Death of the Nation State?
Posted January 12, 2022
385,000 babies will be born today.
At least, that’s the UN’s best guesstimate.
Those children — the ones who make it at least 65 years on this planet — will live through the greatest shift in the social order in human history.
That’s according to one of the most influential books on this subject: The Sovereign Individual, written in 1996 by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg.
The main premise of the book — one with which I agree — is that what they call the “Information Revolution” will radically transform our lives faster than any revolution before us:
The transition from one stage of economic life to another has always involved a revolution. We think that the Information Revolution is likely to be the most far reaching of all. It will reorganize life more thoroughly than either the Agricultural Revolution or the Industrial Revolution. And its impact will be felt in a fraction of the time. Fasten your seat belts.
In short, reduced dependence on physical capital and increased importance of the virtual will render impotent any institution that held power before the Internet.
While a child born in the early 1900s would live through two world wars, the rise and fall of ruthless dictators, a great depression, several booms and busts, massive social and political upheaval, and much more…
By the time today’s newborns reach their 65th birthdays — in 2087 — they will have lived through the total collapse of banks, corporations (as we know them), and nation-states.
No, these institutions won’t disappear completely. But the way they’ll operate will be unrecognizable to the way they operate today.
It’s not unlike how Venkatesh Rao put it in his influential blog, Ribbonfarm: “The Age of Corporations is coming to an end. The traditional corporation won’t vanish, but it will cease to be the center of gravity of economic life in another generation or two. They will live on as religious institutions do today, as weakened ghosts of more vital institutions from centuries ago.”
Rao speaks only of our industry centers, but the same will apply for our financial and political centers. If you feel any resistance to this idea, consider what we wrote in our Big Book of Crypto:
There’s an unspoken assumption in the modern mind that history has come to an end. The structures we have today will be the structures we’ll have in 100… 300… 500 years. It’s true of currency. It’s true of finance. It’s true of governance. It’s true of science. It’s true of business structures. It’s true of social structures. It’s true of everything. But it’s a lie. And it’s not even a good lie. What’s most profound about our time is we are currently—as in right now—on the precipice of a new epoch. History reveals that new structures are constantly being formed while old structures fight against them… and lose.
Violence, Myths, and Status
According to the authors of The Sovereign Individual, the key to understanding how societies evolve and transform is to understand these three key things: the costs and rewards of violence, the power of myths, and the nature of status symbols.
All human societies, from the nomadic tribe to the empire, were managed by the interactions between the political centers of power and the humans they regulated through violence, myth, and status.
The capacity to use and defend against violence is the crucial variable in human societies.
In fact, myths and status symbols are tied directly to violence — those who create them and hold them are the most protected from it.
And, of course, history is written by its victors.
The Next 100 Years
How the next 100 years will play out will depend almost entirely on the myths, status symbols, and logic of violence moving forward.
The main premise of The Sovereign Individual is that the rise of cryptographic technology alters the playing field, strengthening individual defense and weakening institutional offense in these three arenas.
“Information technology alters the logic of battle,” the authors wrote, “it will antiquate the myths of citizenship just as assuredly as gunpowder antiquated medieval chivalry.”
This might sound scary. And perhaps, for many, it will be.
However, I don’t think fear should lead the charge. For that, we need visionaries to help push us past the fear and into these uncharted waters.
Today, our default mode of looking at our technocentric future is usually through a dystopic lens. But there’s a case to be made: we should overwhelm our negative, dystopian visions of the future with positive, generative ones.
Whatever the case…
In 100 years, historians will focus, above all else, on those who lived in the 2020s. Why? Because we sit right at the most pivotal moment. Just before the greatest wealth and power shifts in human history.
Fortunes will be created… and fortunes will be lost.
More on what that could look like tomorrow.
For Altucher Confidential