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Leading question

This is an open question primarily for British readers. (If you're American and a non-expert on British political/constitutional affairs, I reserve the right to delete your comments in the interest of keeping the signal to noise ratio high on this discussion.)

Where do you think the sources of power in the British political system will lie in 2034?

Bonus points for references to Bagehot, Piketty, Marx and Wiener.

(Note: I'm making the key assumptions that the Beige Dictatorship is unstable and that something else will come to replace it in time: also that the Labour/Conservative political duopoly is drawing to a close after nearly a century as both parties lose their mass base, that they won't be replaced by other mass-movement parties as such (unless Anonymous qualifies as a political party), that the average age of TV audiences is going up by more than 12 months per year, that newspapers are in a death spiral, and mass media in general are being replaced by a foamy carbonated sea of micro-targeted filter bubbles. I'm also making the assumption that we're not all going to go a-flying up to AI Singularity Heaven within the next 20 years. So: after the next couple of stuck coalitions/minority governments, and maybe a fiscal/banking crisis or three, what replaces the current system?)

Answers on the back of a postcard, please.

222 Comments

1:

Watching this thread with interest. "Beige dictatorships" and meaningless two party trade-offs usually fall to left-populist movements in times of economic and social crisis, but not sure if it applies in the UK.

2:

To set the ball rolling: I don't care what the parties are. This isn't a question about who will be running the House of Commons after the next but one election; it's about whether there will be a House of Commons (or, more pertinently -- we tend not to ever throw an institution away; we just let it gather cobwebs) what will replace control of the majority in the HoC as a fulcrum of power. (Arguably the HoC isn't that fulcrum anyway, at least not since the 1960s; it's various select committees and lobbying organizations. But you get the idea.)

3:

With algorithms which - thanks to Big Data, enormously increased computational power and robots - constantly calculate and enforce the necessary levels in the relevant economic variables to achieve Rawls' Max-Min 'rule', i.e. best outcomes for weakest/least favoured/poorest individual, while at the same time enabling greatest possible social and moral freedom for everyone.

4:

When the old system falls, the new system candidates will each seek to replace the old system, equipped with whatever tools they have.

There is the attempt to turn the country into a right wing paradise, which probably has money and some political organization.

The attempt to turn the country into a left wing paradise, which probably has some money, and some organization.

Libertarians, greens, plenty of sensible leftists, at least some sensible rightists, who knows really.

5:

Hm. The closest parallel to the Beige Dictatorship is probably 1931 and all that, and the splintering of the Liberals and Labour into National wings that valued power over principle. The 30s was the quintessential "failure of politics" decade, and it took the war to shake that out. (Not 1914, though: the prelude for that was the Liberal landslide in 1906 and a period of radical social reform that got chipped away in 1910 because of the intransigence of the House of Lords.)

You could argue that the HoC in 1945 was a different entity in the same building because the electorate had changed so drastically.

In the long view of British politics, continuity is always a better bet than change: the establishment perpetuates itself; establishmentarianism eventually finds new hosts. It survives even if the parties change; it allows certain peripheral issues like same-sex marriage to go quickly from unthinkable to unremarkable. So I think it's possible to imagine both a re-hosted establishmentarianism in which parties are more fragmented and operates under electoral agreements, or something cataclysmic that puts party politics on explicit hold for sufficient time that when normal service is resumed, nothing is quite as it was.

Structurally? Technologically? We're already seeing the Napoleonic lure of the plebiscite, of "direct democracy": the ease of automated opinion polling will translated into daily "do you agree with X?" yes/no notifications on your smart device that get sent to your representative. (If there is a representative. Though I think they'd keep them for display purposes.) Boil every policy down to a lizard-brain headline and an up or down vote, hand it off to the people, and shrug when you get lizard-brain politics. Make the election cycle permanent by making it easy to dump a representative on a popular vote. But even then, that would reserve a chunk of non yes/no politics for the establishmentarians because "the people" can't be pestered with it.

6:

Bad answer. Yellow card. Doesn't contribute to the ongoing discussion.

7:

[ Drive by racist comment with link to spammy website deleted by moderator ]

8:

Mass politics 2.0.

Current trends seem to suggest that people actively _want_ a mass politics again, and are very distrustful of elites. The idea of leaving things to a leadership seems inherently prone to being corrupted.

Now how do you know your Mass Movement, your new party, really is real and not a figment of the digital filter bubbles (aka Google, Facebook timeline, etc. and other network fiddling)'s imagination?

Some form of trust network. There will be power blocs of those who can show trust, honest backing of the political agenda they espouse. Clear politics.

There will also still be power blocs of those with, well, old-fashioned financial and physical power. The 0.1% will still be around (in some form?). Will it come down to billionaires taking shelter in fortress cities like London and their private islands?

9:

The optimist: all power to the people, because everyone will be willing to spend a couple of hours a day (a small price to pay for universal basic income) weighing in on the issues of the day, or choosing someone to delegate informed decision making to. Someone perfects information gathering algorithms that allow every one to get the well balanced range of news and entertainment they need. Yes, finally all those predictions from 1994 will come true!

The realist: Technocracy is the new beige. Real power is siphoned off into (probably transnational) institutions that democracy has very little intrusion on. (See Colin Crouch's Post-Democracy or Peter Mair's Ruling The Void) Institutions of democracy remain in place, and democratic debate is perhaps more vitriolic than it is now, but important decisions are made in pirate through a series of groups, councils, committees and informal structures to the extent that it's hard to say when a decision is actually made or by who. There's a very fluid oligarchy making the decisions, but most people in it are sure the real power lies with someone else. Politicians are the people who are willing to act as though they have the power, even though they're in a position that has the least of it.

10:

Pilketty says the decades after the second world war where more money accrued to labour than to capital were an anomaly; so that's starting to swing the other way and will only get worse.

The rich will get richer and the unions have been mostly defanged so the poor will be unemployed or on zero-hours contracts; computerisation will get rid of many white-collar jobs (computers can write news articles now, though they're pretty boring), reducing the number of people who are 'middle-class' - or rather having something close to decent pay and conditions because they aren't replaceable cogs in the machine - quite drastically. Gated communities will get a lot more popular.

This could be avoided by introducing a basic income - but that would require foresight, not something the government has much of, so it's more likely everything will go to pot, there'll be riots, hopefully the rise of a proper socialist party that will give the unions back some power. Oh, and what always happens when the government isn't popular: we'll probably decide to go to war, that's always a good distraction.

On the plus side, the riots may not happen if it's easy enough to pirate games, films and tv programs, and people aren't actually starving. Bread and circuses... legalising pot will probably help too.

11:

One part of the governing system in this country that hasn't been mentioned is the civil service. A brake to major change for any party or coalition that gets in to power by democratic, or other means. They change their views and the goals they work towards only over the time scale of several decades.

Whoever is in charge needs someone who knows how to actually run things, Wholesale replacement of the senior civil servants would be very disruptive to the new governments ability to get stuff done. This applies whether there is a House of Commons as now, or some other system.

The other traditional control on a government is the judiciary. Probably easier to replace and control than the civil service though.

12:

I like that idea! It actually sounds quite possible, technically speaking. (I can't see it actually being implemented, sadly.)

13:

Optimistic view: socialist town-sized collectives, similar to Ken Macleod's Cassini Division where cooperative enterprises out-compete top down corporations in a truly deregulated environment.

(I'd like to suggest all of the Fall Revolution futures as possibilities, but they won't fit on a postcard.)

Pessimistic view: David Brin's corporate feudalism, a less drastic form of Gibson's Neuromancer zaibatsu. If the safety net goes away, your employer becomes the most reliable source of health care, old age provision, etc. In return, you vote how your employer tells you at every level, from local council to parliament.

14:

I can't think of an informed answer, so instead I present information; the projected British population over the next few decades.
(from here)
So, 2034, population 72M, skewing older.

15:

Just started Piketty's book so don't know if he covers this -- the increase of mutual fund investing. The reason for buying mutual funds is to reduce risk; however no one ever talks (much) about who actually gets to vote the shares. (The institution, not the individuals who actually paid into the funds.) Mutual funds tanked in 2008 but there's been an upswing ... esp. in Europe ... see below. Basically, mutual funds help to centralize wealth into the (financial) institutions offering them.

http://www.ici.org/pdf/icig_per01-01.pdf

As for other aspects:
Which party has the best shot at getting the immigrant/ethnic vote? Or, is Britain likely to suffer mass emigration in the next 10-15 years? Who will be left, what will be their most pressing needs?
Which relatively new legislation (past 20 years) is still getting the most favorable public support, the most negative? This should provide a read on general sentiment.
Direct representation via daily polling might work if approached as a multi-tiered system. The general/universal tier would be for the party; the second and other tiers would be specific 'qualified voter' subsets or issues. This is already common in some jurisdictions for school board elections: residents vote only for members of that particular school board. Using a tiered demographic approach you'd get 'Person A' as your representative for education, 'Person B' as your representative for transportation, roads, etc. So a functional rather than a structural approach.

