A dark age ahead?

April 9, 2007 at 1:41 am 2 comments

photo from BrazilIn a recent post, I mentioned that I recently saw the film Children of Men about a dystopian future. I try to be optimistic about the future, but then along comes a report like this, which seems to confirm our darkest psychological fears of a world being increasingly ripped apart.

The UK Ministry of Defence has just released a report looking at the ‘key risks and shocks’ armed forces are likely to face in 30 years’ time. Playing around with future scenarios of world society, the report is probability-based rather than predictive. So what do we have to look forward to? here’s a summary:

  • flash mobs will abound: groups of criminals and terrorists who suddenly gather in a public space to organise themselves into action.
  • the middle classes will fulfill the Marxian dream of a revolutionary proletariat.
  • citizen-journalists will contribute to a decline in news quality – stories at the expense of facts (not so sure about this one: citizen-journalism is of great interest to me and will be the subject of a future post).
  • the world will see the use of electromagnetic pulse weapons, able to destroy communications systems, and neutron weapons, which are able to destroy human internal organs. Unmanned weapons platforms will be able to target populations or areas with chemical or biological interventions.
  • by 2035, we’ll all be running around with an implantable information chip, wired directly to the brain. Coupled with the increasing sophistication of communications technology, flash mobs will be able to leverage technology to concentrate forces quickly.
  • we are already seeing a growing gap between the average person and the super-rich. This will continue with the urban under-class threatening social order. Reacting to this, the middle class will unite and rise up; Marxism will be revived in an environment of global inequality.
  • more than 50% of the world’s population by 2010 will be living in urban areas, which will witness the increasing rise of shanty towns and squatter cities (have you read Shadow Cities by Robert Neuwirth? – if not, do so). By 2035, 60% will be living in urban areas, with social unrest and inequality leading to communities with shared interests transcending national boundaries and resorting to the use of violence.
  • the population of countries in the Middle East increases by 132%, while Europe’s drops as fertility levels fall.
  • the climate is stuffed.

Let’s hope this is not going to be the reality, but just one possible scenario.


Entry filed under: Future trends, Social problems, Society.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Christopher vanDyck  |  August 12, 2007 at 4:05 am

    In response to your first three things on your list of postulations: I understand why you would think this way. The social movements on the internet appear to you to be “dirty” things. One has to understand that it isn’t the outer manifestation which is important, as much as understanding what drives people to write back and forth that way. The inner issues are more important to look at. A fool could look at the coming of the sun at dawn, and predict that the world will get brighter and brighter until everything burns up. But, in fact, the dawn in caused by a process – and a cycle which is bigger than the coming of light on the face of the earth.

    What one sees at, for instance, my favorite social bookmarking site – reddit.com – and also elsewhere on the internet – is an effect more akin to lighting hitting a grounding rod. The mainstream media has thrown trash talk in our faces for at least as long as the newspaper records that I’ve seen go back – a century. The talk bitterly, and vengefully about people who’ve offended to social order, and other nations who are deemed to be responsible for problems here. What we see at reddit, is finally people are coming together, and analyzing these problems… and reaching consensuses. They are digesting this indigestible crap, using critical thought. Now deep thought is done in the interest of what? Of finding solutions to problems.

  • 2. Christopher vanDyck  |  August 12, 2007 at 4:06 am

    Yes people are angry, and bitter, even. But isn’t that natural, given the things they are reading about? Indignance and alarm are only appropriate when people find themselves in a situation which involves hurt, or problems.

    In regards to the other things – electromagnetic pulse weapons have been developed by xenophobic governments, such as the one in the usa.

    Will microchips interface with the brain? Like hell. Until psychologists and biologists understand the brain, and the mind, there can be no progress made in that area. To worry about that, is like being worried about shadows crossing the wall.

    About the gap between ordinary people and the super rich widening. That certainly isn’t the trend. Take a look at a few pictures from before world war I. People who are rich today, in the usa, don’t think of themselves as wealthy – because there really isn’t that much difference in lifestyle, between them, and people like me, who live at the poverty line.

    Will people be clustering more and more in the urban areas? I certainly won’t be. I’ve made my home in a small tourist/college town, and I plan to stay here. Again, one has to look at the reasons for the urban immigration. People are told that they need to go to college, and learn a very specialized skill. When they get out of college, they find that there is only one place they can use that skill – in a city large enough to have a few jobs available in that field. Social unrest in cities? I only know what I’ve seen. Social friction in usa cities happens because of people of different cultures misinterpreting eachother’s body language, lifestyles, and customs. Certainly, such obstacles could be quickly overcome, if there was any shred of conscientiousness in those that create the mainstream media of that city.

    The population of the middle east is not the pertinent issue – rather, it’s the burgeoning population of China and India, coupled with their their industrial revolution finally coming to bear fruit. Why is oil in short supply? Because of the needs of these two nations, among others.

    The climate? Personally, I can tell you I have not heard the CO² thing explained in a way that I can get my mind around it, to where I would believe in it. The idea that carbon dioxide retains heat more than other things in the air doesn’t quite wash with me. Don’t the gasses intermingle to a point, where there couldn’t really be any significant impact on the climate? The things that evidently power heat and cold in the world I see around me, are the angle of the sun, the length of the day, and the cooling effect of evaporation from precipitation. From what I’ve heard, the sun is getting hotter, by degrees. And Mars and other planets are also showing signs of getting warmer by the same amount earth is. But yes, the ice is melting. And that will really cause us to have to confront our own mess, pretty quick, won’t it? Humans have chosen to form their biggest cities at the mouths of rivers, along the coastline. If the oceans rise up by a few meters, we will need to have vast public works projects that relocate our own buildings inland. And I can only hope that the school of hard knocks here will teach us that we ought to make all coastlines public property, so that we can prevent damage to coastal ecosystems, and so that we can prevent loss of private land to encroaching oceans.


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