Friday, February 15, 2013

Startup Sovereigns

Parag Khanna article

Statehood ain’t what it used to be.

The competition for authority within and between states is as intense as ever in history [..]. Historically, technological revolutions [..] have catalyzed tensions over authority, as new communities seize opportunities for control. It is now happening again, allowing alternative authorities to flourish — and in some places, even directly challenge state sovereignty.

And yet mainstream international relations thinking continues to overemphasize military might and other traditional tools of state power. The prevailing literature on the evolution of governance, for instance, assumes a state-centric order and widely neglects the role of technology. Francis Fukuyama’s most recent volume, Origins of Political Order, is emblematic of these oversights: As it sweeps across the centuries, it presumes a constant quest for statehood even into the 21st century, ignoring the potential for novel forms of transnational communities. But now, as the current Information Revolution spreads around the world, aspirant communities are building economic and social capital, acquiring varying degrees of autonomy, and accruing authority [..]

All the traditional tools of state power — the monopoly over arms and violence, dominance over tools of communication, and external recognition of exclusive legitimacy — are eroding rapidly [..].

Technology has enabled the public to mobilize without state direction. Every day brings new headlines that support this shift: The hacker collective Anonymous targeted Israel when it attacked Gaza, and then turned its attention to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy when he arrogated excessive powers to himself. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Occupy Sandy movement used simple platforms such as Google Docs to coordinate greater volumes of assistance to displaced people than FEMA. And while the United States has responded to WikiLeaks’ exposure of countless diplomatic cables with greater secrecy, this has only further inspired the growing ranks of whistleblower websites that enable the anonymous disclosure of material [..].

The Arab Spring revolutions, for all their disappointments, have also been a profound example of the mobilizing power of technology [..].

Soon, novel alliances among sub-state civil society groups and transnational commercial ventures might even emerge that promote parallel economic self-governance. Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, a digital currency unpegged to any real world currency, could become a vital medium for enabling the trade and exchange of virtual goods and services. Sweden-based Pirate Bay, already a key leader of the anti-copyright movement, now plans to elevate private data-sharing to a new level by locating servers in Arctic caves and plans to fly them on drones in international airspace — or perhaps house them on Blueseed. Through such tools, the sovereign mandate and regulatory power of central governments is diminished in favor of technologically enabled horizontal networks of consumers and civic groups, as well as the technology providers whose software allows them to evade government control.


Health Apocalypse Now

Link Much of my time for the past year has been spent navigating the medical maze on behalf of my mother, who has dementia. I obser...