I’d better shut up now before I dig myself in any deeper!

4. Concluding Unscientific Posthuman to the Singularitarian Fragments – an Agalmic-Pathetic-Dialectic; a Mimic-Extropic Discourse (John Holbo)

I haven’t read Hegel. I haven’t read Kierkegaard either. This is probably a flaw I will manage avoid fixing: for although those who are ignorant of philosophy are doomed to repeat it (and make the same old mistakes), I have the brain of a worn-out old jade.

I tend to hold to the idea that the purpose of fiction is to explore the human condition; in the case of SF, to explore the human condition under circumstances that are not implausible but do not currently occcur, in the case of historical fiction to explore it under circumstances that obtained at some time in the past, and in the case of fantasy to explore it from the back of the aid of a Pegasus on stilts. On which note, “Accelerando” is really a question about the human condition in circumstances where, as Vernor Vinge put it, “The problem is not simply that the Singularity represents the passing of humankind from center stage, but that it contradicts our most deeply held notions of being.” [http://mindstalk.net/vinge/vinge-sing.html]

It’s murderously difficult to write fiction with no human beings in it—at least, fiction that anybody but my toaster would want to read. (The nearest I got to it was “Saturn’s Children”, but arguably that begged the question: its robots are, after all, emulations of human consciousness in a universe where the possibility of a singularity is firmly denied.) “Accelerando”—if it was to probe the question of the human condition in circumstances spanning a Vingean singularity—couldn’t help but cling to its human protagonists even in the face of their looming obsolescence. Which is, I think, what John Holbo is getting at: the only possible response to human obsolescence is comedic (which brings us full circle to Wodehouse and his splendidly obsolescent creations, Bertie and Jeeves).

5. I Feel an Attack of Constitutional Law Coming On … (Brad DeLong)

I didn’t know that, dammit. If I had known about the fourteenth amendment, I might have worked the irony a little bit harder. Ah well, lost opportunities …

6. Halting State (Henry)

One of the defining characteristics of the past century has been the erosion of authority; and if anything it has accelerated in the past fifty years to such an extent that today’s western nations would seem utterly alien to a denizen of 1959 transplanted into the present. Not alien in appearance—most of the buildings are the same, fashion in clothing repeats (with some added surprises, and a few permanent omissions—witness the decline in popularity of the man’s hat, for example), and the cars could be dismissed as a simple exercise in styling. But what are those small glowing boxes everybody is holding to their heads and talking into? And the wires leading to their ears? And what are all the odd codes on the advertisements about—the ones that all seem to begin “www” …?

Old certainties have been eroding: family, religion, gender roles, race, the hopelessly compromised multinational news media, politicians mired in the megaphone era and trying to grapple with ubiquitous information overload at the same time that they’ve been systematically stripped of actual power by the trade treaties of Empire. And so the existing establishment figures shout louder to drown out the noise, and foment moral panics and pass increasingly draconian laws just to be seen to be Doing Something. And something is done: anti-terrorism laws are applied to fly-tippers, bugging facilities are used to see that parents aren’t conspiring against the interests of the state by sending their children to the wrong school, and the unforseen complications of the disconnect between authority and real power multiply exponentially.

Nor is it obvious that the control-freak response of the traditional political centres to these challenges will succeed—that the Stasi-esque mountains of metadata being amassed by such processes as the Interception Modernization Program will hold back the flow: they’ve bought into what Cory Doctorow calls the MetaCrap delusion—that metadata is accurate, and if they can only hoard and search enough of it, they’ll find the answer to that which ails them. [[http://www.well.com/~doctorow/metacrap.htm]]

But ultimately the only source of accurate metadata we’ve got is the human species, with its insatiable appetite for gameplay and pinning labels on things.

Information overload works by association: so does google. (“Lots of people talking about Subject X go look at This web page. You’re asking about Subject X. Why don’t you look at This, too?”) Associative logic is deeply alien to hierarchical control structures. (“You. Go look at This, Right Now. It’s all you need to know about Subject X.”) To the extent that “Halting State” was a spy thriller, I was attempting to make this point; the reliance on electronic intelligence (ELINT) that has crept up on the state intelligence field since the early 1960s is going to dead-end soon, if it hasn’t already, in the need to find new ways to recruit and motivate armies of analysts to add the tags. And that way lies SPOOKS.

