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SouthFront foreword: MSM and Western diplomats work hard to present Russia as an aggressive totalitarian regime ruled by an iron hand of Vladimir Putin. The only issue with this narrative is that in reality the structure of the Russian state system is more complex. Contrary to delusions of globalist propagandists, the modern Russia in many cases appears to be a more ‘democratic’ state than ‘Western democracies’ pretend to be.
Dear readers, SouthFront proposes to your attention an article of former personal adviser of President Putin – Vladislav Surkov. In this article, Mr. Surkov fundamentally challenges the vision of Andrei Ilnitsky, Advisor to the Minister of Defense of Russia, provided in the article “Time for Big Decisions”. The article of Surkov promotes the modern neo-liberal approaches covertly pushing towards the world of established digital totalitarianism.
On the other hand, an inquisitive mind is quite capable of combining these two visions into a kind of hybrid model. However, in this case it is difficult to imagine what kind of political construct can be born and what it will lead society to.
Written by Vladislav Surkov; originally published by Aktualnye Kommentarii. Translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront.
There is a concept of “historical fact”. The concept of “futuristic fact” does not exist.
Considering that we “know” what happened. And what will happen – is just “imagined”. The prevailing view is about the reliability of the past versus the uncertainty of the future. That is why stressed individuals and frustrated nations are more willing to reminisce rather to dream. They are more at ease among the shadows of glorious ancestors. The noisy company of unfamiliar and unpredictable descendants frightens them. Thus, history gains superiority over futurology. The superiority is not entirely justified.
In fact, the memory of the acquired experience affects us no more than the anticipation of the upcoming experience. The affaires of bygone days are often described in a more confused and foggy fashion then the mirages and dystopias of the ages to come. The speeches of visionaries usually sound far more confident than those of archeologists.
So, on average, the past and the future affect the present more or less equally and equitable. Both of these big hallucinations are made up of blurry images. They contain about equally facts and fictions.
Like mirrors placed opposite each other, memory and foresight lead us into an endless tunnel of mutual reflections, creating the illusion of eternity.
Their symmetry and mirroring are clearly expressed in the myths about the return of gods and heroes; the Jesus of the Nativity and Golgotha appears to Christians from the past, the Jesus of the Second Coming and Chiliasm from the future. Quetzalcoalt, exiled by the people to whom he gave everything, will surely return for revenge and mercy. King Arthur – once the future king – was once and will be again someday. On both sides of the present, both Terminator and Andrei Sator are active…
The above is intended to justify the attempt made here to briefly describe the states of the distant future. Without claims to be a complete picture. But with a guarantee of its realism. No speculation and guesswork. Only dry futuristic facts.
To make the forecast interesting, the next hundred years can be safely skimmed over, as they are clear enough. They will be the times of i-imperialism, that is, the active sharing and “colonisation” of cyberspace. In the context of this general process, several wars (including, it seems, a nuclear one) over the American inheritance will take place. And it will result in a new system of global distribution of domination and subordination.
State structures will not change significantly for a long time come. Political mutations accumulate slowly, and only at the end of the century will reforms and revolutions give rise to several new types of states that will develop and become stronger by the beginning of the next century.
By 2121, these futuristic patterns of statehood will have been completed to finally supplant the forms of political organisation of society that are familiar to us.
The crisis of representation observed today has already given rise to a debate about the appropriateness of classical institutions of the people’s power, such as parliamentarism. The deputy as a means of communication of the “people” with the “power of the people” looks, in the opinion of some experts, rather archaic. When the gentry put one of the moorland neighbours on a horse and sent him to London to convey their general opinion to the king, it made sense. Because then the king could not be called or texted. Why, one wonders, would you choose someone and send them somewhere, paying for their travel and a hearty meal nowadays, when there is the internet, which can transmit your opinion to anyone at the speed of light, bypassing the well-fed middlemen? A non-rhetorical question to which there is also this answer: generally speaking, there is no need.
Political representation is failing on all fronts. On the one hand, “people’s” representatives, as critics of Western democracy have debatably argued, are turning into usurpers and manipulators, distorting the signals sent by the people. On the other hand, the people themselves, in turn, are sending increasingly confusing signals, as live voters are squeezed and out-shouted by gangs of brazen bots, fake accounts and other virtual immigrants who supplement the political reality beyond recognition.
In our electronic modernity, there are already technical possibilities for citizens to represent themselves by being directly involved in decision-making procedures. If the next law on, say, on beekeeping, then everyone who cares about it can participate directly, online, in its drafting, introduction, discussion and adoption – beekeepers, honey lovers, cosmetologists and pharmacists, people bitten by bees and people who have bitten bees, and allergy sufferers and lawyers, manufacturers of beehives and smokers, pchelophiles and bee phobes, and, finally, just those who always care about everything. There is no parliament in this scheme. Instead, there are communication tools, algorithms and moderators. And this is a false liberation: getting rid of the “congressmen-usurpers”, the voter immediately gets into the World Wide Web and gets entangled in the Network. He enters into an ambiguous and unequal relationship with the machine world.
