The Coming Decade Could See An Unprecedented Political Transformation

Illustration for article titled The Coming Decade Could See An Unprecedented Political Transformation

Huffington Post asked 10 science fiction writers to predict what will happen in the next 10 years, and the most striking answer came from Robert Charles Wilson, author of the new book The Affinities. Wilson predicts a huge change in our understanding of human nature, which in turn will transform our politics.


Top image: Cover of Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson, art by Jim Burns

Writes Wilson:

I’m tempted to repeat the old adage that science fiction doesn’t predict, it speculates. But science fiction does make one prediction that always comes true, and it’s the deep Heraclitian truth at the heart of the genre: change happens. Change is inevitable. It devours everything familiar and builds strange new structures on the quicksand of contingency. Step in the same river twice? Kid, we don’t even have that river anymore. We paved it over back when the rain stopped falling.

So what might be new and different in the next 10 years? We can start by asking what’s already beginning to feel old. And what feels old (to me) is our political and economic discourse. Here we stand, on the brink of a global climate catastrophe and embedded in an emerging oligarchy armed with a surveillance apparatus of unprecedented reach and power, discussing politics in terms Victorian philosophers would have recognized. There is a tinderbox of unmet expectations and frustrated idealism out there, and a genuinely captivating new political or economic idea — good or bad — could start a global conflagration.

How might such an idea arise? I would point at recent progress in cognitive science. We’re standing on the verge of a profound new understanding of the one subject Enlightenment philosophy could never really get a grip on: human nature. As we come to know ourselves better, we’ll begin to understand our political and social behavior differently — and, inevitably, we’ll find ways of manipulating and modifying that behavior. And how will that play out? Beats me. I’m just a science-fiction writer. But it invites some interesting speculation.

Read the other nine future predictions, including robot marriage and George Clooney going into politics, at the link. [Huffington Post]

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The kids who are growing up right now glued to their cellphones? Once they come into power, we’re going to see the most radical shift in global politics ever.

Why? Because of who’s on the other end of those screens. Kids are chatting and playing games and forming real friendships with their peers- Not the ones in their neighborhood, but all over the world. It’s not just games and gossip, either- When bombs go off in Gaza, they don’t hear about it on CNN, they’re reading the Twitter stream from a friend watching it happen. When they want to learn about Japanese culture, they make friends in Japan.

These kids don’t have countries- Only local customs. Once they’re the ones making trade agreements and peace treaties, the world is going to be completely unrecognizable to those of us who still think of the internet as new technology.