(Hopefully Henry will be pleased to learn that my main task in 2009 is to write a sequel to “Halting State”, exploring more implications of the social networking revolution some five years further down the line …)

7. Why you should read Charles Stross (Maria Farrell)

I should like to note at this point that I am in practice a wildly vacillating agnostic on the subject of the singularity: I don’t actually believe it’s going to happen—or that it’s not—but it’s a really neat idea to experiment with, and that’s why it features in quite a lot of my writing. Alas, my first SF novel “Singularity Sky” got retitled by editorial fiat (it was originally going to be “Festival of Fools”), and I’ve had the S-word hung around my neck like an albatross ever since.

(I suppose it’s better than being known as the Talking Cat Sidekick guy …)

The other point Maria brought up was the panopticon, which may well be the flip side of the more optimistic singularity scenarios. Our political culture seems to me to be responding to the trauma of its loss of control by trying to construct a perfect panopticon, and what it will glimpse through it will be a distorted reflection of its own fears and insecurities.

… Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

{ 18 comments }

1

Josh Jasper 01.28.09 at 4:06 am

“S-word”. Could be worse. “Slipstream” or “Steampunk”

2

ajay 01.28.09 at 3:17 pm

It’s a pity that none of the submissions mentioned the Laundry novels – no doubt for reasons of spacetime. Perhaps a good starting point would be one of the Afterwords that CS wrote for the books, copyright permitting? (The comparison of Len Deighton and HP Lovecraft would be best…)

3

bryan 01.29.09 at 8:59 am

yes. don’t venture into the slipstream.

4

Tracy W 01.29.09 at 9:11 am

One of the defining characteristics of the past century has been the erosion of authority; and if anything it has accelerated in the past fifty years to such an extent that today’s western nations would seem utterly alien to a denizen of 1959 transplanted into the present

There hasn’t been any acceleration in the erosion of authority. My great-grandmother went in her lifetime from horses and carriages to a man on the moon. In the 19th century we had the start of the suffragist movements (both male and female), revolts against the British Empire in India, mass migration to the USA (away from the control of the European governments), the Holy Roman Empire ended, the successful slave revolt in Haiti, the Spanish Inquistion ended, the Taiping Rebellion, etc. Pre 19th century, we had the French and American Revolutions, the ongoing war of the Spanish Succession, Jacobite rebellion in Britain, the start of the Methodism in England, Cossack Rebellion in Russia, etc. Go back to the Ancient Romans, and you can find them revolting, arguing over the proper privileges of nobles vs the commoners, etc.

Old certainties have been eroding: family, religion, gender roles, race, the hopelessly compromised multinational news media

When haven’t they been?

1959 was after the suffragists won the vote, so gender roles had already changed drastically. Religious upheavals? Something caused the Vatican II council, I don’t imagine it sprung out of thin air. Race – the KKK and the civil rights movement were going strong (Rosa Parks and the bus boycott started in 1955, desegregation in the USA then there. Also, 1959, everyone was worried about a nuclear war break out.

1950s was the decade when my gran talked her way into being the first woman on her local school board. The Second Sex was published in 1949. 1959 was not a decade of stable gender roles.

It seems a bit odd to describe someone in 1959, having come through WWII and the Depression, having a strong feeling of old certainities. How about the Germans grappling with Nazism? The debate about Communism, the expectations amongst many people of the Commuist revolution? The rise of the anti-colonial movements across much of the globe, or should we call them a rise since many of them started before WWII?

“Hopelessly compromised multi-national news media” – have you read Orwell’s criticism of the political prose of his day, written in 1946?

politicians mired in the megaphone era and trying to grapple with ubiquitous information overload

Can you label a decade in which you believe that politicians did not have to grapple with information overload? I suspect it was in the middle of a war, and instead politicians were trying to grapple with a massive shortage of information.

There’s nothing new about old certainities eroding. We grow up in a particular time and place, and then we spend the rest of our lives whining about how it’s changed. I’ve never come across a time in history for which we have detailed information in which family, religion, gender roles, race were not changing.

