Monday, December 26, 2016

Threats Impel Decentralization

     The terrorist attack on the Berlin Christmas market has revived, at least for the moment, Europeans’ consciousness of their insecurity – and at least as important, European public officials’ consciousness of the rising tide of resentment their subjects feel toward them. However, if there’s been significant motion among those politicians toward genuinely greater security against the Islamic threat – and let’s not mince words on the feast day of St. Stephen, the first recorded martyr to the Christian faith – I haven’t been able to detect it. To this point, only a few dabs of cosmetic rhetoric have been applied to the scowling face of private European sentiment.

     Frankly, I don’t expect much more than that from Europe’s political elite. The European ruling class is like the American one, except more so:

  • Its members arrogate even more power and privilege to themselves;
  • They’re even more disdainful of the rights and prerogatives of private Europeans;
  • And they’re twice as unlikely ever to admit a mistake, much less to make amends for it.

     So my prediction for the near-term future of Europe is that nothing substantive will change. There’ll be more rhetoric about the problem. There’ll also be an enhanced degree of both self-exculpation and finger pointing to go along with it. But with very few exceptions – Hungary appears to be one – the rulers of Europe’s nation-states will not act to stem the Islamic invasion of their realm, much less to expel those who are already inside the gates.

     The consequences that must follow will involve sharp reductions in Europeans’ willingness to participate in large gatherings. Despite attempts to render them visibly more secure, the Christmas markets have already suffered a decrease in patronage. I would expect other public gatherings – e.g., sporting events, political rallies, and the use of large shopping malls – to be similarly affected.

     For once, Europe will be the trend leader, though in time America will surely follow.

     Unless forcibly prevented from doing so, people respond to changes in their environments. The change introduced by Eurocrat foolishness about the Islamic influx evoked the aforementioned reduction in European participation in mass gatherings. That change will evoke further changes: to the ways Europeans work, play, and socialize.

     We may confidently expect that technology will play a part. Of course, in one way it already has: the Internet has changed the ways in which private persons worldwide communicate. We don’t send physical mail nearly as often as we once did. Neither do we spend as much time on the telephone...even though ubiquitous cell phones and cheap voice communication have been around for some time already. But more is surely coming.

     Consider the business meeting. Meetings among persons normally widely separated in space are steadily trending downward in favor of teleconferences that involve no travel. The advantages here are many, and businesses worldwide have been quick to exploit them. But until recently, there’s been little reason to replace meetings by persons who normally work on the same campus (or in the same building) with teleconferences. I predict that the drive toward reducing the frequency and size of concentrations of persons that might attract a terrorist attack will be felt there, quite soon.

     The need to congregate for work of various kinds will be less tractable, though the problems are not insuperable. Repetitive assembly-line jobs are steadily being taken over by robots; some of those that demand a human operator can be performed by a teleoperator manipulating a group of waldoes. Now that fear has been added to persons’ disincentives to commuting, we may expect these developments to accelerate.

     Capital costs and allocations will have their effects. Over the past few decades, people have become ever more expensive while inanimate capital of most sorts has become less so. Companies that contemplate expansion or large-scale renovation will look ever more favorably on approaches that prefer the inanimate to the animate: more machines and fewer (but smarter and more versatile) workers. The political impact will be considerable, but then, much of the increased cost of human workers can be blamed on political interference in the labor market.

     It’s likely that I’ve only scratched the surface here.

     The above developments will cut into the supply of terrorist targets over time. However, we cannot expect that terrorists, who have as much interest in perpetuating their influence as anyone, will retire peacefully from the field. They, too, will change their ways.

     A determined terrorist that can’t attack people with bullets or explosives will seek other ways of harming them. He’ll explore biological methods: poisons, gases, and microorganisms. If he can, he’ll attack the food supply of his intended victims. Populations that get their water from centralized sources will remain vulnerable to him. And of course, we all get our air from a common the present.

     Other forms of terrorism will become more significant. The possibility of attacks on our digitally controlled infrastructure has recently loomed large. The more of our underpinnings are held together by a common medium such as the Internet, the more havoc a clever cyberattack could conceivably wreak. Persons who’ve surrendered to the lure of the Internet of Things already have reason to fear this.

     Further decentralizations, or efforts toward them, will arise. Instead of a single Internet with billions of persons and devices on it. I predict that multiple digital mass communication paths will emerge. Some will specialize in financial transactions. Some will specialize in automation and numerical control. Others will support person-to-person communications or meetings. Where gateways from network to network are created, security will be the foremost consideration, as such linkage points would themselves be tempting targets.

     There will be peripheral consequences that no one will like. The costs of these developments will be significant; to the extent that they involve governments, they’ll be extortionate. We’ll see each other in person much less often; we’ll take less pleasure from our gatherings, especially those that involve hundreds or thousands. The capital retrenchments I foresee will displace workers, especially those with the lowest and least transferrable skills. And regardless of political developments, we’ll all feel a little less free.

     Not a pleasant outlook for the immediate future, is it? But this is the crop we’ve reaped by permitting the civilization of the First World to be penetrated by that of Islam. It should never have happened; indeed, it should never have been allowed. You cannot treat the gentleman and the savage as equals without ugly consequences.

     Perhaps as the rigors of advancing decentralization begin to chafe us and confine us ever more straitly, we’ll unlearn the folly of multiculturalism on which all the more obviously destructive follies are founded. We can only hope it will not be “a lesson too late for the learning.”


Unknown said...

We can and will win, but the costs are already being tallied on that role call chalk board of the future, indelibly. Too late to prevent that without divine intervention. But wait, He has already intervened... we just have to see how much more. Faith will play a large part in that. Let us rejoice as the curtain opens on the final act, and we play our part as well as we can.

Anonymous said...

Technology is wonderful but indeed a double edged sword. GPS is great.. but carry a compass just in case. Oh, and it never hurts to know a few things even when google and wikipedia are not accessible.

The updated Battlestar Galactica series from a few years back gave fair warning of what happens when relying upon technology too much. Sort of the same lessons of various single crop failures causing massive famines.