Wolf Tivy on democracy, “governance futurism”, Palladium, religion and transhumanism

Elite aesthetics.
  • A mechanical engineer by training.
  • Lawyers vs. engineers (there are too many lawyers in power vs. engineers).
  • The project is to influence the most important people on a 20-50 year timescale and contribute to the consciousness of the Western elite by taking the most sophisticated view possible.
  • Democracy doesn’t matter, the question is elite competence. Democracy is an elite ideology, it’s an incentive for elites to govern well. Do the elite believe they need to govern well?
  • The goal is a collective political community that does great things. What is the inspiration and energy amongst the elite that will lead toward those things?
  • The real question of functional democracy: can the elite agree about who should be in charge and get feedback from the population? In China they get “big data” feedback from the population.
  • Democracy is a big public ritual that reaffirms the elite ideology. The ritual of democracy is distracting. We have incredible inefficiency that isn’t necessarily caused by democracy but encrusted upon it.
  • The 60’s revolution was somewhat justified in trying to “stop the machine” but that’s all it did and now we’re “frozen”.
  • Palladium aims at elites but those outside of the current paradigm vs. those at the top of the current setup (those taking a chance on creating something new vs. those invested in the status quo).
  • “Noblesse oblige”, “skin in the game” (concepts introduced by interviewer) come down to elite ideology, even in a democracy the elite can stagnate for decades and face no accountability.
  • We have an entrenched regime of the upper middle class. “When you become powerful you can use that power to entrench yourself.”
  • People’s opinions are shaped and organized by the system in order to sustain the system. Elections and organizing are happening ways the system knows how to digest.
  • Elites are accountable to God because if elites stagnate they won’t be prepared for exogenous threats (subjects can become warlords, you can be conquered from outside etc.).
  • Do the elites of a system have a vision to do something? Do they have the discipline to do the work? If yes, they will be fine. The question for elites is “what do you care about”.
  • But if the focus is “I want to retire on my yacht” or “go to Epstein’s island” that’s doomed.
  • In democracy subjects become liabilities rather than assets (“we have to brainwash them”) vs. people to be lead in pursuit of something great.
  • Interviewer question: “Is there anyone in charge right now?. No, to the extent there is a regime, it’s failing.
  • Dissident scenes (like the “conservative world”) complain about being oppressed but if you actually try to do anything you will win by default because the regime is in its death throes.
  • The regime/system is actually good in that it’s holding back chaos and giving us “time to work”. The job is not to oppose the system but to create a coherent elite in order to inherit and steward the system/civilization.
  • The WASP elite failed and nothing really replaced them. There are conspiracies and interest groups but no one is in charge. No one is able to “act above the institutions” and direct them.
  • It’s a spiritual question: one faction of current elite have a spiritual commitment to the pleasure of the self (it’s not “material” but still transcendent in its own way).
  • Liberal-individualism in it’s original conception was a serious/interesting ideal (heroic individualism like Mills and Emerson), but it became “we are going to retreat into the pleasures of the self”.
  • Rather than answering questions with exploratory individualism liberalism turned to stopping thought. Popper says “destroy anything that could actually create change” (his admittedly negative reading of Popper).
  • Better to put individualism on equal footing with other ideologies like “theism”.
  • Utilitarianism is an evil ideology.
  • The key question: “what is the vision that I have for the cosmic order and my place in it?” Once you’re thinking about that you’ve evaded the “thought stopper”. “Which visions are we compelled by?”.
  • It doesn’t have to be religious in the sense that most people mean but it is religious in the original mean of the word: “binding”. “Are you bound by some system of principles and transcendent values?”
  • The secular modern scientific worldview is a religious one.
  • The “thought stopper” could be seen as a defence against what science actually implies because if you take science and technology to their full potential you get a religious vision.
  • The work has not been done to update Christianity in light of science nor to drive science forward to deal with theology and value.
  • Anti-transhumanist in the current day but “ultimately we end up there” if you take the scientific/modern worldview seriously (but OPPOSED to the “self-worshipping” and “fake” transhumanism of the current day).
  • “Is mankind the perfect being?”. No, we can create a being that will surpass us. It’s the principle which animates being that is important rather than humans as is.
  • “God is manifesting into the world the kind of beings he wants to have a relationship with”
  • “I am a religious ideologue”
  • “Governance futurism” and “luxury political theory”
  • Governance futurism is concerned with “elite and regime formation”. The aim is to lay a definitive foothold in a subject with each issue of Palladium.
  • “Luxury political theory” is the aesthetic element (an issue of Palladium can look beautiful just sitting on your coffee table).
  • We are not in the game of subversion, rather construction (maybe circumvention). Subversion is a “standoffish” and “avant garde” approach.
  • Recommends Thoreau in the vein of “quit your job” as Thoreau questioned a life based on acquisition and thought humans should be worthy of material progress.
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John Duffy studies #3: Canadian Disagreements (technology, urban/rural and demographics)