5

burritoboy 01.30.09 at 12:39 am

Following on from Tracy’s comments, here’s a comment directed at Charlie:

I admit I haven’t read your science fiction works, though I have read your Laundry works.

I don’t think things have accelerated. In fact, I would suggest that things have significantly slowed down. Take a look at political change, for instance: there in fact has essentially been extremely little change in the developed world since 1945 – all the regimes then in existence or founded roughly then are essentially (with very few modifications) the same ones we have today. Except for Spain and Portugal, NO country in Western Europe has changed it’s type of regime since that time. That’s actually very limited change and much slower than previous history would suggest – it wasn’t at all unusual for a single place in the Middle Ages or Renaissance to be several different republics, and under multiple different monarchs and in anarchy all within the span of 50 years. These types of changes were far more radical than we see today – debating the type of government you would have in very radical terms (democracy vs. republic vs. monarchy, etc.)was a very real issue throughout history, and it’s essentially not even a possible subject of discussion now (everyplace is one form or another of a representative democratic republic).

6

Alex 01.30.09 at 1:55 pm

Except for Spain and Portugal, NO country in Western Europe has changed it’s type of regime since that time [1945].

France incremented its republic count twice. Germany changed three times (Allied Occupation>Divided Allied Occupation>2x Republics>1xRepublic). Italy just sneaks in converting from a kingdom to a republic. Austria went from German Province>Allied Occupied Republic>Resumed Old Republic. Greece changed twice (Kingdom>Dictatorship>Republic) but you may not consider it part of “Western Europe”. The Republic of Ireland became a republic in 1949 and you can’t get more western in Europe than that.

That leaves Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the UK, if you draw a distinction between Western and Northern Europe (and forget the pub quiz tax havens). Otherwise you’ve got to include Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, which considerably strengthens your point as Icelandic independence just misses the cut (1944). And there’s also the emergence of a new semi-sovereign entity – the European Union – to consider, which is certainly a major change in the constitution of its members.

Of course, the very idea of “Western Europe” exists because a lot of countries changed quite drastically and then changed back…

7

Alex 01.30.09 at 1:59 pm

And only two out of the Stability Eight are republics, Switzerland – a highly atypical one – and Finland, whose modern history was far from stable.

8

Alex 01.30.09 at 1:59 pm

Three. Iceland.

9

ajay 01.30.09 at 4:35 pm

Massive cherrypicking, anyway. There’s more to the developed world than Western and Northern Europe, you know. What about the rest of Europe – which has all seen at least one massive change in government since 1945 (when the Warsaw Pact folded up), and in some cases two or three (in Czechoslovakia, for example, the Soviet-backed coup in ’48, the Prague Spring and the subsequent crackdown, and the ’93 Velvet Divorce).

And why start with 1945, anyway? Just because that was the end of the (relatively recent) last massive period of upheaval in Western Europe?

EPIC PETITIO PRINCIPII FAIL!

No, a more objective approach would be to take the frequency of change of government in the last fifty years (say) and compare that to a few random fifty-year periods from five centuries ago. And most of those, I would think, will be “started out a monarchy, finished a monarchy”.

10

burritoboy 01.30.09 at 6:04 pm

“France incremented its republic count twice.”

No. It changed form slightly.

“Italy just sneaks in converting from a kingdom to a republic. “

No. Unless you want to believe that the monarchy was going to succeed in 1945 (it wasn’t, and in 1946 Italy became the republic that the allies wanted it to become). The Italian kings weren’t even aiming for an absolute monarchy, but just merely restoration of a constitutional monarchy (based upon the same representative democratic capitalist republic as everywhere else).

“Germany changed three times (Allied Occupation>Divided Allied Occupation>2x Republics>1xRepublic). “

Again, no. It merely was a question of what form of representative democratic republic Germany was eventually going to become (i.e., an extremely narrow range of options), and in what time frames it was going to do so. As it happened, Germany solidified around a very similar model to every other Western European nation under the Allies, and no serious questions remained by 1950. Eastern Germany, of course, was simply entirely subsumed into West Germany once the Soviet Empire collapsed.

Greece is not in Western Europe.

