Christ, this has been a difficult post to write. I’ve had to delete and start over a couple of times, so I apologize if this still isn’t quite the quality I would like it to be. I just finished the truly excellent Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. One of the great joys of reading science fiction is the ideas it puts in my head about society and where it is heading. The idea I’ve been pouring from hemisphere to hemisphere in my brain over the last few weeks is the idea that technology, rather than political/cultural/religious ideology is the primary driver of social change.
This idea is a bit more than the trivial and obvious observation that changes in the technological status of a society can cause radical social change (Industrial revolution, etc.) The concept I find most intriguing is the directed use of technological development to drive a desired social change. I think the most successful political movements of the coming centuries will not be the ones with the most convincing arguments or powerful orators, but the ones that can best leverage engineers and scientist to produce a world where their given politics make the most sense. Take for example Proudhon’s “Property is theft”. Most people today recognize that, due to scarcity and the difficulty of producing and obtaining the matter that constitutes property, we must have some system to allow personal ownership of such things. However, with the more modern definition of property extended to include so-called intellectual property, and the dawn of ubiquitous digital networking, the concept property including intellectual pseudo-objects like software or the written word is becoming more obviously useless. What need is there for personal possession of something that is infinitely available at no cost? Piracy is the first crack in the dike of personal property, at least when it comes to the intellectual form. So, you Marxists and Anarchists out there: rather than coming up with the latest argument, why not come up with new inventions that will make more items seem silly to possess? After all, what could be more true to the idea of liberating the means of production than the RepRap?
So, to all you radicals and politicos out there: Don’t publish pamphlets, publish peer-reviewed papers. Don’t march, make! The only way the really novel political concepts of the 19th and 20th century (not to mention the new ideas being worked out as I write this) is to leverage the game theory, and use technology to change humanity’s niche into something where your politics are the Stable Strategy. No one has ever succeeded in beating the facts of nature, no matter how just their politics may be. The only way to build a just society is to reshape the world it must exist in.