16:

You beat me to it. Call it the Technocratic Deep State. Elections are increasingly a sham; politicians become like avatars or figureheads to convince primates that they are still in control, while real power accrues to the Machine. Ever more sophisticated panem et circenses keep the population distracted from the reality that they are powerless. All who refuse to play these games are met with state hostility -- the War on Terror is a permanent feature of life.

This Brave New World may be the most optimistic scenario; other possibilities are considerably grimmer. System? What makes you think there will even be a System in 20 years?

17:

the increase of mutual fund investing. The reason for buying mutual funds is to reduce risk; however no one ever talks (much) about who actually gets to vote the shares.

Mutual funds are nothing new: they are expensive (1-3% of the value of assets is charged as an annual management fee) investment vehicles peddled by bank advisors who get kickbacks (commissions, in more polite terms) for selling them. Read about index investing for an idea of how retail investors (read: normal people saving for retirement) can buy funds that have a more transparent investment strategy.

Mutual funds tanked in 2008 but there's been an upswing ... esp. in Europe

No, everything tanked in 2008. You have to compare an investment to the overall market performance (e.g. S&P 500) over a given period to get an idea for how well it has performed.


As people get better educated about money the number of silly financial events will decrease. Though it may tak the popping of, say, the London housing bubble for people to realize it, wiping out what is left of the middle class as it does.

The political landscape will look the same, albeit perhaps web 2.0, but the power will shift toward those with fingers on the tuning knobs of The Great Filters. Political engagement by the populace will become a game of finding out what information is useful and truthy rather than an old-school popularity contest of voting for representatives and leaving it at that.

18:

Absent a close international crisis (e.g. Putin gets backed into a corner, misjudges the NATO response, things kick off in the Baltic) or a domestic non-political crisis (one too many power stations out of commission during a really awful winter), I'm chickening out with "a sensitive dependence upon initial conditions."

We've got things spreading out the political spectrum (communications that allow for echo chambers reinforcing and proselytizing less common views) and pulling votes right to UKIP and left to Socialist Workers, at the same time we've got things concentrating the political spectrum (chasing the centrist vote with increasing accuracy on the back of better data).

We've got an aging population (who will tend more towards the comforting banners of their youth), increasing popularity of echo chambers (with the associated increase in belief that "they" are different from "us"), and a more "politically aware" population (who will tend to question more, trust less, and vote less consistently towards a single party). We have more sources of information, and of disinformation - but at least no one person or group controls most of the accessible news.

I'm tempted to say that the "brands" involved are so powerful, that 2034 will see the same parties but with slight shifts in position; and that the policies involved will still be largely centrist. The last major party change was the split of the SDP from Labour, and then the SDP move to ally with the Liberals. We haven't seen the same reaction within a single party to split off a serious chunk elsewhere (although I'm tempted to buy Alan Johnson's autobiography, for a refresher in the internal Labour politics of the period). So, "Plus ca change..."

19:

I find it all too easy to think of plausible dystopias that are nothing more than 'business as usual' for our current institutions; and the implausible ones are, in part, recognisable as parts of the present-day system with two decades of degeneration in a direction we're already going.

But that's not the question you asked; it isn't about evolution and continuation, it's about *replacement*.

"What replaces the current system?"

Well, if there's to be a replacement, we'll get 'there' via massive disengagement from 'here'. That disengagement will be driven by disillusionment and apathy - why would you vote for a 'Labour' party that is actively and openly *for* low wages, and has nothing to say about housing? - and it'll be a while before any alternative party emerges.

If, indeed, it emerges at all: I can easily see a rump Parliament elected on a 30% turnout voting to legalise and regularise the practice of blacklisting union activists, co-operatives, and religious groups deemed 'extremist' for the economic sabotage of running food banks; and in an era where the 'take' from mass surveillance is available to Human Resources at your quarterly reassessment and rehire, to your healthcare insurer, and to all three telecomms providers, 'blacklisting' is going to *hurt*.

That gets ugly, very quickly; but not the ugliness of violent revolution. Violent, yes: but it doesn't get to the stage of organised violence - even revolutionary 'cell' structures are transparent to metadata analysis - and the strikes and civil disobedience will die down within a decade; it doesn't get so much ugly as *dull*.

Dull and grey like the DDR in 1985, with long hours and debt squeezing out the space in peoples' lives for social and civic engagement - a pattern I see right now in East London.

What emerges from that, or grows in the shadows without 'emerging' into visibility, is that people form support networks of effective interdependence without even realising it - think of the social structures of informal utility that kept the citizens of the former Soviet Union turning up to workplaces that no longer paid a wage. They had very good reasons for doing that: the 'workplace' was where they met for the informal business of subsistence,barter, borrowing, and the non-cash economy of favours.

Good social surveillance algorithms and the effective targeting of internal exile ("Your next Work Placement is in Hull, hostel accommodation will be provided") will prevent the emergence of charismatic leaders, even at the level of Parish Councils and Allottment Committees; but that suppression is actually a dangerous force for change.

The obvious danger is that unrepresented and leaderless communities will, from time to time, express their unspoken and unspeakable dissatisfaction in outbursts of chaotic violence. No cause, no agenda, no 'community leaders' to appeal for calm: just fire and destruction and violent repression, followed-up by reintensified economic warfare to grind the peasants down.

That's actually profitable for public order solutions providers, property developers, and the beneficiaries of punitive workfare schemes for 'community regeneration': our regime's beneficiaries may embrace such 'danger', condemning it in public while milking it for political and financial gain.

The less-obvious danger is the change in how grassroots politics translates into action. Over two decades, the silent and systematic suppression of all hierarchies outside the sphere of corporate management will change the way people think and interact and conduct their carefully 'non-political' lives; a generation of working and cooperating and subsisting against adversity with no leaders and no hierarchies will make all of us into cooperative anarchists.

The kind of people who don't call themselves anarchists, or any kind of '-ist' at all; but who can, on one day, turn up on the streets in crowds numbering millions, chanting "Wir wollen raus!" and then, without leadership or visible media, all start chanting "Wir bleiben hier" - "We're staying here".

And stay they did, in 1989, in Germany, the most efficient repressive state that has to date existed.

The regime confronted by those millions decided to step down, and leave; and it could happen here.

And that future, of naturally-emerging order, mass decisions, and mass action without the command-and-control structures of a 'political party' is so difficult to imagine that our rulers probably aren't even afraid of it.

What that means for a future shape of government is anyone's guess: there's a significant chance that demagoguery and outright dictatorship will fill the leadership vacuum; but there's an optimistic possibility that a population systematically deprived of leadership might actually evolve to live without it altogether.

The question is how they'll use the tools of mass surveillance and malicious misallocation for the consensus and the common good.

...Or maybe we can explore the dystopias.

If we're good - or quick - we can make it to publication before we're overtaken by events, and inadvertently make millions from teenage fans who grow up viewing our dark political predictions as an escapist utopian fantasy.

20:

OK, I'm going to purposely misinterpret your question, to a point, bear with me.

The sources of power will be a major consideration. We will be well into the fossil fuel downslope by 2034 (anyone who think fracking will save us will get a slap). We can assume rationing of oil to specific usages, and gas would be dependent on that nice Mr Putin to keep supply - so we can assume by 2034 we will be talking a mainly electricity based economy (be it solar, fission, fusion, etc.) Given the situation with batteries and energy density, that mean public transport much more to the fore, and less moving about for things like commuting.

We can also assume the sham of the fake 'democracy' will be even less in evidence - with corporate forces being much more obviously in control. Transnational control and coordination that bypasses the public politics.

Between here and then we can assume the EU will have imploded in some way (probably via another GFC). We can also assume that China will still be the manufactory of the world. The US? Debatable, probably disappeared up it's own ar*e courtesy of the far right and religious nutcases. Probably will have dropped the bomb on someone, probably in the middle east (to depopulate but not harm the oil).

All of which sets the environment for political power in the UK.

What will be the point of the dense population that we have here? With the level of automation being expected, and the issue with energy supply we'll probably be looking not only to exclude new migrants, but to throw out existing residents. The boats won't be flowing from Africa to Europe, they'll be going the other way to exclude those surplus to requirements. Being able to remove passports from citizens is distinctly useful in that respect. The fear engendered will also be handy.

So, inward looking, tribal, with a purpose of keeping those with power and power in the style to which they want to remain accustomed. Surveillance of everyone, all the time, and profiling as well - so they know if you're good or bad - and particularly are about to go bad.