“And there’s also the emergence of a new semi-sovereign entity – the European Union – to consider, which is certainly a major change in the constitution of its members.”

No, again, it’s not. It’s a form of a representative democratic capitalist republic like all others in the developed world.

Ireland was already a republic according to the constitution of 1937. The changes of 1949 did not change or modify that fact, but clarified where Ireland fit into the Commonwealth.

11

burritoboy 01.30.09 at 6:10 pm

“And most of those, I would think, will be “started out a monarchy, finished a monarchy”.”

And that’s, of course, the essence of why you don’t understand politics. The point is, rather, that in all previous times under those monarchs, other forms of government were not only possible, but widely considered. In fact, most of the monarchies had areas (whether towns or larger regions) that were ruled internally by non-monarchic principles – i.e. the mayor of the town would be elected, or a certain region run by Church entities, etc.

No one today even suggests that other forms of governance except extremely slight modifications of the ones we currently have are even possible.

12

shah8 01.30.09 at 7:46 pm

I want to rebut Tracy abit…

I don’t think Stross is really talking about the usual class and otherwise warfare. My take on things has always been that we’ve switched from an nominally obscurantist type of government and economic systems to a nominally transparent systems of governments and economic systems over the last 150 years or so. However, the system, pretty much *all* realistic systems, exists to serve the people on top (and the idealization of what being on top means). Both types of rule, open or closed system, have their pluses and minuses.

Given that we are in systems that value open sociopoliticoeconomic lines of authority. All rules must be easily available to everyone, rules have to have the consent of the stakeholders, free and fair elections, etc, etc. That doesn’t change the fact that would be Masters of the Universe do strive to attain more-equal-than-other-people privileges. They create systems of pretexts like “markets always know best!”–think “Party Commitee Knows Best”. They also create nests of nominal purpose privileges that create serious principle-agent issues, like hyper-person corporations, secret agencies within police and intelligence outfits with black budgets sometimes augmented by illegal drug and laundering activities, $100K is more important than 100K votes, and presidential priviledges. There are always “ticking bomb scenarios” for all of these occlusions.

Thing is, these things are always bad for huge numbers of other people, including other elites of society–especially in a time of globalization! Thus they have motives to stress the system by using the very progressivity of the nominal system–by making it *very* expensive to be a hypocrite. You can do it via sit-ins as with Civil Rights Movement in a time of the Cold War. Or you can do it via shareholder lawsuits and hostile takeover gambits. You can do it also by packing local school boards with mouthbreathers.

The issues with the communications revolution is that the value derives from massive multi-party particpation. The MORE people have access to high speed, interactive communications, the greater the VALUE of the system for everyone. Part of the value of the internet is how it can set expectations and how anyone can set these expectations. Any dog can proposition a bitch on the internet and no one would know otherwise. Given all the games and the scenarios can be played out in the internet, it gets pretty much impossible use it in a top-down fashion as they do with TV and radio for propaganda. It also gets pretty hard to figure out who is real and who is a cutout. Data-mining can only help so much–you still need to have a huge number of eyeballs to do a decent job. China supposedly has 20k internet monitors, for example.

It gets hard to retain the benefits of the communications revolution without handing power to a great deal of people that TPTB do not wish powerful. The Great (fire)Wall of China only lasts as long the masses aren’t incentivized to seek stuff outside the garden. The Baidu scandal, and to a lesser extent, the milk scandal have been strong demostration to many people that they should be more aggressive about getting accurate information. More events like those scandals and the firewall will eventually erode away under the weight of smuggled cp-free electronics.

Thus power is eroding from central control of an “open” network. A closed system can simply just take away the internet. Or democratic rule. However, the price for that security is massive deflation (which we are suffering anyways, note) and stagnation.

So forth, and so on…

13

burritoboy 01.30.09 at 8:52 pm

Shah8,

I just don’t see the internet as something that has changed politics very much. Will it do so in the future? I’m fairly dubious about it – I’m not convinced even TV changed politics very much (not as much as radio), yet TV is probably a more fundamental technology than the Internet (TV got people used to sitting in front of screens…..). One could just as easily argue that there was a wave of success until just a few months ago for conservative politics that relied primarily on the older technologies of radio and TV (Berlusconi in Italy, the conservatives in the US, etc.) and mostly ignored the Internet.

