[email protected]: A Centralised World?
Technology will change the way government views the decision making processes
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All predictions go wrong and so will this one. And thank God for that. But in the process of predicting we are able to identify the current trends better than merely an analysis of the past. Moreover, the longer the perspective, the more it forces us to look at the long-term trends rather than immediate short-term bubbles and ripples.
The biggest change that the planet is undergoing is not the environment, nor is it the might-is-right society being forged across the world. Technology is moving far more rapidly and in ways that is difficult to predict. In the last 10 years, our world has changed tremendously due to digital power in our fingertips. Soon, it will enable thought-based communications, and all task related information will no longer be monopolised by human memory, but by external memory banks that may even be partially living. The link between knowledge, analysis and actions within humans is monopolised by the nervous system. But that may change as well as neo-nerves carry information from the mind to the limbs and simultaneously also be connected to the cloud.
What will it mean for our economy and society? Poverty? Inequality? Human relationships? Freedom? I don’t know nor do I believe can most others. But what is certain is that the technology underpinnings of human interactions will change massively and nothing can stop this gale. This storm will annihilate the world as we know it today, turning on its head human power centres, hierarchies, or established norms that enforce human and organisational interactions.
But some things shall remain and some forces may even become stronger. The most important of these would be the need for a strong State. Technology loves externally imposed discipline and thrives on the power exercised by the State. And the more the use of technology the more does humanity need to depend on the State to enforce the complementary controls.
IPR, limits on data sharing, and regulation of competition may seem as minor issues that only Californians and Europeans worry about. Information storage, transfer and analysis may seem unimportant for developing countries. But they are critical. The rest is simply physical work ordered by someone who has information. But all these will require a strong State to enforce and businesses, or those who invest in them, will need the presence of a strong State. They will lobby, advocate, promote nationalism, use PR campaigns and make sure there is one.
And here it becomes important for us to understand the role of the State or the government. If the government has the instinct to centralise it can very easily do so. Just as Aadhaar and digital payments can free the poor from the hegemony of local exploiters, just as GST makes our life easier, they may also enable a centralisation of decision-making.
With centralisation comes standardisation and homogenisation. No centralised power likes diversity. Why? Because it is easier to manage centralised entities when people are similar. Imagine more than 1.6 billion people, more than in China, living similarly. A free people thrice the size of a homogenous market like America, and almost as homogenous. The lure of becoming the biggest market and even economy in the world. A people who are as consumption oriented. What a pot of gold! Somehow the decentralised picture seems much more attractive.
The author is Director at Indicus Foundation