“Pondering on the state of the multiverse… I’m a wanderer on a path of my choosing, albeit full of twists, forks and turns. I like to consider my fate my own but in reality, I’m forced to recognize that if I’m where I am today, doing what I think I should be doing, going where I think I should be going it’s because someone or something pointed me in this direction…”
Back in the 16th century, an eminent English cleric wrote a poem about islands and bells, he wrote about a bit more than that but I’m cherry-picking. The reality is though, with all our technology we are struggling today to transform an abstract 16th century idea into reality. Whether we like it or not we are all parts of a bigger entity, I’ll skip the bit in the English cleric’s poem reference to Europe as it might be misinterpreted.
Fast forward to 1942 and the apparition of the first of an amazing literary trilogy. The trilogy’s premise and its Ariadne thread was that using history, sociology, and mathematical statistics it is possible to anticipate the rise and fall of a society, predict the course of a very large population and, bearing in mind the galactic dimensions of the task, consider measures and countermeasures that would, with a degree of mathematical accuracy, guarantee the resilience of said society.
Onto 2019. One part of what seemed visionary in 1624 and science fiction in 1942 has at least come to pass: we are increasingly interconnected and interdependent. In spite of the rebuke of a certain kind of globalization, the fact is, what happens on the other side of the planet impacts people in Rust Belt, USA. As long as Society is dominated by short-term politics and quick gain interests imagining any form of long-term vision for Society, and by extension Mankind, will be impossible, and the future(s) formulated by some astounding and visionary minds will remain as it was in 1624: Abstract science fiction.
Perhaps some brilliant mind, in the pursuit of their intellectual Holy Grail, is giving some thought to the question and in doing so has cracked the engima of what nurtures those mule/rogue elements that appear throughout history and disrupt apparently stable cultures. They might also be mulling over the root causes of social backlashes that fireclowns seem to flair and thrive on (and no, there is no elephant in this room) and if they are, now would be a good time to share their vision*.
* As entertaining as Nostradamus’ works were, I wouldn’t say he anticipated with any serious encyclopedic exactitude or mathematical precision any of the events that have happened since 1566.
From Trantor to the Middle Kingdom
In a world debating whether our future will be more Star Wars than Star Trek-like, but looking more and more like Blade Runner, a science fiction saga about academics plotting futures based on history is by today’s standards naive. Reading about one country’s plan to apply a social monitoring system is on the other hand, the future today. Plotting a roadmap for a population based on its social behaviour and using demographics, credit rating, consumerism, social media activity AND real-world civicism (aka Urban Pride … no, not that Pride) seems Orwellian but with a population of 1.4 billion and growing China puts the interests of the collectivity over individual interest. When China constructed the Three Gorges Dam, it weighed the collective pros and individual cons and went ahead. When China constructed a 254 square kilometre solar park in the middle of the Gobi desert, which although visible from space, isn’t quite in someone’s backyard either, they gave themselves the means so if they intend implementing a working Social Credit System, they won’t be coy about it.
Social monitoring for data mining purposes is already in place in a number of so-called Liberal countries, and a profitable service industry it is too. What distinguishes China’s Social Credit System from other countries’ social surveillance systems is the sheer scale of the project. Although not completed, given the resolve of its architects it will work, solving in the process a number of “ancillary” issues such as the pollution created by 300+ million vehicles on China’s roads, a problem that makes similar issues in the UK or Paris look pale in comparison.
Whatever your opinion of a culture with a history of leaders for life, indifferent to the concerns of the individual and a vision that now goes beyond a five-year plan, China’s intention to engineer and I mean engineer, a long-term plan for their society is, whatever the outcome, the closest I think we’ll get to any realworld equivalence of the Society Isaac Asimov wrote about.