A 'head down' environment where those that might rise up and grabbed and deported as 'terrorists' before any mass grouping can emerge. As Piketty would have it, a return to feudalism crossed with 1984. The masses won't count, but the CEOs and bankers will. The sources of power in the British political system will be globally-focused individuals that arrange things to their wider aims. What those aims will be, is probably 'escape' focused (as Limits to Growth BAU scenario really kicks in).

tldr? The money will win out.

21:
Current trends seem to suggest that people actively _want_ a mass politics again, and are very distrustful of elites. The idea of leaving things to a leadership seems inherently prone to being corrupted.

[...]

Some form of trust network. There will be power blocs of those who can show trust, honest backing of the political agenda they espouse. Clear politics.

I'm quoting this because, while I agree in part with the principle, my interpretation is in almost completely the opposite direction.

"Mass politics" will be the new partisan politics, and it will be owned and run by the people who are most able to convince large groups that they are trustworthy, reliable, and clear. This is an ever-so-subtly different statement to the one I quoted.

Who, today, has shown the strongest tendency to convince people that they are reliable and trustworthy? This is something on which we have good data, because it's studied extensively by the people who are most interested in being thought of that way.

The politics of 2034 Britain will be run by John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Virgin, Ocado, and Lush - or their successors-in-post. They are the groups who are the most trusted, and they will have a continually growing impetus to take greater political control as the bureaucracy that has been effectively running the nation for the past 30-40 years continues to fall apart at the seams, unable to scale and react to the growth and changes in society. That list also represents substantial coverage of basic needs - food, transportation, clothing, and habitation. It'll expand to pick up some more brands who emerge as trusted in finance and health; right now there's nobody because those fields are experiencing high levels of chaos.

The House of Commons will almost certainly still be around, in much the same form as it is today, and have much the same official position - but as has been the trend over the past few decades, its power is primarily the ability to direct the government bureaucracy to do things, and that bureaucracy has been steadily losing the ability to enact changes in its function. By 2034 it will be able to do little more than turn taxes into pensions and police.

Corporations are the fundamental unit of power in today's society. That is their purpose: to organise groups of skilled and effective people in ways that effect specific changes in society. Some have simple changes in mind (the creation of value, and collection of some of that value); others have more bold ideas (SpaceX, etc), but they are designed, built, evolved, and killed off based on their ability to get things done in our society, which is the thing which the mechanisms of government are increasingly unable to do.

This isn't the "mass politics" that you wanted it to be, but the flaw in your idea is that you forgot that half the population has an IQ of less than 100, and left them out of your plan. The corporations win because they don't forget about half the population. The future will not be written by the wealthy top 25% with lots of leisure time to read tech blogs, it'll be written by the organisations that are really really good at getting the other 75% to do things.

Politics today, in 2014, is driven by parties that act as small, partially-effective corporations crippled by the needs of electioneering; they devote most of their energies to winning elections and very little to getting policies enacted. Corporations, today, are solely interested in enacting policies, and this scope will expand - you need a healthy, educated workforce, and as the government increasingly fails to deliver this to the desired standard, they'll continue to make the minimum corrective action necessary, but this minimum need will increase over time.

22:

The point I was hoping to communicate was that the threat of investment risk (i.e., buying shares in specific companies) has been used as a lever to get consumers to both finance the banks as well as directly hand over large voting share blocs (decision-making control of the corporations whose shares are being held) to these banks.

Plus, as you mention, the 'fees' ...

23:

I really like this -

"What emerges from that, or grows in the shadows without 'emerging' into visibility, is that people form support networks of effective interdependence without even realising it - think of the social structures of informal utility that kept the citizens of the former Soviet Union turning up to workplaces that no longer paid a wage. They had very good reasons for doing that: the 'workplace' was where they met for the informal business of subsistence,barter, borrowing, and the non-cash economy of favours."

24:

I think your assumption is a bad assumption. My best guess is, politics will be the same soap opera, and the children of the same ruling class bastards will be up to much the same nonsense the current lot of ruling class bastards are now. The rosettes said bastards wear will be just as purely cosmetic.

25:

I'm not a Brit, but I'd suggest that the Beige Dictatorship will get the same deal as the monarchy; continuation in form without substance.

In fact, I'd suggest that this has already happened, which is why the dictatorship seems so beige.

26:

Worth reading this http://www.bbc.com/news/29915542

In my view government during much of the 20th century was largely an abnormality in that for at least a generation or two the political class was in flux, with a completely different class of people expanding the political gene pool. In many ways we appear to be back to the 19th century with a smaller rather incestuous political class and, even worse, from a relatively small number of families.

Not sure if this is available outside the firewall but worth also reading this http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21631075-why-george-osborne-and-his-rivals-want-free-englands-cities-let-them-fly

I would like to think that power will devolve to smaller units such as cities or regions with a possible supra-national organizations such as the EU. There are dangers to this in that smaller units can be easier to hijack into a monoculture. I don't think this change will happen, however, since this form of power change will require a commitment from the very people who would lose power.

Not sure if anyone remembers the Yes MInister episode on a similar topic, introducing genuine representation and the impact on party power as a result - it amuses me how much of Yes Minister remains topical after 30 years. I tried to find the episode details without success and I have lent my copy of the scripts to someone.

The other interesting possibility may be from the impact of (for the sake of a name) social network politics. The idea being that government would emerge that is not so much geographical as ideological with groups sharing the same views developing structures to support those views. There was an earlier comment on organizations such as Virgin or John Lewis becoming quasi-governmental and this is perhaps a slightly different version of that (welcome to Thatcherland where government is replaced by services).

I like the idea of a distributed government of this form but whilst ) social network politics has been successful in addressing single issues I am not aware of any success in wider and more nuanced political governance; I regard both party political and religious networks as single issue - party political since they are more interested in election success and less interested in government, I won't comment of the religious. I am sure I will be corrected on this and would be interested in examples.

27:

2034 feels farther off than it is. I just don't really see anything but "beige" and a Japanese-style period of low growth and mild discomfort at best during that time frame, barring a freak anomaly or complete Eurozone economic collapse. The institutions and parties will limp along, none of the latter getting a decisive majority in elections. There will be a financial crisis or two, but the bureaucracy and Bank of England seem to be competent at cleaning those up without going far enough to really drive strong growth in the UK in the process.

There may be some spot labor conflicts and anger, but overwhelmingly it will be a lot of "blah" because the safety nets and jobs market are unremarkable but not non-existent - there's not a lot of real pain to get people in the streets. An aging population won't help with that, either.

None of which goes against Piketty's predictions. The rich consolidating more and more wealth and becoming more "hereditary" doesn't mean the greater populace can't be mollified into complacency, or experience qualitatively improved standards of living even if their incomes stagnate and inequality mounts.

28:

This is more of a general thing than perhaps some realise, prompted by my own experience.

The more xenophobic elements of British politics are going to crash head-on with reality.

I have lived all my life in rural England, brought up with an idea of Englishness that is as much about what people do as who they are. There was one girl in my year at school who had darker than usual skin, but there was nothing foreign about her. She came from the next village (which can sometimes be foreign enough). There was a family of Ugandan Asian refugees, the father a Doctor. It was TV comedy, shows such as Love Thy Neighbour, that depended on the alien, and expressed, even if they mocked, the racism.

You see more PoC now, working in hospitals, the GPs, and having a place in the towns and cities. Some people might argue about the Chinese and how they fit it. There's a Chinese take-away in this village.

But I have escaped a lot of the indoctrination, and maybe the fannish streak in my life has helped with that.

Then I went to London for the Worldcon. My health is a little uncertain, I don't get around so easily. We were in Newham, and there is huge immigrant element to the population of that borough. It's about a third.

And it didn't matter.

The way they behaved, the way they reacted to a visitor who was obviously a little frail, was a better expression of British Values than anything any politician is saying.

I don't know how long it will be before the politically-stoked fear culture will collapse under the weight of reality, but I think it will. You can say, if you wish, that London isn't going to change. They might not look much like the cockneys of a century ago, but they will be formed by the same forces. We can ask what the techno-oppression will do. We can speculate what might change England as much as World War One did.

I shall make a very silly prediction. The people running the country in 2034 will be the furry fans.

It makes as much sense as any other prediction.

29:

At the top level, more international cooperation but not as invasive at the low levels as the EU is now. No "world government" but an increasing proliferation of "special expertise government". This is where, rather than have the existing monolithic "joined up government" where one bunch of people rules everything, we have more like "slices of government". These (such as the WHO) have global (or national) jurisdiction within their own field of expertise.

At the lower levels, a more distributed direct democracy, perhaps revolving around something like Ethereum. More people choosing their own distributed economic, political and judicial links via distributed communities.

At the national government level, technocracy with national politicians being squeezed between the supranational levels and the local.

