Citizenship, War and Social Networks

Summary

Scott Adams recently wrote about citizenship and how the Internet will bring the fall of territory-based national governments, and by extension wars. In this post I briefly highlight where he errs and give reasons why country divides will only grow sharper in the coming decades, in part due to competition for dwindling water, oil and other resources along with increasingly fraught intranational civil relations.

Scott Adams recently wrote about citizenship and how the Internet will bring the fall of territory-based national governments, and by extension wars. In this post I briefly highlight where he errs and give reasons why country divides will only grow sharper in the coming decades, in part due to competition for dwindling water, oil and other resources along with increasingly fraught intranational civil relations.

As I type this, people in sixty countries are reading what I wrote in Dilbert. My existence is smeared across a lot of time zones. But I'm legally an American because my mother [...] was located in upstate New York at the time of my birth several decades ago. That feels oddly primitive.

Is it primitive to determine club membership (citizenship) by birth location? Being pragmatic, that is the best way to determine whose in your group. Physical proximity is essential for (real-world) communities (some argue this is changing) and as much as people like to claim that we are in a post face-to-face world, this is clearly false. Just ask why businesses still should send people across the globe to make deals or broker alliances. But on the issue of whether we should move beyond governments or have just one, a friend wrote:

Europe is now retreating a bit into their national identities from their "euro" identities, with the northern countries [ed. Germany, France, etc.] really not viewing themselves as owing anything to/being responsible for the south's profligacy [...] the happy-go-lucky idea of it being 'one world' will never happen, unless we somehow all coalesce into one religion and races disappear [...] and in the process cultural differences also disappear.

I agree, unless we eradicate race or culture, then we will never have one government or enter a post-nation world. Even if we do, just look at Europe. They've fought some of the bloodiest wars over a relatively small, resource poor chunk of the world. They are (more or less) of the same race yet that hasn't tempered their desire to form all variety of cultures and countries. Same goes for the Middle East (ref. to Arabs), Africa or elsewhere. People like to form groups with others they strongly identify with, and until we live in a world with teleportation, this will be people in close proximity with one another.

People who want one world government secretly just want to homogenize the human race, along the line of their cultural values. For example, if you raise the question of whether we should have a world government under Sharia, many Westerner's advocating this line of thinking would heartily object and propose republican virtues (in the Founding Fathers sense of the word, not the bastard-child term used today) and free enterprise. As they should, China is a test case in the value of the latter (their Mao-era policies help serve as a control, America was always liberal or 'free').

Someday I can imagine social networks growing in size and power until citizenship becomes an unnecessary concept. When citizenship-by-dirt becomes a relic of the past, so too will wars over boundaries. My social network doesn't need to conquer your social network because we already live in every country[...]I think evolution has wired us to believe geography is something you kill over and everything else is something you argue about. Take citizenship-by-dirt out of the equation in a few hundred years and war will be obsolete.

Small note: people tend to be friends with others they live near. Research shows this. Replacing governments with 'social networks' will lead to the same result, just along a different path. It would still be proximity based for the majority and they surely will not 'live in every country'.

People also fight over more than just land, but also other resources, they are finite after all. Water is going to become scarce soon while global warming has lead to more extreme droughts in some areas (like the Southwest) and increase precipitation in other areas. Because not everyone can reasonably be located on a coast or near a river, this will lead and has led to fighting over the use of water and rivers. We can see this historically in the battles between the Colorado river states or in the case of the Nile. Forming a country (or state) is one of the best ways to protect access to resources, especially if you are not immediately near them. For example, by being in America, I'll have access to at least a couple hundred years supply of coal, even if I live in SF.

Also, has the post-WWII era not occurred in his hypothetical scenario? Most wars have been civil, not between countries. We could go on, but history and human behavior refutes his claims.

Over time, private entities can take over the historical functions of traditional governments. We won't need armies, snail mail post offices, printed currency, or even physical schools. The Internet will make every current function of governments obsolete.

And contrary to what he says, the Internet, as wonderful as it is, will not replace government functions. The postal service is still needed to send sensitive and official document (e.g. you won't, and can't, send a raised seal certificate over the web). The Armed Forces will have to protect us against the inevitable increase in armed conflict as resources become more scarce. People are not long-term thinkers, they would not see the benefit in creating one government to distribute everything around the globe over multiple generations. In any case, this would be impractical. Physical schools (yes, face-to-face interactions with professors do matter)? Monetary policy? Transportation infrastructure (it needs to be publicly financed in some way)? Basic science? He lives in a bubble if he thinks these will exist in a private world, they are of a public nature and should be funded by the public. I could go on, but the point is made.

Before writing a Utopian view of the future, which are fundamentally wrong, it is best to consider actual human behavior for the majority of people who are not always plugged into the Internet.

-biafra
bahanonu [at] alum.mit.edu

©2006-2018 | biafra ahanonu | updated 02 january 2018
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