  • Trudeau is trying to be the first “post-Laurentian Liberal”.
  • Laurentian elite: “The whispers in the common rooms at Queens, the easy murmurings at the Rideau Club, the things that happen in a cafeteria at the Place du Portage civil service benevolent society meeting” that way of doing business is gone.
  • Trudeau is out of that world/group.
  • That electoral coalition is out of his mind map. He is more attuned to young people and new Canadian communities.
  • We’re not even going back to the Martin coalition.
  • Trudeau: next, post, onward, forward.
  • A post-Laurentian world need not be a Conservative one.
  • Harper govt. operates with 21% of all men women and children, Harper governments never feel like a majority (they govern like they have to exert force and pressure in order to pass their agenda).
  • “The middle class hasn’t got a raise in 25/30 years”.
  • There’s great potential in the new supply chains for Canada’s traditional manufacturing communities to get back in the game (with support from governments).
  • The future could look like Japan where young people are working their hearts out to provide for the old. It’s not which Canada you want, it’s which Japan you want.
  • The question of energy and resources has become big since the 1970’s. We’re going to see more and more issues and political forms pertaining to energy.
  • This as opposed to the typical 20th century political divide over the role of govt. in the economy (socialism vs. capitalism).
  • “Technopolitics”: a clash between urban and rural. “Green” appeals to urban voters from progressive parties. Offerings to rural voters from conservatives put the environment on the back seat (Keystone, Gateway, drilling etc.). The vastness of the disagreement between urban and rural implies “the eclipse of the rural value system built around self-reliance”. It’s an argument about modernity.
  • A scientific/evidence basis for policy is a loose term that the Liberals are running with but it represents something much deeper. The regulation of biotech, the politics of science and technology, the vast explosion of tech etc. are an enormous challenge to our society relative to our tiny attention span.
  • Cites Shimon Peres: science/tech are fundamentally ungoverned and more important than politics. The young people are all about science/tech and you should become a scientist or entrepreneur if you really want to make a difference.
  • Politics is catching up one buzzword at a time.
  • On tech questions there tends to be a pro-producer and a pro-consumer viewpoint (GMO labeled on packaging for ex.). When it comes to technology a rural evangelical voter won’t necessarily take the pro-business, pro-producer argument.
  • It’s way more important how technology is governed vs. 2% more or less on whatever tax.
  • Andrew Coyne: It’s about technology understood as an existential question vs. lots of actually technological innovation (which isn’t happening).

Germany’s unique romanticism

“Romanticism took different forms in different national contexts but everywhere it was part of modernity. At its center stood the celebration of the self. In France and England, it partook of democratic and egalitarian traditions to a far greater degree than in Germany, where it combated such claims. No one understood this better than Thomas Mann. Commenting on the ‘melancholy history of German Innerlichkeit,’ he said that the ‘romantic counterrevolution against the Enlightenment’ had made decisive contributions to Weimar’s ‘old-new world of revolutionary reaction’ as well as to National Socialism. Speaking of Hitler’s Germany, he wrote that ‘there are not two Germanies, a good and an evil one, but only one, which through the cunning of the devil turned the best to the service of evil.’ National Socialism reconciled Innerlichkeit and modern technology. The reactionary modernists were German ideologists who selected from their own national traditions those elements that made these cultural reconciliations possible.”

China, global trade, finance and the “Internet of Things”

“The real threat to American financial hegemony comes not from the digital currency as such, but from the integration of so-called smart logistics and the ‘Internet of Things.’ China is racing to lead a revolution in transport and warehousing that will allow counter parties to track all goods at every stage of production and shipment around the world, making global supply chains transparent. This will drastically reduce the banking system’s role as intermediary and shrink the working capital required for trade.”

“Chips that cost a few cents to produce will be embedded in every traded product and communicate in real time with servers that direct them to automated warehouses, driverless trucks, digitally-controlled ports, and ultimately to end users. Artificial Intelligence will direct goods to the cheapest and fastest transport and allow buyers to find the cheapest prices. 5G communications between servers and goods will verify the production, transit, and storage status of trillions of items in trade. The working capital required for transactions in international trade will shrink.”