Certainly, I wouldn’t assert that there has been notably massive political change since 1995/1996, the date of the emergence of the Internet as compared with many earlier similar sized periods – take 1914-1927 or 1931-1944 or 1959-1972 – all of which had vastly more political change than 1995-2009.

14

Ray 01.30.09 at 9:57 pm

ajay – “started out a monarchy, finished a monarchy” (in a fifty year period)

Yeah, but that describes England 1630-1680 too, which went through a lot more political changes in that time than England 1959-2009. Even if the system of government in a given area was uninterrupted monarchy for fifty years, there would usually be at least one succession in that time, which was a much bigger, and riskier, deal than a presidential handover, there would be a good chance of wars, or famines, or epidemics…

Seriously, throw a dart at a map of Europe, pick a fifty year period at random from the last millennium, and you’ll probably find plenty of events that the people who lived through them would have found pretty exciting – more turbulent than the last fifty years of the English speaking world, which I presume is were most of this blog’s readers are from.

15

shah8 01.31.09 at 2:39 am

No, no, no…

The central premise is that nominally transparent and connected systems are typically not truly transparent. There is usually a hypocrisy tax–usually taken in the form of a set of rentiers skimming some cream off the top and suppressing the economy a bit. That doesn’t typically matter to TPTB, they want control of the machine and typically have rule or ruin mentality at that.

However, many people have a problem with the system the way it is. One of the most efficient ways to *change* the system is to increase the hypocrisy tax to unacceptable levels such that the response will be to your advantage. The internet is just the cherry on top of it all. Halting State is about the intersection of foriegn policy, domestic policy, spying, internal security, and economics and also about how people are taking advantage of the supposedly *nominal* system to push the de facto system to operate according to stated principles. This pushes the ultimate stakeholders to use ever more oblique tactics to keep the actual levers of the system away from the public. The strength of the irony in the book derives from closing the circle by *involving* the public and other unsavory elements like gamers as a tactic in *keeping* power from the public.

I don’t think the internet was really a mature phenomenon until at least 2004 or so anyways. However, the genuine consequences of the Internet is still ahead of us, I think. What is *behind* us actually is financials. The mass democratization of the markets pushed the elite towards ever more sophisticated financial instruments in the attempt to be the ones at the top of the hill. Ever more sophisticated attempts to do end runs around provisions for insider trading, front running, maintenance of minimal capital levels, and other scams led to ever larger pocket universes full of cash in financial officer’s pockets. In the end, the *transparency* and nominal *equality under the law* aspects of society brought the whole thing crashing to earth. Now, take a look at the debt situation and the looming saturation of the bond market with all of the countries seeking lender cash. A great deal of Masters of the Universe people are going to lose a *great* deal of power and control.

The printing press didn’t change anything radically for several decades, but even so, it eventually did affect *everything*. It took some time for networks and machines to be built as well as people getting used to mass media. The same for radio and telephone and tvs. The same process is happening here. Keep a sense of perspective of *time*. The Internet is still pretty young tech. As fast as things happen (and has always happened, despite how poorly documented the past was), even the internet still needs time.

A note, the main reason, for me, why deflationary scenarios is so damn scary is that deflation catalyzes reductions in civil rights in the political sphere.

16

burritoboy 01.31.09 at 4:52 pm

Shah8,

I understand your technology argument, but I simply don’t see much evidence of it. And the problem is, we’ve had a tremendous amount of science fiction that claimed that various technologies would be the driver of extremely substantial political and economic changes. And, put as simply as possible, essentially none of the political and economic changes have arrived. Arguing that all that change is somewhere in the future……well, that’s fine, but we really didn’t see that much change from many previous technologies that are also very fundamental.

What, ultimately, I’m beginning to argue is that a central presumption behind science fiction is effectively a wrong and misleading one. That central presumption is that technology is the major driver behind political change. What would I counterargue to this presumption is that it simply isn’t very true in reality. (We’ve had a lot of technological change in the past 50 years, and very little political change in the countries most technologically advanced.)

