By Shelton Bumgarner
It seems very possible that the source of all the fear and “social anxiety” that has allowed an unstable racist, misogynist, bigot demagogue to rise to power in the United States might be laid at the feet of some sort of slow-moving technological singularity.
The reason why I suggest this is there must be some sort of reason for people being so afraid of the changes taking place in society. Those changes are happening so fast, in part, because of technology. So, maybe things are going to hell in a hand basket so quickly because, well, things are moving too fast for normal civil society to process it.
One could make the case that both Communism and Nazism came about by the fast pace of change that took place in the early 20ths Century. A lot happened technologically in the 1910-1940 period of time and since, say, about 1990 things have really begun to speed up again.
I have given it some thought, and the modern era really began with wide-spread adoption of the smartphone. And, really that’s the thing that allowed modern social media to take off. And this, of course, doesn’t even address the secondary effects of this slow moving technological Singularity that I suggest is taking place. I mean, self-driving semi-trucks haven’t hit the road yet, but we all know they’re coming.
Additionally, things like 3-D printing and nanotechnology will bring even more political change in the coming years. It isn’t too difficult for someone to wrap these technological changes up in an ideology and use them as a blunt force against the traditional post-war neo-liberal capitalist system.
The only thing that has saved us from that potentially destructive thing happening right now is Donald Trump and by extension Trumplandia doesn’t have an ideology.It’s just a rage against all change and it would make sense that the change it’s raging against is, in fact of a Singularity-like change.
So not only are people raging against the fast pace of social change caused by us approaching the Singularity, their rage, in a sense, is being channeled by the very technology that’s causing the trouble in the first place. Social media is not only causing great social change, it is also causing a Darwinian battle in the market place of ideas whereby only the strongest, most extreme ideas thrive.
Thus, the tribal politics that has infected American civil society could best be described as tech-tribal politics. In a way, one could say that while we’ve not reached the Singularity by any means, we have reached its Event Horizon. We’re now finally eternally locked in its gravitational field. Or put another way, we might, in a 100 years, look back and say the election of Donald Trump was the moment when the soon-to-come Singularity started to warp civil society in a demonstrative manner.
To go back to the issue of how this might be used in an ideological manner, it would make a lot of sense if today’s Trumplandia turned into something even more destructive, even more corrosive and even more dangerous to the world order. The barbaric populism and nationalism of Trumplandia might eventually evolve as we grow ever-closer to the Singularity into something more akin to technologically Maoism or Trotskyism. That these long-dead and horrible ideologies might pop back up is shocking to thin about, of course, but I doubt any of us have really given the political power of the Singularity a lot of thought.
We’re so busy daydreaming out how we’re going to upload our minds into computers and live forever, that we totally miss the idea that a demagogue like Donald Trump might lead a nation like the United States down a dark and scary path once the Even Horizon of the Singularity has been reached. You can tall about a Universal Basic Income all you like, but given the tribal politics of the United States, it’s highly unlikely to ever happen, even once automation and robotics take all the jobs.
That is, of course, when we all look at each other and ask, “Now what?”
Answer that question will be the biggest problem faced by modern liberal democracies in the years and decades to come. There just isn’t an easy answer and into that void someone like Trump — or hell, even Trump himself given how fast things are moving now — will come crashing in and lead us all into a dark, scary time not seen since the 1930s.
Interestingly enough, once this process is over, the very idea of the nation-state may fade and the world will be divided into ethno-spheres. But the process of cracking the existing order to do that might involve huge numbers of people dying.
Hopefully the process will be significantly less destructive than what brought about today’s existing order, but there are no assurances. Trumplandia has sped up our political hurdling towards the technological Singularity and we all have to be prepared for the shake up that is to come.
We live in extraordinary times and Trump isn’t going anywhere. By the time the system finally gets unglued, no sooner than two years from now, some truly momentous things may have happened. Weirdly enough, for a movement build on rejecting the fast pace of change during the Obama years, Trumplandia itself is now set to really shaking things up in a manner that may take decades for us to process.
Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.