Drivers for Change

February 13, 2008

Over at Open the Future, Jamais Cascio was recently talking about inevitable near-future events that have the capacity to radically transform our society:

You don’t have to believe in incipient singularities to recognize that 2028 — just twenty years from now — will bear very little resemblance to 2008.

A small cluster of rapidly-accelerating drivers promises to dominate the first quarter of this century. Each of these drivers, alone, has the potential to remake how we live; together, the likelihood of a fundamental transformation of our lives, our politics, our world, becomes over-determined. Moreover, these drivers are distinct but interdependent: each one exists and would be transformative on its own, but how it plays out — and the choices we’ll face when confronting it — will be contingent upon how the other drivers unfold. Twenty years isn’t a long time to make the needed changes to turn potential disaster into a new world; we have all of five US presidential terms — maximum — to completely transform, globally, every significant aspect of our material civilization.

The specific drivers he notes are:

  • Climate Chaos
  • Resource Collapse
  • Catalytic Innovation (transformative technologies)
  • Ubiquitous Transparency (surveillance state vs. sousveillance)
  • New Models of Global Development
  • The Rise of the Post-Hegemonic World (the weakening of American power)

As I’ve discussed in previous posts (see Will Robots Spark the Revolution?), the point behind anarcho-transhumanist projects shouldn’t be just to advocate and fight for open access to and liberatory uses of technology. One of our main priorities should be to evaluate futurist scenarios for transformative drivers like those mentioned above that have the capacity to not only shake up the world, but to create crisis points within capitalism — stages where capitalist hegemony is weakened and possibilities for revolutionary alternatives are increased. There is far too little discussion in anarchist scenarios about the future — and what is out there tends to be formulated as dire warnings of impending apocalypse or Big Brother scenarios. The primitivists, perhaps, discuss these matters, but only with a callous eye towards how they can exploit tragedy to achieve their fantasy tribal lifestyles.

What revolutionary-minded anarchists should be doing is evaluating these drivers noted above and creating a game plan. What outcomes are likely? How can we position ourselves to affect them, to strive towards outcomes we’d prefer? How can we take advantage of the weaknesses these changes will bring to the status quo? What political stances should we be making and clarifying now, in preparation for future ideological battles? What sort of movement infrastructure should we be seeking to establish, in order to create a counterpower best prepared to deal with these future scenarios? Where should we focus our organizing efforts? Our direct action?

Our movements spend far too much time trying to fight a monolithic capitalism system head-on right now, while glorifying the past, without realizing that both are going to have very little relevance on how the next 20-50 years play out. The world is going to be changing quite rapidly, and if we’re not prepared to deal with it, we’re going to have no chance in fighting for a better future. It’s adapt or die time. So let’s get to it.

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