“What we see is everyone is fearful and hopeless and so worried about today that we have really stopped thinking about what tomorrow will look like as a result of the decisions that we take today.”Edward Snowden in a recent Vice interview
Things are changing rapidly and I thought I’d layout in more detail one possible scenario on the other side of this pandemic from a more macro perspective.
I think what we are realising through this ordeal is the lack of resilience in our systems on multiple levels. We’ve off-shored vital manufacturing jobs for cost efficiency and to maximise profit. In the UK, our self-reliance on food has decreased to 50% according to Defra. De-globalisation to secure critical medicines, food and other essential supplies will be put to force early, while with further pandemics lurking beyond the horizon, we may see other sectors return on-shore. This may initially increase employment numbers but the higher costs will be passed onto the consumer. How that will play out in an economy pushing towards hyper-inflation is quite concerning.
Shift of Power from the West to the East
I think the biggest outcome of this pandemic will be the rapid decline of US. Not only was it perfectly positioned to take the biggest hit from the virus with its disastrous health care system, but it’s being lead through the treacherous mine field of this pandemic by an egotistical imbecile. With the colossal debt that is currently on a trajectory to reach 30 trillion dollars, we’ll probably see a spectacular once in a lifetime collapse. This could have global repercussions with virtually all central banks in our world hyper-inflating their currency supply with ever mounting debt.
A recent Guardian article outlined how MI5 and MI6 is expecting China to become more assertive after the virus. But what does ‘assertive’ look like? And how will they move to global dominance as United States declines? To understand their strategies, we need to look at how they’ve positioned themselves globally over the last decades. It highlights their long term vision to become the next global super power.
Not many people are aware but China has been building a 21st century silk road from Beijing to Europe at a cost of $900 billion. While we in the West fumbled and stumbled over Brexit and Trump’s soap opera, they’ve been investing their newly gained economic prowess into infrastructures which will further solidify their dominance in the coming decades.
It’s not just the infrastructures though. China has been investing in Africa to gain political leverage as well as to cultivate cheap labour forces to support the rise of China. An incredible foresight and achievable only because of China’s current status as a benevolent dictatorship, enabling long term investment strategies that may not give much in returns in the short term.
China has also been stockpiling gold and the official figures released by the government is probably greatly under reported. It’s highly probable that China’s strategy to make Yuan the next global reserve currency involves some form of a gold standard. This becomes quite apparent when you see the fallacy and ludicrous absurdity of debt based fiat currency that allows governments to print to infinity, thus unraveling the biggest economic crisis that the world will have ever seen. So the use of gold, silver and crypto currency that are inherently limited in supply seems like the logical solution to gain trust as a store of value again.
So far, we’ve seen China move very strategically over the global chess board through mainly economic means. One of the interesting points that Yuval Noah Harari points out is that in the 21st Century, the cost benefit calculations of peace and trade far outweighs war and invasion. If China was to suddenly land on the beaches of California to gain control of Silicon Valley, the engineers, coders and entrepreneurs will be on the first flight to New Zealand or Europe. But will China maintain its apparent benevolent stance as it becomes more powerful?
Bio-Tech and Artificial Intelligence
It’s also worth pointing out at this point that we are at the beginning of biologial and technological revolutions. We have the ability now that allows us to manipulate life forms ever more precisely by highjacking a bacteria to edit DNA. It’s not difficult to imagine China already experimenting with human embryos in some high security government laboratories. Hyper intelligent coders and super soldiers, as well as longevity of the rich and the ruling class, may not be as far into the future as we might think.
As AI’s capacity for machine learning increases along an exponential path, we may have a powerful central intelligence that is ripe for dictatorial abuse (this is assuming we have some how retained some aspect of control over its growth such as never allowing it to edit its own codes… but what stops them creating a more advanced AI hidden distributed somewhere on the net?). Imagine what China could do with an AI that far surpasses human intelligence and kept on a leash. The advantages gained on tactical maneuvers of war and invasion may signify a violent transition towards the end of war as futility of resistance becomes evident. Will they use the AI to code the mind architecture of robotic soldiers and the police force? What will China do with powerful firewalls, deep surveillance and analysis of the globe run by an advanced AI? Could it help overcome the failures of past central governance through vastly increased processing power which increases its accuracy and scope with ever larger flow of data?
What Does China Look Like Now?
China’s political structure is autocratic with a sole governing body of Communist Party of China at its helm for over 70 years. In March 2018, General Secretary Xi Jingping removed the two term limit on the presidency, allowing him to remain in power for life, essentially becoming a dictatorship overnight. The question is, will he remain benevolent? Even if he does, it’s hard to imagine his subsequent successors giving up the supreme power to reinstate the constitution, likely making revolution the only way to change the political structure in the future. Will we have the capacity to overthrow a genetically enhanced ruling class with AI central intelligence and a robotic army?
“Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.”Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
China’s track record of human rights is atrocious with harassment, arrest and detention occurring widely with many who ‘disappear’. Its global ranking in freedom of press is 177th out of 180 countries, only two places above North Korea. They monitor and censor news and journalism along with all forms of mass communication. Access to YouTube, Facebook and Google is blocked and information about democracy, human rights, religion and peaceful protest is firewalled. (Update: current advancement in Hong Kong). They’ve been increasing the use of facial recognition and phone tracking with ever increasing data points on individual citizens. What will China do once they’ve developed sophisticated bio-metric algorithms in the name of public health, that can measure the heart rate and cortesol rushing through your arteries?
The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power… We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”George Orwell, 1984
What Options Do We Have Left?
All these factors combined creates an image akin to the totalitarian dystopia in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. But what can we do now to avert such a future? As far as I can see, maintaining a power balance is the only way forward. We desperately need the Euro zone to unite and the damage limitation to the US, through its continuous decline, will hold the key to how successfully we sanction and condemn the authoritarian ambitions of China.
What all of this means for us is that we need to increase our resilience fast. The simplest, yet the most powerful thing that we can do now is to grow our food in the garden and share it with our neighbors. If we have food security and community cohesion, we will come out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient. Without food, the collapse of the West will be rapid, detrimental and perhaps irreversible in any meaningful time span.
It’s also clear that if we are to maintain a global power equilibrium with China, we need to enact a complete political system reform to that which promotes long-termism. 4 to 5 year term democracy is, as Churchill puts it, the worst form of Government except for all those other forms. How much time, money, foresight and long-term investment is squandered by the need for re-election? Can we afford it? What role could AI play in a long term governance characterised by freedom, accountability and humanism? Check out my previous post on this subject.
Many questions remain unanswered but I’ll end here with a poignant quote.
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”.Malcom X