Friday 4 January 2008

2050: References

The preceding description of the world in 2050 may come as a shock to some, to others it will be a matter of "What else is new". Since in either case we are dealing with a scenario that has not happened yet it comes down to one's perception.

Yet certain observations can be made right now that assess the present potential and therefore point to the possibility of some developments provided the surrounding environmental factors remain supportive. What follows is a general listing of those factors, drawn from the framework of the Otoom model as well as current events.

The Otoom model relates to the dynamics underlying an event, where the event is the instantiated manifestation of the dynamics. The former refer to types of behaviour, the latter to an action being played out that makes use of whatever facilities are available. First comes the type, regardless of who or what the performer may be. The action comes second, and is usually referred to by a name given to the performers. Hence the world of 2050 is not presented in terms of particular people or nationalities but by demographics, type descriptors in line with the model.

Generally speaking one can say that the decision-making process leading to some initiative will be compacted in direct relation to the pressure applicable at the time. How sophisticated or otherwise the result turns out in the end depends on the starting point and the overall availability of resources, be they of the intellectual or the material kind. Acting as a counter-balance would be the size of the knowledge base which makes it possible to widen one's scope so that other items can be associated with the subject under focus. The process is an interdependent one and is characteristic of complex systems.

The influence of regions...: While the West's religious disposition has always drawn its members to the Middle East, only with the advent of oil as a basic energy source did this region acquire a political clout on its own. It is difficult to see how the current involvement there to the tune of many hundreds of billions of dollars, coupled with military interventions that threaten global stability, and policies that seek to support one nation against others with not much gain overall, could prevail once oil has been removed from the equation. At that point peace in the world is not guaranteed, but certainly a particularly volatile part will be forced to deal with its own problems without affecting everybody else. For example the US has spent over US$450 billion on the Iraq war so far and wants US$190 billion more (Courier Mail, 28 Sep 07, "$200b war bid bill"). The major energy consumers and therefore stakeholders are the industrialised regions, and with many not tied to religious baggage from the Middle East but being major players anyway the priorities will have changed significantly.

Electronic surveillance...: In the UK more than 1 million genetic fingerprints have been added to Britain's police DNA database in only 10 months (Courier Mail, 6 Nov 07, "DNA grab gains pace"). The integration of surveillance cameras into more comprehensive police databases is nothing new by now (Courier Mail, 16 Mar 04, "Police establish city camera database"). Designing computer chips away from traditional silicon reduces their size further and even present-day mobile phones have more computing power than the average desktop machine ten years ago. The realisation that gene research sheds light on the fundamental source of human character traits already makes its way into general articles about people's behaviour (Courier Mail, 30 Oct 07, "Obsessing ourselves sick over optimism"). Major search engines are pressed to provide data to the US Justice Department in its fight against pornography, and Google has as its aim to create a database that includes the habits of people going about their affairs (Courier Mail, 21 Jan 06, "Google vow to fight for Net privacy", 10 Nov 07, "Bigger brother").

What prevents the data logs...: On one hand moralistic regimes may want to implement policies in line with their convictions, such as the present Rudd Labor government in Australia trying to make internet service providers enforce a net censorship filtering out "undesirable content" (Courier Mail, 31 Dec 07, "Net Nanny"). This puts this country on a par with nations like China, Burma, and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, in the face of climate change questions about carbon footprints are already applied to the representatives attending the recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali (Courier Mail, 6 Dec 07, "Emission fallout from talks entourage"). In Germany the attempt to make phone companies log the personal details of callers in the service of national security is met with protests about the costs and the companies want compensation (SBS-TV Deutsche Welle, 27 Dec 07). From the 1st of January the government has implemented the law, making it compulsory to store the details of phone calls and emails for six months (SBS-TV Deutsche Welle, 2 Jan 08). Then again, if the pressure is great enough, whether moral or financial, governments are quite willing to institute controls far beyond their usual scope, such as the plan to curb welfare payments to Aboriginals if their children are not looked after properly because the parents spend their money on drugs and gambling (Courier Mail, 22 Dec 07, "Cape trial for radical solution"). Even the ban on public smoking in industrialised regions can be seen in this light, triggered in part by the pressure on public health systems.

Artificial mind simulations...: Whether it is the Otoom model or one going by another name, the potential exists to simulate societal behaviour patterns in terms of their dynamics, leaving aside their instantiated, object-related content. As such scenarios can be recreated on a computer using dynamics as parameters and played through under certain conditions. Who or what will represent the actions in the real becomes a matter of associating the current players with the resultant effects.

Within the under-industrialised regions...: Whatever region will come under this label by 2050, its character defines itself by a relative paucity of information, a low skill base, intense adherence to a religion or a political ideology, and a significant number of individuals displaying a coarse behaviour. On the ground this translates into violence at elections, for example in Kenya (SBS World News, 1 Jan 08); cruel laws, such as in Saudi Arabia (Courier Mail, 17 Nov 07, "Lash for rape victim"); or the infant mortality rate which can be as high as 185.36 per 1000 live births in the case of Angola, when in a nation such as Spain it is a mere 4.37 (SBS World Guide, 15th edition, Hardie Grant Books, Prahran, Victoria, Australia, 2007).

Migration surges occur...: Power play based on tribal and/or religious perceptions causes massive population movements as a response. For example in Zimbabwe (Courier Mail, 26 Sep 05, "Hell in world basket case"), or in Sudan (Courier Mail, 24 Jun 04, "Goondi man witnesses Sudan horror"). At the same time border protection in rich countries is stepped up, so when Africans try to enter the EU via Spain in places like Ceuta they are met by barbed wire and guards that shoot (Courier Mail, 7 Oct 05, "African migrants make fresh dash for better life").

Sometimes the historical boundaries...: When demographics within a nation develop differently because of their respective inherent characteristics, pressures build to disassociate one from the other. The outcome depends on the degree of cohesiveness overall, that is the sum total of factors contributing to the nation state and/or its dissolution. Current examples are Bolivia, a country divided into two zones, one of relative high productivity and the other representing a largely indigenous population (Courier Mail, 17 Dec 07, "Rival rallies show a divided nation"); and Belgium, where two disparate demographics make it difficult to form a government (Partij van de Arbeid van Belgiƫ, 30 Sep 07, "The End of Belgium?").

Dissolution here and there...: Smaller disparate demographics form niches which are either tolerated or acted upon, depending upon their status as defined by the host society. In Italy for instance the attack on a woman by a Romanian living in a slum caused the government there to enact laws making it possible to send slum dwellers back to their respective countries, even though in this case the other country happens to be another member of the EU. Up to that point such slum areas have been allowed to grow (Courier Mail, 3 Nov 07, "Attacks prompt Italy to expel EU offenders").

The same goes for non-human organisms...: While programs are underway to assist many species in their survival, ultimately it becomes a matter of economics and global politics. When Japan decided to embark on another whale-catching season in the southern oceans, the Australian government used its armed forces as a form of political protest. To some degree it worked when one type of whale was let off the hook, but in general such actions carry a potential that goes quite beyond the welfare of this or that animal species (Courier Mail, 14 Dec 07, "Military whale watch").

Aid programmes...: Already the emphasis is on sustainable development in the target regions. Consider the Humanitarian Development Program where this aspect represents its core mission statement. Japan examines its own aid programs under a similar umbrella, and so does Australia with the stated proviso that the initiative should follow the country's national interest. Increase the pressure overall, and how long before the national interest assumes the top priority in any case?

Although the above references are more or less specific, since they are part of interdependent systems they should be seen in conjunction with each other. It's a matter of connecting the dots.

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