In Zero State the name for such a system is "Social Futurism"

30:

Will there be an arms race between super-corporations and super terrorist/hactivist organizations? Corporate interests lock down more resources and direct influence, prompting more aggressive cyber or physical responses, which justifies new corporate powers. Repeat for a few series. On the one hand, corporations will gain more and more control over productive technology and will need fewer workers to do the work. However, destructive technology will get meaner and cheaper, plus you are not employing as many skilled, clever people who would otherwise be invested in the system. Add in the fact that there will always be a few discontents from the master social order to bankroll the return of the repressed and/or there will always be corporate interests who will try to create trouble for their rivals by encouraging chaos in somebody else's back yard. (There are obvious parallels here from when nation states ran the show.)

31:

EASY!
Unless something is done, the Berlaymont.
The EAW will probably pass in next week's vote after yesterday's shambles, so you can forget the Bill of Rights, most especially the bits about "Cruel & Unusal Punishments" or entitlement to a fair trial & that a Prima facie case MUST be made before going to trial.
Also individual consumers will be crushed as to choice as the lobbying by "Eurobusiness" (which will include the big US corporations, of course) will have ensured that useful products are denied people, in favour of expensive, inefficient trash.
This is, of course, merely extrapolating present trends, with no allowance for any change.
So, I could ba as totally wrong as Karl Marx, because that was the mistake he made, back in 1848 & subsequent - his predictions were based on "no change" / no realisation by many employers that better wages & conditions actually improved things for everyone ...

32:

VERY interesting ...
I'm currently reading Norman Davies' Vanished Kingdoms ... In it he suggests that modern giant corporate structures are very similar to Medieval dynastic & land-groupings, with "brands" (families or names) that merged, slpit, re-anemd themselves ... parts survived & grew & changed, "Loss-making" parts were shed or disposed of.
The history of Aragon was used as the exemplar.

So, are we heading (back) towards a new version of late-Feudalism, as an alternative to my previous suggestion?
Now I'm confused.

33:

Nile
and religious groups deemed 'extremist' for the economic sabotage of running food banks
Too late... it's already happened
delightful isn't it?
Or is that what prompted you to write that sentence ...

However: in 1989, in Germany, the most efficient repressive state that has to date existed.

Not even wrong.
The ultra-theocracy of the DPRK is by far the worst ever seen (so far).

34:

I see where you're coming from, but surely PSCs are filled by members and/or appointees of the HoC?

35:

"establishmentarianism" - You keep using that word; I think it does not mean what you think it means.

Seriously:-
establishmentarianism means "appointing members of a church of religion to positions in the legislature for no reason other than them being members of said church". It does not relate in any other way to the noun "the establishment", although the rest of your post does.

36:

Not sure if anyone remembers the Yes MInister episode on a similar topic, introducing genuine representation and the impact on party power as a result - it amuses me how much of Yes Minister remains topical after 30 years. I tried to find the episode details without success and I have lent my copy of the scripts to someone.

Can't help directly, but "Yes (Prime) Minister" is a comedy of UK government, not one of party politics. As such, it's hard to date it except by looking for references to actual figures and causes celebre.

37:

I'm going to, like many other responses here, posit two different scenarios. These can be read as scenarios that I believe likely to occur, but the difference between them being that one occurs before an inflection point in our social systems, and one after. If I had to lay money on it, I'd bet on my business as usual scenario due to the time scale we are talking, but I think the second scenario is very likely to occur at some point in the next 50 years.

2034 - "Business as usual"
Things continue along current trends. Society carries on moving along the trend-line to a Piketty nightmare scenario. Technological unemployment will continue to hollow out the traditional middle class (pharmacists will be almost all gone, doctors on a down-trend, lawyers and other data analyst roles also trending downwards, also software development although new areas arriving for automation may possibly hold this steady). The march of privatisation will continue with monopoly rents being extracted from previously publicly held infrastructure being sucked in by the top echelon. The London property bubble will pop and with it a huge chunk of the wealth of the patrimonial middle classes, propelling wealth inequality ever higher. Piketty's class of super-managers will be classed almost completely by people whose parents has the ability to shell out £30,000 for a university education in the 2010s and then also allow them to work for free to complete their required internships afterwards, or as I call it "inherited wealth through the back door". Finally, demographic growth will stall, alongside general continued economic malaise as the lost decade becomes decades, will hammer shut the idea the 1950s - 70s were anything other than an aberration in the grand scheme of things as r > g continues its inexorable logic. Some likely policies: NHS privatisation, withdrawal from EU, TTIP, ratchet-like increase in copyright restrictions, ever more surveillance.

2034 - "After the revolution"
There are current prevailing trends that are already moving in this direction, the primary one being a distinct move towards decentralisation of infrastructure and power in certain locations and instances. Good examples of this include: the implosion of supermarkets in the UK, and their replacement by a spectrum of alternatives (high end, low end, CSA, etc.), Germany's "Energiewende", cryptocurrencies (maybe not BTC though) and distributed computation. This trend will mean that is a shadow social infrastructure in place, in a similar vein to that present in 1910's Russia. We can also notice that in the above scenario, the continued gutting of the workforce and wealth falls mainly on traditional middle class. This mixture of plausible alternative infrastructure alongside a disaffected middle class is a proven mix that can lead to revolution. I'd like to believe this could be a "soft" revolution rather than a "hard" one, but I think that's fairly unknowable at this stage. Some likely policies: UBI financed by automation, expropriation and redistribution or public ownership (either state or decentral) of capital, dismantling of existing intellectual property framework and replacement with intellectual commons.

Potential spanners in the works: Peak Oil (and no replacement in time), WWIII, Pandemic (either natural or man-made [bio-terrorism]). In other words, a global knockout stage that is difficult to predict at this time. These are non- negligible possibilities though, and will most likely negate some to all of the thinking laid out above.

38:

You don't even need outside funding; I'm reminded of the Niger Delta resistance to Shell, with tactics like kidnapping Shell employees for ransoms with which to fund attacks on Shell.

39:

First off, it's evident that political evolution is not always smooth and continuous. (hmm, punctuated political evolution) We did once chop off a kings head. Britain missed the wilder excesses of of revolutionary wave years like 1848 through a mixture of repression and concession. The Chartists threw a scare into the establishment of the day, but the franchise was eventually extended. However, if the beige dictatorship fails to recognise the danger, maybe because they have been selected for tunnel vision, we might see a discontinuity.

Paul Mason in the Grauniad had an interesting article this week (with a Pikety reference) on the anger that comes with low wages and limited opportunity.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/09/low-paid-outraged-workers-ready-fight-back

Twenty years is long enough for variously sized shit to happen. The leading edge of climate change might have an impact somewhere that matters. The logical progression of the Eurozone to a fiscal union will either hit the buffers or proceed to a real federal state. Either way, that will impact the UK. The fallout from the Scottish referendum might drive a new political settlement. If Cameron survives the election next year and then sleepwalks the UK out of the EU it's an even bet that the next Scottish independence bid succeeds.

40:

I think governance may start to separate. the current system will carry on, with the mandate of the old and the established, but voted in with a very low turnout.
Beneath that, in day to day life, people will continue the uptake of services and apps that do what they want them to do, fast and conveniently. in the way that uber and airbnb are circumventing traditional accommodation and taxi booking systems, that'll start to happen for functions that are normally done for local government (i'm thinking of things like an uber for bin collections). This interview with Ev Williams makes me think about what else in day to day life is a pain in the arse and could be made more convenient and easy by circumventing government e.g. parking (both finding and enforcement), schooling, allotments. i'm trying to think of local government functions which could be taken over and some of this has already been done. You'd start to wonder why you're paying council tax, as so much of it seems to be done by you (and lots of people neglect that council tax pays for streetlighting and road mending and maintenance of shared infrastructure and

After a year or two where the government catches up (especially if people start to refuse to pay taxes as they seem to give no benefit), there's a set of confused and ill thought out responses coming from a bunch of different departments and angles, getting more severe over time (some very valid. just wait until the shitstorm the first time someone dies in a fire in Airbnb sourced accommodation with no smoke alarms and properly labelled fire exits).

It leads up to a big clash where the majority of people are doing things that are illegal, but dont feel that way, and there's an increasing resentment (from the young users to the government of the old, add in a load of job, climate and economic resentment for extra spice) which leads to widespread unrest, which is put down by the governments with guns. give it 5-20 years, and then there's a civil war. i reckon it'll take a bit more than 2034 for this to play out fully, so for then, old men trying to run things, mass outbreaks of local engagement squirting about, lots of dystopia and crackdowns, a bleak feeling of doom until the government overreact somehow and spark off a revolution, maybe leading to a civil war, depending on how the entrenched power elites react.

41:

Here's an optimistic possibility: the annihilation of the party system, expanding on OGH's comments in the original post.

We've recently seen a huge rise in "parties" like UKIP, the Greens, the SNP and the NHA party. They're not political parties in the classic sense, though; although they publish complete manifestos for the sake of box-ticking, they each have one basic policy which is applicable in varying degrees to some, but not all, areas of government activity.

