News — At The Edge — 3/7
Increasingly appears that this year and this decade — U.S. decline, Putin’s game, voting, police and data — are likely to chronicle a change in the course of civilization for the worse.
“Is Trump a symptom or a disease? And if he’s a symptom, what’s the underlying sickness? Decadence…[with] the entire Western world…victims of our own success and…now locked in a state of malaise, in which our culture and politics feel exhausted….
[A] ‘decadent society’…trapped in a stale system that keeps spinning in place, reproducing the same arguments and frustrations over and over again.
Trump’s election is simultaneously a sign that a lot of people were desperate for something different and a reflection of the shallow and frivolous culture that spawned him….[A] belief that the status quo is broken and needs a reboot….
[A] decadent society manifests forms of economic stagnation, institutional sclerosis, and cultural repetition at a high stage of wealth and technological proficiency and civilizational development…[that] comes on civilizations when they’ve reached a certain stage, and it’s not clear where they go next….
People are very upset…anxious, and very concerned…[with] very intense opinions, but their arguments are stuck in a stalemate. And when there are new ideas, they don’t seem to have a purchase on the real world. And so we end up very energetically going in circles…having the same political arguments over and over again….
People are desperate for an alternative to these sclerotic political systems, and ideologies on the left and right have basically been frozen in place since the 1970s…. But the nature of the system and the situation makes it hard.
You elect populists…[for] a rebellion that leads back into stalemate, and you basically get a more corrupt form of government that reduces people’s faith in the system further….
[P]art of this frustration is that we’re sort of play-acting…[that] ends up getting channeled into virtual politics as opposed to real politics…. There’s a frivolity to Trump that undercuts his dangerousness, but his ascendance is a sign of how close we are to tipping over into something truly dark….
[Indeed] there could be a moment when our decadent society enters into a crisis from which a genuine transformation is likely to emerge….
[But] Romney…Obama or a Bloomberg or Biden…[are] invested in this idea that we have a pretty good status quo and…[should] make it sustainable….
It’s a lot of sound and fury for cable news but most of it amounts to Trump trying to evade accountability for the corrupt things he does…especially the erosion of the rule of law and the basic norms that make the whole game of liberal democracy possible….
[So] the rupture has already occurred — we just have no idea what’s on the other side….
[If 2008] crisis couldn’t spark a near-revolution…what can….
’American founding is a kind of hyper-individualism that was eventually going to lead to atomization and sterility’….
[Now] a world civilization that has…directed its surplus energies into triviality and excess….[A] world-spanning species [that] discovered…the universe seems too vast to explore, and we’re sort of stuck here.” https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/28/21137971/the-decadent-society-ross-douthat-book
Our Twilight Zone & What Comes Next *
“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.”
“This fever of mistrust is the desired symptom of a powerful virus — a confidence-sapping worm of mutual suspicion…[Russia] planted in the operating system of American democracy.
At little cost and with surprising ease…[Putin] exploited partisanship and social media to serve Russia’s long-term goal of weakening the West by encouraging disorder and disunity…[making] the very existence of…Russian chaos project…a partisan wedge….
Millions of us are unsure whether elections will be [fair or]…news we consume is real or…[whether] foreign policy serves national or personal interests…[and] a massive victory for America’s enemies.
A climate of mutual suspicion at home erodes our ability to affect events abroad. Foreign governments lose confidence in a nation whose leaders — and followers — lack confidence in one another….
[F]or much of the past decade…[Putin] spread disinformation, fanned conspiracy theories and generally mind-gamed the American system…[and] is surely pleased to have won a significant geopolitical victory with…so much help from American dupes….
Putin is nonideological…’impulsive, emotional, opportunistic…[seeing] himself as the last great nationalist, anti-globalist leader’…convinced that Western-style capitalism, unrestrained by a centralized controlling authority…[is] incompatible with Russian greatness.
And to be fair, the United States and its Western allies had not done enough to help the Russians build a market economy….
[Putin] transformed the anarchic plunder of the 1990s into a centralized structure of state-approved oligarchs, with himself at the top…[and] believed to be among the richest people on Earth….
Putin believed the United States was abusing its power, acting to ‘overthrow any [regime] we don’t like…[and] he’s not afraid to pay a price to weaken the West….That’s what makes him so dangerous.’
A unified United States, pursuing a bipartisan, pro-democracy foreign policy is Putin’s biggest fear…[and] supports whichever candidates are most divisive and amplifies whatever arguments are most bitter….
At the same time, Putin went to work on other vulnerable pieces of the Western alliance…[helping] Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s brutal tactics…send millions of refugees fleeing to Europe. When xenophobic nationalist movements flared up in reaction, the Russians poured on the gas via social media….
Putin is on a winning streak….
In geopolitics, as in business, digital communications have upended the distribution of power. When everyone is a…broadcaster and information spreads instantly, it’s much easier to tear stuff down than to build it up…[since] institutions can be slow to defend themselves.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/02/did-vladimir-putin-turn-america-itself/?arc404=true
Civilization is Anti-Human, Not Machines
April 2000, as millennium celebrations passed into history, Silicon Valley luminary, Bill Joy, wrote a provocative…
“’[It’s] devastating to our country to get rid of the electoral vote…and have California and New York…[decide] the next president of the United States’….
[Her] comments come as leaders of the group Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote…inform other conservatives about…[how] electoral system would still be used, but…electors would be distributed based on the national popular vote instead of the state’s popular vote.” https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/elections-2020/gop-chairwoman-suggests-rnc-plans-to-get-litigious-over-push-for-national-popular-vote/ar-BB10wOWD?ocid=spartandhp
Barr sounds call to push back against anti-cop attitudes, adopt ‘zero tolerance’ to resisting police –
“[Saying] it is becoming common…to scapegoat the police…[with] statistics that show assaults against police have jumped by 20 percent to 6,000 a year ….
’[W]e have to get back to the idea that…we have zero tolerance for resistance of police….
If people have a problem we have processes…to raise your concerns or complaint, but resistance is unacceptable….’
Foreign wars [end but]…[battle] law enforcement fights never [ends].’” https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/barr-sounds-call-to-push-back-against-anti-cop-attitudes-adopt-zero-tolerance-to-resisting-police/ar-BB10tYYD?ocid=spartandhp
“[Data is] not like normal traded goods and services…[rather] used time and again…[with] both positive, such as helping to improve health care, and negative, such as breaches of personal information….
[Markets] often do not ascribe full value…[because] trading is too thin…[and] much of society’s emphasis is on…dangers of misuse of personal data….
[But] data economy does not distinguish such features well…[without] institutions, such as data trusts, to ensure information is fairly distributed.
Personal information should not be…‘ownership’ but ‘access rights’….
For governments, the right strategy may be to make data freely accessible. Estimates for the value of open government data range from less than 0.1% to more than 7% of GDP.
Companies also should consider privileging access to personal data.” https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2020/02/27/rethinking-how-we-value-data
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