In which we explore the fraying of civilization as technology turns from meaningful miracle to malignant master, examine the possibilities for cyber wars to spark “real” ones, and look to history for answers to how the future will unfold.
We’re clearly in the early period of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Society — and our overall geopolitical environment — is already being reshaped even more than we may recognize by the compounded impact of new machines on our capital and individual psychology. Already, a groundswell of modern Luddites is lashing out at the power of new technology. We’re also seeing a new kind of war — fought with code and bytes rather than bullets and bombs — right in front of us yet beneath the horizon of our awareness.
One of the biggest questions we face today, and perhaps the most concerning, is how our new machines will change the topography of power across the globe. Throughout human history, societies have been birthed, shaped, and exterminated by the use of hard power. It’s a cold realization that previous seismic shifts involving capital and technology have often led to a “hot” war. The First Industrial Revolution allowed us to use steam to make all sorts of other machines, contributing to the American Civil War (among other conflicts). The North was more highly industrialized — with people using machines — while the South was still almost ...
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