Consider the SNP's defence policy, the Green's education policy, UKIP's welfare policy, and everything except health for the NHA party. To what extent are they genuine positions and not merely vague consensuses among their members? Could they truly act on a manifesto commitment unrelated to their core policy with any real mandate?

Simultaneously, Labour and the Conservatives are being torn between several stools - for instance, pro-business and anti-Europe, in the Conservative case.

I see a continued rise in these next-generation parties culminating in an MP who holds membership of two parties simultaneously - the Greens and a Basic Income party, perhaps. This will drive an aggressive reform of the voting system, as these minority voters become more disillusioned with the useless FPTP system, ending in large consituencies electing several MPs by STV. Labour and the Conservatives will be forced to retreat to their core messaging, and coalitions with non-intersecting manifestos will become the norm.

42:

Obvious thing to start with: We will still have the HoC, still with a strong constituency link (STV, AV etc are possible, but nothing more than that). That implies we will still have a small number of national parties (most likely 2, but a few more is plausible) plus a few silly regional ones. This body will still pass all our laws. The realities may change, but the institutions won't.

As we move further from a formal class system we'll see less automatic respect for convention and sensible Sir-Humphrey-approved policy, but hardly none. We won't replace any government departments with a fancy machine-learning system or anything of the kind. That would be much too radical.

The big decisions will be made based on who can extract favours from whom (like always), what will change is the subtly of the favour. We'll see far more US-style pork-barrel-corruption, but for specific companies and groups of companies rather than geographic. People will be far better coordinated. But I don't expect that populist groups to be more so than business groups. So whilst people will get grand dramatic concessions (watch as the official NHS and education budgets grow to a substantial fraction of GDP), the fine print will always be written by Tesca-smith-BOS. They will be relying on way more computing than is reasonable, and will probably cooperate a lot for IPD reasons rather than actual collusion.

This implies defacto two rather distinct bodies of law coexisting. One for large companies, that is by this point so far beyond crony capitalism that it's closer to explicit central planning, but with the central planner being the Nash equilibrium suggested by 100 corporate planners playing IPD. One for small companies and small people, staying close, as ever, to a thousand years of common law, but now with way more arbitrary police power used on ever more petty things as crime rates continue to fall off a cliff.

In short - the Beige Dictatorship isn't going to go away. It'll just do a better job of giving people the appearance of having beaten it.

43:

I would say that the UK *parliamentary* makeup in 20 years for the Commons will look very similar to NZ does now - there will be some form of representative replacement to FPTP with a threshold for election, which means that the major parties get around 30% of the vote, and there are a lot of regional/issue based minority parties hovering around the 5% mark who appear to hold the balance of power. Most will last a single term at best. The medium sized parties - greens/ukip/libdem etc will probably have around 25% of the vote between them.

All of this will be irrelevant to the actual *governmental* makeup, which will be remarkably similar to now. The Civil Service isn't going to change in a hurry, regardless of what the nob in front does. The House of Lords will still remain as a check on the commoners, although the number of members will probably be cut to dilute the impact somewhat. It has taken them 15 years to bring in the surveillance state, it'll take another 15 to do anything with it.
The PM will be a figurehead, popularly elected a la Boris and the Mayor of London. He will be neutered by the establishment to provide appeasement without substance, a la Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Bearing in mind that today the average wage is ~28k, and 80% of the population earns less than ~44k and the subsequent consequences for the tax base, there will be some sort of redistribution, though not a substantial one, most likely tied to inflation. This will pacify the masses while being passed off as a necessary evil by the corporations. Most UK landowners have long cared for their tenants, and the UK retail institutions require a steady diet of customers, so it is in their interest to keep them flowing.
House prices in London will stabilise as middle east money stops propping them up. China will not be interested in subsidising the UK to the same extent - Europe is not a major tourist destination to them in the same way that it is for the Arabs, and they are quite happily buying most of Africa, Asia and South America instead.

44:

Part of the issue with the SNP is that you don't get a conventional narrow split on right-left or libertarian-authoritarian lines.

On defence, since you cite it, we'll all agree that you need a defence policy, and even mostly that we're in favour of multi-lateral nuclear disarmament. You might even find a majority for unilateral nuclear disarmament. You will not find much agreement beyond that other than wanting fisheries/oil platform protection and Search And Rescue capabilities. In particular you will find little or no agreement about the need for international force projection capabilities.

45:
"Mass politics" will be the new partisan politics, and it will be owned and run by the people who are most able to convince large groups that they are trustworthy, reliable, and clear. This is an ever-so-subtly different statement to the one I quoted.

Partly agree. By "Trust networks" I mean that subversion and manipulation, and avoidance of such, will be a primary dynamic of the trust networks. As in, people join and set up networks precisely to avoid this / make it transparent. I get your subtle difference, and don't naively think that "the trust problem" will be solved, but it will be an active battleground which it isn't today. Today people may be abandoning a labour part eviscerated of meaning by New Labour, but few are actively working on how to avoid "beige politics".

Subversion and manipulation of groups is hardly new, but what is new is its systematization and the development of network theory techniques by the NSA, Google, Facebook etc. But these mathematical techniques can be turned on their head and used by activist groups too. This I think will happen.

But on companies I have a far less corporative-positive view. Coming from an Irish perspective we have a history of populist-rightwing politics, rather than right-left in the UK, and nationalised businesses being set up not by the left for ideological reasons but by the right because of the failure of 'the private sector'. From Irish Shipping (during WW2 when no private shipping would come to Ireland), to electrical, energy, other companies (lack of capital) to today, when government banks are being set up to "supplement" the lack of lending by the private sector. Corporations are not as 'can do' vs the government.

Which leads to another power bloc for the future: the universities. Assuming they survive the "education bubble", universities have been growing dramatically and dominating research. The private sector has been withdrawing from research, instead being satisfied to buy successful startups and in-house them. But the start ups in science and tech are typically spinoffs from universities. Already they dominate their localities, providing the economic backbone to "university towns", but where will this be in 2034?

46:

1) the Monarchy will remain, with a Good to Fair chance that Elizabeth remains on the throne (Her Mother made 102, what chance of her making 108?).
2) the House of Lords will be gone, and with it the Tories split into National Liberals and a Nationalist rump. It's replacement would be populated by former mayors and prominent politicians from devolved regions. It will be the fast track to government (higher profile, smaller) and will marginalise the commons.
3) The Government will rule much more through Royal Prerogative : a sort of yugoslav model where power will centralise but blame will decentralise, as most people interact with the stat through Mayoralties and regions.
3) Initiative and referendum will be here, driven by a populist right.

47:
Part of the issue with the SNP is that you don't get a conventional narrow split on right-left or libertarian-authoritarian lines.

Yeah, exactly: "Scottish independence" is a single policy prescription, nothing more or less. You might, if you try hard, be able to work out some ways to apply that core principle to other fields (diverse small countries are better, apply that logic to battleships and power stations?) but when you get down to it the real answer to "what is SNP defence policy" is "do what the last guys did until we've made Scotland independent, then disband and call an election".

I felt this came across a lot in the Scottish independence campaign; many of the questions asked could be summarised "yes, but what's your health/education/welfare/fiscal/monetary policy?", to which the correct answer would be "whatever you vote for afterwards - we only have a stance on one issue, and it's in our name". The media couldn't tell the difference between a referendum and an election.

If this is the new politics, we need it to be recognised, by the media, the electorate, and the voting system. I'm worried that won't be the case - I don't want to see parties who only have a single-issue mandate trying to run a whole government; we have little enough voter:MP bandwidth as it is...

48:

It leads up to a big clash where the majority of people are doing things that are illegal, but dont feel that way, and ...
Well THAT is already well on the way, already, mostly with "EU" regulations delibeately designed to profit the lobbyists & their paymasters & crap on everyone else.
However, once the idea that "the law" is not just an ass, but an arshole, that should be circumvented at any opportunity, what then?

49:

Looks to me like UK will get driven out of Europe (real membership looks incompatible with not adopting the Euro) before the Euro explodes.

That will leave the HOC as even more of a fig-leaf for democracy than today since the Brussels bureaucrats will continue to generate ever more regulation (that we will not be able to avoid )of everyday life and non-global business.

A short-term answer to this conundrum would be to shift more power to local small-size entities/parties, ignore uncontrollable global forces and institutions and continue to play the isolation card.

By 2034 this solution will be seen to have failed, with the most likely outcome a 1 party state/dictatorship.

