Looking into the Crystal Ball

Since the rise of the first civilization, a centralized organization having access to the levers of influence on certain types of infrastructure has been a given. Specifically these are information, commercial transactions (especially the flow of goods), and human movement. The institutions of government and society have been structured to reflect this circumstance.  As I will demonstrate below, this paradigm will shift dramatically. Of course, new institutions will be needed to adapt to this reality, which is where my interests lie as should those of other liberty lovers concerned with the future.

The introduction of the internet is beginning of the direct unraveling of the first lever, and indirectly of the second. With the advent of global real time communication, boundless storage capacity and near universal access, centralized control of information is coming to a close. The internet is decentralized compared to other infrastructure.  So the only way a centralized organization, for example, the state, can control information is by a complete shutdown of the internet, i.e., the internet kill switch used in Syria during civil unrest recently and championed by many government officials around the world. The way this works is if there is a centralized structure, which in this case is your local Internet Service Provider (ISP), through whose lines people access the internet. However, advancements are being made to create a fully decentralized internet, void of middle men ISPs, functioning like a peer to peer network. Silk Road, an invitation only “internet” on which many things are traded, is a prototype of a fully decentralized network.

The internet has also a great deal of influence on the second lever. It has unleashed three dimensional printing, or the ability to create or scan and recreate practically any non-biological or electronic object. From wrenches to shoes soles to burritos to guns and even a house, they have all been constructed without any physical human labor. It is only a matter of time till this becomes widespread and supersedes the need for most objects to be centrally created, hindering any potential efforts to limit production and distribution of such products. Once this happens, economies of scale will struggle to remain relevant as customization, ubiquity, and efficiencies in material usage achieved by 3D printing will supersede any value created by mass manufacturing.

If the first two sound tantalizing, the end of final lever of influence will be even more consequential than the first two combined. That is the advancement in what I like to call three dimensional travel. Vehicles that are ubiquitous such as cars and ships are limited to what is known as two-dimensional travel, meaning they can only go forwards/backwards and left/right.  The rise of private rocket company SpaceX , successfully accomplishing what only the government agencies of the U.S.A. China and Russia have been able to accomplish in space, shows private space exploration is catching up to the established players. It’s not the only rocket company with massive firepower behind it.  But getting back to Earth, nine different companies vying are for governmental approval to launch flying cars. Both are examples of three dimensional movement which aim to be available to the masses. Once successful, no one will have an inescapable dominance nor be able to realistically limit the movement of people as they will be able to escape barriers otherwise impossible in the prevalent “two dimension” travel.

As the control of these levers is decentralized, it will become imperative to understand the transformation of institutions and concepts such as economies of scale being overturned and anticipating the challenges that such innovations will bring. This however will not be enough. A focus on developing alternative institutions and solutions to mitigate those hazards must also be taken into account.

And that is where I believe libertarians need to focus. On the institutuions of the future. If we are to secure liberty for our prosterity and its future, we must study and build the institutions that will anticipate and seek to amelorite that challenges of the future well before and better than the state. Then and only then will we see the permananet demise of the state as a temprary blot on human history and a relic of agricultural society.

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