2050: The Network
Posted August 16, 2022
[Campbell’s note: As you know, the marketplace of ideas is saturated with doom, gloom, and hopelessness. Of course, it’s not for no reason. But, we are so immersed in dystopian visions of the future that a cynical outlook now seems inherently more insightful than its optimistic counterpoint — if, that is, such a counterpoint exists. Today, we present a different vision, however unrealistic it might seem, of a peaceful and prosperous future for humanity: The Network.]
The year is 2050.
As hard as it might be to believe…
For the most part, peace is a normal thing. Prosperity has become the way of the world. A new type of mind has taken the lead with far more carrots than sticks.
Nations still exist, but not in the way they did in centuries prior.
They exist as a patchwork of cooperating Network States, all connected — and kept in check — by a hyper-advanced version of the Internet that the world now calls, simply, The Network.
The Network’s “flag,” if you can call it that, is the Dymaxion Map, created by the late futurist Buckminster Fuller, representing the world as one island in one ocean.
How and when this shift happened is hard to pin down.
Like a Hemingway bankruptcy, it happened two ways: gradually and then all of a sudden.
The Network began to slip fully into the mainstream when nations capitulated on trying to restore the past — by either Building Back Better or Making XYZ Great Again — paving the way for the unexpected to emerge.
(And there emerged something not quite old, but not quite completely new either.)
Before that, a ragtag group of developed and developing nations was already fostering The Network, a move historians now call the Digital Bretton Woods.
If we zoom out, we can see that The Network is the culmination of a number of trends that began in the 2000s and converged in the 2030s:
1.] Innovations in cryptography, machine learning, distributed networking, and grid computing
2.] A turning of the political tide away from central planning and technocratic ideologies
3.] Desperation by world leaders to distance themselves from the failed “Great Reset”
The Failed Experiment
Indeed, 2029 marked the official and catastrophic failure of the “Great Reset.”
The GR tried to centrally micromanage — by backdoor governance, monetary manipulation, and coercion — a global paradigm shift toward sustainability. Some still argue that the intentions were pure, but few try to argue that they weren’t paving a road straight to hell.
In 2030, for this reason, the pendulum began to swing in the opposite direction.
Leaders were forced to distance themselves from anything and anyone that smelled of the failed experiment.
Forward-thinking leaders began to realize that computing power — which represented the nation’s potential for innovation — had already become the unofficial global currency. The more computing power you had as a network or a nation, the more problems you could solve… and the more potential you had for asymmetric breakthroughs.
Therefore, the basis of the global economy was shifting toward being backed by the power of computation, which was already being traded — in a developing “gray market” — for real-world resources, diplomatic favors, patent access, proprietary research, or NFT-based digital designs, prototypes, and blueprints.
But to explain how all of this really came to be, we need to look back at the early 2020s.
The Network of No Surprises (NoAh!)
The Network began as the brainchild of a movement in the 2020s called DeSci, or Decentralized Science.
DeSci sat at the intersection of two trends:
1.] Efforts within the scientific community to change how research was funded and knowledge was shared around the world
2.] Efforts within the global crypto industry to shift ownership and value away from industry intermediaries
As neuroscientist and DeSci pioneer Sarah Hamburg wrote in 2022:
“The DeSci movement aims to enhance scientific funding; unleash knowledge from silos; eliminate reliance on profit-hungry intermediaries such as publisher conglomerates; and increase collaboration across the field.”
Though DeSci began as a radical concept in the field of science, global headwinds transformed it into a social and economic imperative.
In 2028, a massive data leak — called The Flood — exposed over 100 of the world’s most influential multinational corporations and transnational organizations. Though most had already suspected it, the world now had hard proof of just how entrenched the field of science had become by special interests.
These special interests, they discovered, had a stranglehold on the process of discovery and innovation. In defiance, the culture began to ditch traditional avenues of discovery in favor of methods that were decentralized, open, and permissionless.
The DeSci movement initiated a global project they called the Network of No Surprises, colloquially known as NoAh!.
NoAh! was driven by the philosophy that science should be free, open, and plainspeaking. It was motivated by the simple idea that discovery is a pursuit for the many, not the few. Genius, they said, is evenly distributed. Opportunity should be too.
But they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Alternatives to the status quo had been in place for years.