This is a summary of the main theme of Barataria so far, written for the purpose of taking the discussion off to a new level. If you need more explanation, just follow the links. Thanks!
Pick a system that influences your life. You might start with the obvious physical networks of technology like the internet, telephones or highways that make it possible for you to meet the world on a daily basis. You might branch out to the systems that distribute food to grocery stores or electricity to every household. These link up eventually to more “soft” systems of people and ideas, such as religion, politics or academics. They are all systems that have their own purpose and daily grind that keeps it all keepin’ on.
Science and technology are two things that are often confused. This comes naturally because advancement in knowledge seems to lead directly to advances in the way we live and the stuff we have in our lives. New things require new origins, or so it seems. There is no difference biologically between us and the people who first cultivated crops and built cities which relied on their bounty 10,000 years ago, since there hasn’t been enough time for us to evolve – what separates us is nothing more than everything that has been written down or crafted since. As powerful as this idea is, it ignores the realities of invention.
The art and skill needed to put knowledge to practical use is more than just what technology is really about – it’s generally seen an increasing share of our economy. The term “Knowledge Economy” comes from Peter Drucker in his 1966 book, “The Age of Discontinuity”. It includes this:
“In a knowledge economy where skill is based on knowledge, and where technology and economy are likely to change fast . . . the only meaningful job security is the capacity to learn fast.”
True enough, since a lot of knowledge applied as an art went to revolutionizing economics itself since that time. But as many of us have learned, the ability to think fast means nothing without the right connections.
Governments of various kinds and levels are the way people organize and define themselves, and their operating systems are politics. Connections have always been at the heart of politics for obvious reasons. In our modern democracies, journalists have tried valiantly to define elections based on issues and ideas, but it never works – the connections of politics are tribal and personal. People rarely change their affiliations because they’d lose the connections that define them in part, too. Issues come and go, but connections remain. That doesn’t mean that connections in politics never change, but change stalls until the tribes and their purported issues lose all connection with relevance.
Such a time might be now.
We live in a time that seems to rarely be bounded by what we know. All around us are what appears to be an unlimited number of new scientific facts and imaginative ideas. Yet with all of the great products of our minds, we live in uncertain times. Great theories about economic systems have collapsed in disaster. Terrific advances in medicine are not available to everyone because we can’t figure out how to pay for them. Our political system lurches from one gridlocked intersection to another like a New York cabbie punching the accelerator and the brakes in rapid succession.
For all the smarts we have, our world doesn’t look all that smart.