Ever had that nagging feeling that something massive is about to happen? You're not alone:
Michael Malone, writing at ricochet.com has a fascinating article. Remember (from history class, probably not personal recollection) who Gavrilo Princip was? He was the young man who kicked off WWI by assassinating Arch-duke Franz Ferdinand. Malone's article points out some interesting similarities between today's world and that of 100 years ago, and how delicate the balance is.
As it happens, I’ve been thinking about Princip lately – not the pathetic little man – but what he represents. When, amazed at his luck that the Imperial motorcade had stalled in front of him, Princip pulled out that pistol and started shooting, he unknowingly tripped a series of switches in palaces and ministries across Europe – and eventually around the globe – that would lead to a four year war that would pull down the royalty of Europe, murder millions of soldiers and citizens, and set the stage for an even greater slaughter a quarter-century later.
But the fact that all of those servers and networks, storing and transferring much of the world’s financial and intellectual capital are also interlinked via the Web with few protections and no kill switch, is enormously dangerous. It gives the global economy, says Davidow, an unprecedented volatility and vulnerability to tiny events that can chain react at light speed into world-wide crises.
Four years ago, when I read Bill’s first draft, I thought he was being a bit over-the-top. After subsequent events, from the global economic crash to the Arab Spring, I now wonder if he didn’t go far enough. Suddenly the pace of technological change (Moore’s Law) and the networking effect (Metcalfe’s Law), so long celebrated for their benefits to modern life, are now showing us their very sharp teeth. We are now discovering to our dismay that the democratization of information not only can improve the lot of billions of people, but that it can also empower little men standing outside cafes with hatred in their brains and pistols in their pockets awaiting the chance to unleash both.
As for the United States, the world’s military protector and economic backstop, there is not only the greatest philosophical schism since the Civil War, but a dangerous lack of leadership at the top. Even as it is crushing new business and new job creation at home with endless regulations and the corruption of corporatism, it is also projecting a self-righteous image of weakness abroad. The lesson of history is that vacuums in leadership are always filled, more often by the ambitious than the responsible. And that, at least in the short run, “soft” power is no defense against hard men. Right now there are some very hard men out there leading nations, loading their pistols and eyeing their neighbors and rivals.