So, this central presumption is misleading the readers of science fiction as to how technology works – “works ” here in a political sense. Instead, I would argue that politics really depends not on technology qua technology, but upon the political ideas people have. I.E., not modern science in isolation, but political philosophy is what is important.

Let us examine, for instance, the conservative political and economic movement that so dominated the last 30 years of the twentieth century. It’s connection to technology was limited – even it’s most charismatic leaders preferred the use of television and especially radio, and almost entirely ignored the Internet. A large part of it’s success was due to the difficulties that the Keynesian school had in dealing with the economic crisis of the 1970s, and the resulting simultaneous aggressive self-promotion of the neoclassical economists. If anything, the neoclassicals tended, in practice, to focus much more on static equilibria and to be more primitive in their assumptions than the Keynesians. It’s hard to say that the neoclassicals were more “technologically” advanced than the Keynesians.

So, the dominant economic ideology of the last part of the twentieth century had no close relationship with the huge technological innovations going on throughout that time. (And, I would argue, the neoclassicals had far LESS understanding of technology that Sraffa or the early twentieth century institutionalists or several other schools of economics). What we take away from this understanding is that it is politics itself that is important, not technology. I.E. our primary goal is then to understand politics from a political perspective, not from a technological or economic or geographic perspective (though all of these things help us greatly, they are subordinate to our primary study of politics as politics).

17

shah8 02.01.09 at 6:30 am

Well, as for the first paragraph, I disagree comprehensively. The Internet has been a mass media phenomenon for roughly 14 years. Anyone who has ever studied the history of technological progress and adoption within cultures knows that this is an idiotically short time. Cars were around since at least the 1890s, but it wasn’t really until the 1920s that it became anything like a product for the masses. Furthermore, it wasn’t until the 50s before it truly started to change America. Of the modern day techs, about the only things that were very quickly adapted were airplanes and computers among others.

As for the rest of your response:
1) Science fiction isn’t really always about the effects of technology as in gadgets. Plenty of science fiction is social, the classic example being post apocalyptic.

2) I have never argued that technology was a sole determinant of progress. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks did know how to build steam engines. They just didn’t know what to use it for, having no immediate problems like coal mines that flooded all the time. On the other hand, arguing that technology has little effect on history and that political events are everything, is highly myopic. I used the printing press example before. That’s a pretty undeniable example of technology radically altering the possibilities of politics. There are plenty of other examples, like various iron implements for the Assyrians, or stirrups, or creating corn out of teosinte.

3) I have never said that techonology forces change in and of itself. Plenty of technology comes and goes without much of an effect. I have said, and am saying, that the current political structure is vulnerable to erosion by certain technologies that enable more participants to assert themselves at a more equal level to TPTB. Nobody has said it was everything.

4) I find your use of the Keynesians and Neoclassicals obtuse and trivial. If you look at politics, well, then of course, you’ll find that politics is important to politics. I’m looking at society at all levels. Only a minority of sf, and a not very large one, deal with politics in any real sense. They tend to deal with society, not the shape of politics. In any event, trying to argue about whether neoclassicals were more “primitive” than keyenisians technologically is an absurd argument. The reasons for the rise of the conservatives do not have much to do technological progress one way or another. Technology helps shape what the usual patterns of technology will take after. Iron plows, harnesses, saddle and tack, determines whether the boss rides on a horse or plots in a river clift castle. Sometimes it does more. Sometimes it does less.

18

kombipom 02.01.09 at 6:45 am

The point of the Singularity is the arrival of intelligences greater than our own, whether we become them (has we arguably have in the past with the invention of the written word and the invention of the printing press) or create them. Surely a change in the overall level of intelligence and ability to assimilate knowledge is going to profoundly change political structures. Part of the reason we have representative democracies because individual citizens do not have the time to consider, debate and decide on every issue facing the running of a nation state. Wouldn’t that change in a society of citizens significantly more intelligent than we are? Also our economics are based on scarcity; technologies able to manufacture anything from individual atoms would remove almost all scarcity and again would profoundly change the political landscape. I’m not saying that these things are going to happen but just stating that technology has not significantly affected politics in the first world in the last 50 years does not mean that technology will not affect politics in the next 50.

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