Algorithms are already effectively managing investor funds in global financial markets. The main political practices, both legislative and, even more so electoral, are no more complicated than stock and currency transactions. And if people trust the electronic algorithm with the most precious possession – their beloved money, then nothing prevents them from entrusting it with their political convictions, the determination of which is, alas, inversely proportional to liquidity. Elections, lawmaking, many executive functions, judicial and arbitration proceedings, debates and even protest action – all this can be delegated to artificial intelligence without leaving the party. Society will cease to support its expensive “representatives”, leading to the collapse of two grandiose bureaucracies at once – professional loyalists and professional protestors.
Of course, the political class will not disappear completely. After all, algorithms have owners. According to K. Marx, whoever owns the means of production also has a decisive influence. In the digital age, it is the IT giants that are facing (with a friendly interface) the masses, and their backs (with a backdoor hospitably open) to the intelligence services. Digital and security forces, thus, will remain in the game.
Nevertheless, the number of jobs in the political industry will be radically reduced.
The workshops of high-tech, automated and robotic companies are mysterious and deserted. There is a special term for their designation – human-less production.
As a result of the inevitable digitalisation and robotisation of the political system, a high-tech state will emerge – a human-less democracy.
The main feature of a human-less democracy will be a dramatic decline in the role of the human factor in the political process. Leaders and crowds will gradually leave the historical scene. And machines will come out of it.
- McLuhan considered machines as an extension of human organs. But there is another point of view. That the machine is not an appendage to a person, but his creation. And like any offspring, it is obsessed with the Oedipus complex – to eliminate the parent.
Just as man “descended from a monkey”, so the machine “descends from man” and takes his place at the pinnacle of evolution.
The human, “all too human” state has for centuries developed as an ever-expanding family (family-clan-people-nation…), in which there was room for fathers of the fatherland and its sons and daughters and for motherland and love and violence. It will be replaced by a technogenic state in which the hierarchy of machines and algorithms will pursue goals beyond the comprehension of the people serving it.
The iron logic of the machine world steadily seeks to eliminate human error (a concept that has long been synonymous with fatal error) for the sake of control system efficiency. Biological citizens will have more and more comfort and less and less importance.
Human-less democracy will become the highest and final form of human statehood on the eve of the machine age. A line of secondary and intermediate models of political existence will be built on its platform – a dwarf superpower, an ecological dictatorship, a post-patriotic community, a virtual republic…
Several small countries in terms of territory and population could build up such powerful cyber resources that they would be able to control a significant part of cyberspace that is still “no man’s land” and, paralyse the military and economic capabilities of the largest states, if necessary. Just as in the sixteenth century, tiny Portugal gained disproportionate power with the help of only a few dozen ships, a couple of thousand sailors and merchants and the timely seizure of “no man’s land” sea trade routes, so will future dwarf superpowers through skillfully combined “e-war” and “e-commerce” technologies will equal in influence with traditional superpowers.
A number of governments will decide to forcibly restrict consumption under the pressure of worsening environmental problems. These unfortunate governments will experience the full force of the wrath of the maturing consumer society. The people will not want to vegetate in conditions of austerity. Compulsive shopping, which has long been almost the only existential feature of their philistine existence, will inspire them to actively resist the environmentally concerned authorities. Revolts of militant shopaholics, hedonists and consumerists will shake the foundations of the social order and cause mass repression. Thus, environmental dictatorships with the evil face of G. Thunberg on coats of arms and banknotes will take shape.
- Münkler, describing certain western societies as post-heroic, identifies an important tendency to exclude sacrifice from politics. This is one of the symptoms of declining patriotism. Veneration of ancestors, historical kinship and the basis of identity, readiness for the feat of suffering and death, and other irrational foundations of the nation state are not very resolutely, but very consistently pushed aside in favour of a cult of comfort and a commercially pragmatic view of the relationship between the individual and society. Post-heroism will lead to a post-patriotic, post-national statehood “based on calculation” rather than “for the love of the fatherland”. Some of the great urban agglomerations, as hotbeds of cosmopolitanism, will fragment into autonomous communities of mercantile people “without lineage”, moving closer to the libertarian ideal of the state as a hypertrophied co-working space, unencumbered by sentimental ideology of duty and loyalty. Governments will not be able to impose themselves as a homeland and fatherland and will become only a set of specific services for the individual.
Virtual republics will exemplify the creation of states without a territory. Their population will be made up of both digital doubles of real people and completely incorporeal, pure-bred bots. Having emerged, perhaps, in the darknet as semi-legal tax havens or pirate marketplaces, or simply as gaming spaces, existing exclusively on the Web, they will gradually acquire a stable economy, a system of governance, cyber weapons and collective pride, that is, the full measure of sovereignty. And they will become equal participants in international relations. A citizen of such a virtual country will dwell with his “legal body” in its sovereign digital cloud, and “physical”, if any, on the solid ground of an “regular” state – as a foreigner.
And everywhere people will feel like foreigners, outsiders in a sense. There will be little choice – to be a guest of the Machine, or to a servant of it.
Is 2121 better than 1984? Is the future bright? Is it beautiful? That’s the way to look at it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. So is justice, and freedom, and much more.
Is this prediction clever? Is it serious? It’s hard to say. At any rate, it’s ridiculous enough to come true. It will come true – quia absurdum.
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