“…China is several years ahead of the United States in deploying 5G networks and building out the manufacturing and logistics technology that 5G enables. The technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, moreover, may give China a degree of influence in huge swaths of the world unimaginable within the framework of existing industrial organization. Billions of people in the developing world live on the margins of the global economy, working subsistence plots, engaging in petty commerce, with little access to information, education, medical care, and social services. Cheap mobile broadband is connecting them to the world market, integrating them into what Huawei calls its ‘ecosystem’ of telecommunications, e-commerce, e-finance, telemedicine, and smart agriculture. . . . China tore out traditional society at the grass roots and urbanized 600 million people during the past 35 years, and it believes that it can integrate billions more into its virtual empire during the next decade.”

Zeynep Tufekci on social movements and digital technologies

“Capabilities are like muscles that need to be developed; digital technologies allow ‘shortcuts’ which can be useful for getting to a goal, but bypass the muscle development that might be crucial for the next step. It is difficult, if not impossible, to develop one set of muscles without also developing others that work in support and coordination; digital technologies can sever or alter this link, allowing for the social movement equivalent of a bodybuilder with massive pectorals but no biceps or deltoids to speak of.”

Political oratory and communications media

“How, for instance, did the vast multitudes that Daniel O’Connell drew to Mullaghmast manage to hear his speech when there were no microphones? ‘It was this way,’ said one of the old men, who was there. The people said there was half a million of men, not counting women. It was a mighty gathering. Everybody heard Dan. For Dan raised his hand and told all about the platform to repeat his words. He said ‘Silence’, and silence came to us as the wind upon the barley. Then each man spoke after Dan, and every other man said the words, and out to us all on the edge of the crowd came the speech of Dan O’Connell.'”

“…all modern political prose descends from the Gettysburg address. Those 272 words rendered obsolete the style of Everett and forged a new, lean language to redeem the first modern war. As has happened with each generational change in the style of oratory, it was that ‘new’ language, used as Lincoln adapted to the development of telegraphy, that undoubtedly baffled his contemporary critics…”

“As Lloyd George, Churchill and Roosevelt adapted subsequently to the age of the wireless, critics again mourned the state of oratory, as they do today in the age of global television, even though it is this age that has brought us John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and given more powerful worldwide power and effect to their speeches than Chatham or Webster or Lincoln could have dreamed of.”

Ursula Franklin on technology and “reciprocity”

“And now I’d like to focus for a moment on the human consequences which are particularly evident in what are called the communications technologies, and which I would like to call the “non-communications” technologies because very often that word, “communication”, is a misnomer. Whenever human activities incorporate human machines or rigidly prescribed procedures, the modes of human interaction change. In general, technical arrangements reduce or eliminate reciprocity. Reciprocity is some manner of interactive give and take, a genuine communication among interacting parties. For example, a face-to-face discussion or a transaction between people needs to be started, carried out, and terminated with a certain amount of reciprocity. Once technical devices are interposed, they allow a physical distance between the parties. The give and take —that is, the reciprocity— is distorted, reduced, or even eliminated.

Any reciprocity is ruled out by design. This loss of reciprocity is a continuing form of technologically executed inequality. It has very profound political and psychological consequences.

I’d like to stress that reciprocity is not feedback. Feedback is a particular technique of systems adjustment. It is designed to improve a specific performance. The performance need not be mechanical or carried out by devices, but the purpose of feedback is to make the thing work. Feedback normally exists within a given design. It can improve the performance but it cannot alter its thrust or the design. Reciprocity, on the other hand, is situationally based. It’s a response to a given situation. It is neither designed into the system nor is it predictable. Reciprocal responses may indeed alter initial assumptions. They can lead to negotiations, to give and take, to adjustment, and they may result in new and unforeseen developments.

I emphasized earlier the extent to which the new technologies of image procurement have invaded the real world of technology. By design, these technologies have no room for reciprocity. There is no place for response.”

Franklin is writing in 1990, shortly before mass uptake of the internet. The same point—if made today—would require a caveat about how the internet enables interactivity. Indeed, simulated reciprocity is a major part of many internet business models. In Franklin’s terms, much of this pseudo-reciprocity would actually be “feedback.” Beyond pseudo-reciprocity from “the source” of communication to the user, there are endless attempts to create contexts—”communities”—where users can provoke fellow feeling in one another so that they form a warm association with the product or service.