50:

Good question! i'm not sure. The options are:
a) stop everyone doing it, enforce harsh penalties, make it explicitly illegal, shut down companies etc
b) make it legal, tax it, claim it was your idea all along, and it's a tribute to the entrepreneural spirit
c) find a way to fulfil a similar function in a legal and slightly different way. i.e. illegal torrenting has been replaced by netflix, iplayer, etc, fulfilling the video on demand niche with a legal alternative.

how this works with commons, such as bin collection, which has public health implications rather than just personal preference and convenience i don't know.

bugger, answered the wrong question...

if the people in charge are clever, they change the law and stay in charge, or they leave/change the law to be in opposition to what most people want/do/feel and use propaganda to make people think only filthy commies and young subversives want that thing. The aging population wants to keep the status quo and the young get even more pissed off. expect more rioting.

51:

phuzz: So, 2034, population 72M, skewing older.

Corollaries:

1) More 1-person households (more single elderly folks, smaller families) and more households full stop mean increasing pressure on the housing market.

2) Older population means more pressure on the social security budget, which is already mostly state pensions and eats the lion's share of the UK government budget.

3) Lower worker/dependent ratio in the population, i.e. lower per-person average productivity. (This may be offset by increasing automation.)

4) Lower average worker productivity leads to downward pressure on wages; capital-intensive automated processes will continue to aggregate wealth absent some sort of wealth tax. So we have stagflation -- inflation in the housing market coupled with decreasing real wages and incomes.

52:

Ah, I've got where you'er coming from now, and I think I agree.

Side-note that the SNP as it exists at Westminster is effectively a lobbying group for Scottish interests who are on the inside rather than the outside.

53:

The UK will have undergone a number of periods of mild economic and political turmoil, of varying extent, and in different directions, ultimately resulting in the rebranding of the former UK as the Federated Union of Corporations and Kingdoms. The corporations will be a variety of large city-states, run either by elected mayors or by large companies; the kingdoms will arise due to a brief resurrection of the old Commonwealth, run by various parliaments and a number of Restorations as the House of Windsor suffers a meltdown as some regions become people's republics and then decide, after overthrowing their new political elites, that a relatively powerless constitutional monarchy is less hassle. Power will reside mostly with the regional city-states (who are represented by the House of Lands, a mixture of mayors, CEOs and landowners) and the national parliament (the House of Commons), with a sharp division of responsibilities.

Television will have become a massive number of channels, though a number of programs, such as Downton Abbey (the lives of the inhabitants of the new 1960s town built on the site) and Doctor Who (still valiantly fighting Daleks and Cyberman, though she now has companions representing almost every region/ethnicity) remain popular.

54:

Questions about some scenarios posters mentioned:

If no one’s working: who’s buying? (Where does new wealth/injection of money come from?)
If no one’s paying for services: do they need to work? (What do they do with their time?)
If no one has an unfulfilled need: who/what holds power over them?


Charlie .. just saw your corollaries as I came to post .. mostly about the likely demographics.

Representation by generational group? (2034: Baby-boomers (born between 1946-1964) will be 70 to 88 years old in 2034. Life expectancy might continue to increase, possibly to ~ 90-95 by then, so this group will still have considerable influence until 2050 or so both as consumers and holders of wealth. They may also be the only population group to regularly vote in elections.


55:

The Civil Service isn't going to change in a hurry, regardless of what the nob in front does.

If you think that, you haven't been paying attention lately. Put it another way: unless there's a radical change in direction after next July -- and I mean radical, not just a switch from Cameron to Milliband -- the civil service as we have known it will no longer exist by 2020. There'll still be something called "the civil service" but it'll essentially be supervisory committees nominally keeping track of GovCos and private sector contractors delivering outsourced services. The privatisation strategy accelerated under the Conservatives, but Labour are running on the same rails as well, and the trains have been running on those lines since the mid-90s.

Seriously, this government sold off the Air Traffic Control Service and the Post Office. They're talking about privatising the Fire Brigades and Ambulance Services after the election, and the Highways Agency is being prepped for privatisation: the kites flown early in this parliament about privatising the state pension system are probably going to have motors fitted and be idling at the end of the runway by this time in the next session.

(Sorry. Couldn't help it. I asked a question, I shouldn't be spraying my own views everywhere. But we're most of the way through one of the three most revolutionary governments of the last century -- the others being 1945 and 1979 -- and to suggest that the core institutions are invulnerable to change when the changes are already taking place is rather bizarre.)

56:

One point here which ought to be raised is the famous elephant in the room, the EU. To understand the politics of the future, you have to decide whether or not the EU would still be around and if it were, how big or influential it would be.

As things stand, the signs are not looking good. The EU's budget is a hotbed of corruption and intrigue, and its sausage-maker tendency to spew regulations at a huge rate is having an insidious effect on businesses in the EU. As is well documented, national economies tend to grow by small businesses being established and growing into medium-sized businesses. As most of these start out as one man bands, small businesses are uniquely sensitive to excessive regulation which larger businesses are not. As the EU tends to petty corruption, large businesses are actively lobbying for regulation which shuts out small business competition, to the benefit of big business.

When you combine this with rampantly idiotic politicians such as can be found everywhere, but especially in the more Socialist of governments such as France, then you have a recipe for a very static economy which cannot grow save at a very slow rate, if at all. Such states get out-competed on the world markets, which generally leads them gently down the road to ruin as Socialist governments are generally poor at stimulating growth.

This would seem to lead to a general trend of national deterioration which will even affect such economic powerhouses as Germany, since their main market is the rest of Europe. If one's main market is skint and slowly going down the tubes, then one's economy is also going to be heading the same way.

Finally, we have the example of the EU's little spat with Russia and Mr Putin. All things considered, they did not come out of that one with flying colours; in fact they left the field volunterily, one step ahead of a victorious Putin. The EU lacks a military of its own, and as such isn't really able to participate in the rough and tumble of international politics, and everyone now knows that when push comes to shove, the EU is a pushover.

So, let us return to the question: how long will the EU last?

57:

Sign me up for the Bagehot deep state, although I think that UK politics -- I'm spitballing here, as a vaguely-informed outsider -- is going to be stretched between the following poles:

1. The civil service (less whatever else gets sold off) and its associated police and intelligence agencies, with their emphasis on control, continuity, stability, and long-term planning;
2. The traditional Tory-Labour-LibDem axes, which lack any kind of foundational political ethos but are pretty good at scrabbling for the votes of the great middle;
3. The cri-de-coeur groups like UKIP, EDL and various other right-wing tendencies (and, perhaps, some left-wing ones) that will likely strengthen if we enter an age of diminished expectations; and
4. The popular tendency towards devolution.

While I think the old "Problems of Social Policy" interpretation of postwar British society (wartime egalitarianism giving rise to "fair shares for all") is a bit over-egged, I fear that the UK is going to endure a period of particularly stark political divisions without the buffer of strong parties to keep the street dogs apart.

At the same time, the Civil Service/Police/Intelligence system will be consolidating all the authority it can to ensure continuity, and likely giving support to the more right-wing popular groups in the hope of defanging truly revolutionary (and devolutionary) tendencies (EDP marches with MI-5 on the sideline, hooligan firms running riot in Southall with tacit police approval). The whole sinking ship gets a veneer of stability because people are still voting mostly for Tories or Labour or even the LibDems (if the Orange Bookers haven't ripped the dessicated heart out of that husk already), but the real impetus comes from the popular groups on the margin, much as the Tea Party holds the Republican reins in the US.

Basically, the ineffective political system of today results in a rise of popular discontent opposed to or manipulated by Deep State factions, ensuring that nothing gets done that isn't blessed by unelected cardinals officing at Vauxhall Cross or Thames House.

58:

The original question was about "sources of power in the British political system". But nobody seems to have mentioned the media propaganda complex. Presumably by 2034, Rupert Murdoch will have died so who or what will replace him and his king-making empire? Or do the internet changes started in 1994 make them irrelevant. It hasn't really happened in the last 20 years, so I'm not sure it's inevitable in the next 20. For 1994 The Sun, read 2014 dailymail.co.uk; but did anything actually change?

I think another major factor in this is whether you think we will have switched to a PR voting system by then. Even if this doesn't happen, I can easily imagine a succession of hung and minority governments that rely on alliances to do the normal day to day things of government. If both Tory and Labour implode and are no longer able to get a majority what horrible combinations might arise? What happens when it's a Tory-Labour-SNP 3 party system with a smattering of UKIP-Green-Unionist instead of Tory-Labour-LibDem?

59:

Basically, the ineffective political system of today results in a rise of popular discontent opposed to or manipulated by Deep State factions, ensuring that nothing gets done that isn't blessed by unelected cardinals officing at Vauxhall Cross or Thames House.

I find that peculiarly plausible, with an additional bolt-on: the unelected cardinals will view themselves as the Continuity of Government lifeboat tossed on the post-disaster waters as they try to stabilise the sinking ship -- the same folks who would have been in the regional CoG bunkers if the balloon went up and the Cold War turned unpleasantly hot will be trying to do the same job, albeit with less rubble and radiation sickness around.

Add in the ubiquitous surveillance and internet-of-things tech that we're developing (the price of which is deflating by 10-20% per year pretty continuously, thanks to Moore's Law) and you could almost mistake it for the organizational paradigm of The Emergency in Vernor Vinge's novel "A Deepness in the Sky" ...

60:

As people get better educated about money the number of silly financial events will decrease.

Really?

Just how is this to be accomplished? What evidence is there that this is happening?

61:

I passed over that comment as too silly to be worth responding to.

(Yes, individuals learn more about managing their finances. But unfortunately then they die. There's a new sucker along every minute ...)

62:

Oh my!

Walk in from work to this, I'm not sure I'm smart enough to comment. Are things like the TPP agreement attempts to remove power from or prevent the aquisition of power by the groups that are going to replace current sources of global (and British) political power?

Beyond that thought I'm going to hush while I read everyone elses comments.

63:

Older population means more pressure on the social security budget, which is already mostly state pensions and eats the lion's share of the UK government budget.

This BBC article gives a number of ways of looking at the UK's government spending. Depending on how it is sliced, state pensions seem to come out 2nd or 3rd, possibly even 4th; health seems to be the biggest expenditure. Your larger point still holds because the elderly consume more health care than younger people, but I found the figures interesting.

64:

I think there are trends already which will lead to more government/quango control, and which are not altogether bad.

We now have an supposedly Independent Central Bank, medicine availability choices by NICE, and now people talking about taking the politics out of education policy by establishing some sort of semi-independent body. I think in general these changes have worked and will be tried elsewhere, substituting technocratic decision-making for political vote-buying.

Not even the harshest Tory government has made a really significant cut in the amount of money spent (directly or indirectly) by government. I predict an increase in money spent on things like the health service and on other services free or subsidized at the point of demand which have the effect of redistributing resources away from the top 10% or so by supplying them free to all out of money raised by progressive taxation. Free school meals to all is a trailblazer.

The upside is these are sensible things that politicians can agree on. The downside is that they increase government control and decrease transparency. Changes of this sort made behind closed doors could change peoples lives more than apparently more dramatic decisions such as EU power struggles. Similarly, whether these services are run by civil servants or contractors may be less important than the fact that they are run.

65:

When people stop caring about obeying the law you get a situation where you bribe law enforcement to look the other way, and the connections you have matter more than the letter of the law.

66:

The demographic changes could have unfortunate political implications tied to racism and bigotry. You'll have a large block of older voters who are mostly white, who depend on the state for their pensions and health care. If there is a limited budget (which there probably will be), this will put them into conflict with younger voters. 20 years from now a lot of the young people will be the children of today's immigrants and/or multiracial. They'll be looking for things like education, affordable housing, a social safety net, etc.

That sets up a conflict were the older bloc of voters sees the younger bloc as different and foreign and wants them to pay taxes to support the pensions and health services for elderly.

So you could see calls for reducing unemployment benefits, raising tuition, cutting housing support, etc for the young mixed with racial overtones.

You see something similar in the US -- no one calls for cuts to medicare or social security, but there is a large group of voters who are against various welfare programs aimed at the working age. And the typical view of people receiving those programs is that they are black or hispanic, lazy, unwed, and having kids just to rip off hard working people.

67:

There are many possibilities, but here are two, pretty well opposite in degree of optimism:

Optimistic future: The twin destabilising technologies of self-driving electric vehicles and DPF fusion neighbourhood power plants have combined with continuing improvements in communications tech to make large corporations (particularly the energy companies and public transport monopolies) almost irrelevant. Unfortunately, there are still problems caused by the loss of jobs connected to the old equivalents, but on the whole most decisions are made at levels corresponding in population to a village, made easier by the education system having been almost completely replaced by the far superior Internet.

Pessimistic future: Parliament is irrelevant here too, because most decision-making power is in the hands of megacorporation boards and EU apparatchiks. Dissent is crushed by the simple expedient of deleting any critical articles, and suing the authors out of existence using libel law. Large areas of several major cities are even worse than this, because in these areas control has been ceded to the Dark Ages savagery of the mullahs. Teenage girls with light-coloured skin (such as that sported by the majority as little as twenty years before) disappearing without trace are so frequent as no longer to get past page 15 of the remaining newspapers, and in any case there is never any speculation about the possible perpetrators, because such speculation is a "hate crime" and a criminal offence.

Unfortunately, I think the second prediction is much nearer to what we'll get. We are a good way towards it already.

68:

I'm thinking close to the wording of the original question: Where does the power come from?

At first glance, I found scenarios depicted above like soviet Russia with extensive social networks enabling the subsistance of the people plausible. But Russia 30 years ago is not UK now. The UK had decades of neoliberal 'reorganization' of the society, and one element of this is atomization, of destruction of the social relationships that could form the core of an informal subsistence network. The rising number of single household is only one visible aspect of this. While, especially on this blog, many will mention technology as the savior (and it could be, but ...). But the infrastructure beeing built and used right now (google, facebook ...) is built to harvest your data, not to enable subsistence. The street will find it's own uses, as always, but don't bet on them beeing great. So I don't see much power on 'our' side.

On the other side: A capitalist state needs taxes, needs obedient citizens etc and for this the state needs a strong, working, productive economy.
But. 20 years, could be two or three of the major crises that capitalism produces more reliably than anythiong else. Especially given that automation of more jobs may tick up, meaning less wages paid and so less money in the hands of people who'd like to buy stuff. Not having read Piketty, I think the basic argument that there's hugre accumulations of wealth that cannot be invested profitably anymore iss sound.
What does that mean for the state? Nations will not only compete for capital to be invested within their borders, but also for wealth, hoping for trickle down effects. Meaning that the states don't have to invest as heavily in education and all the other things that make a productive workforce, but mostly in security for the owning class.
I'd still say that in such a scenario the state will protect rent-giving capital (IP, real estate ...) but there will be another focus.

Is this compatible with democracy? Maybe not, I think I agree with those predicting a more technocratic government. But for the sake of argument, we could try to imagine an election were a few party-talking heads try to catch votes by advertising their sgtrategy to attract rich scumbags to UK.

69:

Obesity epidemic - $38k/person higher medicare costs (RAND 2005 report)

http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_briefs/2005/RAND_RB9146-1.pdf

Factors impacting obesity: nutrition, exercise/physical activity, stress - physical/emotional, sleep/rest, education, genetics, medical conditions/Rx ...

70:

Well, I'm from the US, but you're already at around 70 comments, so...

But I've got to take exception to your denial of the AI singularity, as it's already in process. (Note that the AI doesn't need to be smarter than people, and doesn't need to be general.)

So: Increasing automation. Jobs are not available except due to leverage. (The owner of the company won't be fired, but he won't be hiring anyone except as a favor to someone.) Not sure just when it will get to that extreme, but 20 years doesn't seem unreasonable. Neither does 15. Different countries will handle this differently, and I don't have a handle on Britain, but this will be a strong effect not only at the time in question, but in the ramping up to that time. Just think, e.g., what automatic vehicles mean to truck drivers, miners, factories, stores...that's expectable within 10 years, if not sooner.

Another strong effect will be the increasing automation of policing/military. (Expect the same devices to be sold into both markets.) This isn't the same as the militarization of the police, as that's still people choosing what to do. This is more like an expansion from red-light cameras, where the whole process is automated. Britain is already big on video surveilance, so expand that into systems that automatically summon police when trouble is detected/predicted. Some US police departments are already using "predicted areas of crime" to dynamically increase patrolling in certain areas. Expect that to spread, and get (slightly) better.

When I call this a Singularity, I don't mean what some people mean. I envision the AIs as taking over because they are asked to by people. Management advisors, butlers, carpet sweepers gradually turning into maids, etc. No coercion required by the AIs. But the result is a radical restructuring of the power centers of society, increasing the power of the owners of companies, and decreasing the power of everyone else...but probably increasing the power of the government's enforcement arm even more.

OTOH, I haven't factored in the climate change. We probably won't see anything dramatic within 20 years, but the frequency and severity of inclement weather should be expected to increase. Colder winters as the thermal barriers between the polar weather and the more southerly areas decline in strength. (I don't think warmer winters will dominate within 20 years, that seems further out.) This means more frequent flooding of low lying areas, increasing the power of disaster management bureaucracies.

As I said, I'm from the US, so I can't speak to local political resuffling, but expect enough disasters to have whoever's on top get blamed fairly frequently...so the real power may become less obvious. (Well, I suspect it already is, but as I said, I don't know British politics.)

71:

Charles I kind of agree with you on the potential of automation, I would not regard it as a singularity but I see it ultimately destroying capatilism as it currently is practised.
If automation displaces so many people that only a minority have work then there is no one to buy all the services and gadgets that can be supplied/prodouced. Then the owner has no business or his only customer is the govenment. This hurts the rich also since most of their wealth is tied up in corperate stock and bonds.
So if they want to keep the show on the road then they have to accept more taxes on corporate activity to allow the government to pay a universial basic income or have fewer and fewer worker employed to chase fewer and fewer consumers until the masses storm their gated compounds with pitchforks and 3D printed guns.

72:

The Civil Service is indeed changing: and the change that we don't talk about in polite company is the 21st-Century take on 'regulatory capture' that would be corrupt if it hadn't all been declared legitimate by cabinet ministers.

I refer to the Inland Revenue and, in particular, to the Vodaphone affair; and to the regularisation multi-billion dollar tax abuses devised by the Big Four accountancy firms whose executives are...

...The senior executives of HMRC.

And their non-executives are senior Revenue civil servants and former cabinet ministers, ascending to heaven in a lucrative retirement that rightfully rewards their special talents in public-private sector partnership. But that has been going on for decades in Agriculture and Defence (and in the notorious revolving door between the construction industry and the former Department of Transport's Warwick office) -What's new, and particularly objectionable, is that conflicts-of-interest and undue influence have been replaced by direct management and overt official approval of actions directly detrimental to the public good.

This started on Labour's watch; it's got worse, with overt and very public cabinet-level collaboration, under the Coalition - and with the Chancellor's family business being the construction and sale of tax-avoidance schemes, it's definitely going to continue well into 2015.

And after that? Business-friendly neoliberal Labour are happy with it; or not so terribly unhappy as to say a single word about regulatory capture and the tax gap. It happened in their previous term in office and it will continue under their administration.

There is good reason to believe that every tax return in 2034 will be submitted, administered, assessed, adjudicated and enforced, all by different divisions of the same accounting firm. Or by the same division and the same people, just like it is for major companies today.

It's not a pretty picture, and it's a credible dystopia for all activities at present undertaken by the 'Civil Service'.

If you want an off-wall dystopia, try the 'zombie-revenant-revenue' model on childcare, with Serp4CrapAtus PLC providing a seamless service of for-profit social work, residential care, juvenile prison labour, and legalised commercial adoption, all with official approval, 'democratically-enacted' legislation, and a glittering array of enobled former cabinet ministers smiling benevolently out of the shareholders' report.

So yes, the Civil Service is changing, rapidly, and a credible projection of current trends - and a frank view of the current status of HMRC - resembles economic warfare more than it resembles civil administration; but the public accept it and acquiesce, and might just swallow the dystopia that I've sketched out.


(Yes, really, they might: the masses and the media are quite content to live with for-profit secure residential care for disturbed adolescents; all perfectly legal, officially-approved and ethical to Parliamentary standards, and blessed by the profitably beneficient smile of a former Home Secretary).


73:

AND your comment @ #66 as well ...
Yes, bribery of police etc by everyone, not just, err, lets say "high-ups in S Yorkshire" shall we?
Disagree strongly with thesis in 66.
It amounts to "Everyone over 50 is a racist" - well bollocks to that mate .....
One place where the US-south model does not transfer -see also Antonia's remarks about E London during Worldcon.

74:

Nile @ # 71 & Charlie's previous comment:
Yes, the revolution in the remains of the Civil service is a very dangerous precedent & Nile's scenario is possible, but, I suspect not probable, because sooner or later countervailing (social) forces come in to play. It is already happening & not just from the religious loonies in the SWP, either.

Which reminds me
Almost everyone is wetting themsel;ves over some uber-Right authoritarian take-over ...
What about the alternative, which has been tried on a small scale, already, here?
Think Derek Hatton in Liverpool or A Scargill (though some always claimed he was in the pay of the CIA) on a larger scale - especially if we do get city-regions & area devolution.
Indeed, the SNP are already heading down this road, with their block warden system of spying on children in the pipeline ....

75:

TOTALLY off-topic, but much more imprtant, perhaps:

Chesley Baonestall would love this !!

Meanwhile, keep following the feeds - touch/screw-down in a short while, we hope.....

76:

Oh bum, make that Chesley BONESTALL ....

77:

With my optimistic hat on my predictions for 2034 are…

Following the multiply-hung Parliament of 2015 and the subsequent coalition and confidence and supply arrangements the current constitutional crisis is resolved with a combination of Home Rule for Scotland, some sort of local, city and / or regional devolution in England, the adoption of proportional representation for local government (including those devolved assembles and Parliaments in England).

These take about ten years to find their own feet but once they do a combination of PR and local assemblies allow some dissenting fringe parties to colour the Beige debate and also allows regionalist parties to build a platform in areas of the UK who feel hard done by.

Regionalism allows different policies to be tried in different parts of the country. Idea or personnel transfer within national parties and competition and intellectual property stealing between regional parties or local “branches” allows more policy variation. People vote with their feet and move to the parts of the UK that suit them.

Regional government means that there is now not just one Civil Service but one or two dozen. There are also one or two cabinets to bribe and always room for a populist denouncer of the corrupt regimes in other regions.

After ten years of this various English devolved units ask for more powers. This sparks a second round of devolution and some tidying up of the geographical entities that aren’t working well.

At a larger scale, the UK remains in the EU and more and more of our trade, weights and measures, foreign policy and military decision are decided within the EU. I’m not confident the EU will resolve its own democratic deficit.

Finally, the internet allows very focused special interest groups of all types to mobilise quickly and effectively and focus political power on a case by case basis. Some of this is quite rough. Some of it is about lightning boycotts or peaceful mass lobbying.

78:

When there are so many laws that an honest citizen cannot hope to remember them, and even professionals need a computer search system in order to decide which law is applicable to a given action, then at that point the rule of law will have devolved to the level of legal dictatorship.

At that point, we are not equal before the law at all.

79:

I think even more power will have accrued to transnational organisations.

These will include corporations, trade blocs, NGOs and charities and thinks like the ILO, IMO, etc and if we're lucky international union confeds and if they move fast enough and entrepreneurialy enough - worker and consumer coops.

At the same time the size of the non-globalised/trapped poor will have increased and probably with them credit unions, community associations and Grameen type initiatives given a new lease of life by whatever unforeseen internet stuff happens...

Within the UK specifically I imagine power will be a game of negotiation between the post civil service commissioners and procurers and the (mostly private/corporate) organisations that deliver the services.

Parliament and the cabinet will still have a role to play in mediating that in some way, but even less than it currently does.

80:

It's obviously the day for it!
ALSO off-topic, but another straw in the wind regarding "Green" energy & electrical storage, for when the wind doesn't blow (etc) ??

81:

Thinking about it, the key factor in the shape of any UK political future is if there is a bifurcation point in the political environment of the UK between here and 2034.

We can delineate a number of such potentially foreseeable points :

  • Exit from the EU (50%)
  • EU collapse (33%)
  • Peak oil (85%)
  • GFC 'n' and financial collapse (50%)
  • Pandemic (20%)
  • War (2%)
  • Revolution (2%)
Its by no means a complete list, and I've ascribed some wag probabilities to the singleton likelihood of these, but in reality we are more likely to see combination effects (eg GFC II leading to EU breakdown and subsequent war).

You probably wouldn't agree with the figures, but the take home is that the probability of NOT getting such an event in the next 20 years is low unless the numbers are wildly less than the wag figures, and the cross coupling even less again.

As such the corporatist takeovers, or demographic skewing, or popular uprising are less likely to effect the same of that future than the impact of a bifurcation and the actions which are taken undercover/in-light of it. The future will belong to those who best exploit those catastrophic events.

So the real question becomes, in the light of the potential impacts on the UK landscape, who can best manoeuvre to push their PoV to the fore?

82:

Not even the harshest Tory government has made a really significant cut in the amount of money spent (directly or indirectly) by government.

Of course not. That's not what their backers want. Their backers want them to keep chanting the "free market!" mantra as they outsource everything and pay private sector contractors more money to do the same job less efficiently. See, for example, our wonderful railway system -- which costs the state TWICE AS MUCH in private sector subsidies as it did when it was under public ownership. Oddly, the public sector rail operators are mostly making a profit. That profit is what the government are handing them, after they provide services to the public that the public are nominally paying for when they buy tickets (the price of which have risen faster than inflation).

The Conservatives aren't in government to cut government spending. They're in government to privatise and outsource government spending. Not the same at all!

I predict an increase in money spent on things like the health service and on other services free or subsidized at the point of demand

Yup. It'll happen. And the services will be worse, delivered by unaccountable private bodies at inflated prices paid for by tax revenue.

83:

(Are you the Tim W I worked with a few years ago? Ping me an email if you want to get back in touch.)

Meanwhile, back on topic: if the days of the mass political party are numbered, thanks to the fragmentation of an electorate that cannot be relied upon to vote for any particular party in a given region, then expect MPs to become far more concerned with local issues that give them some hope of voter loalty, which in turn is going to mean a far more volatile HoC. To a certain extent this doesn't matter much - individual MPs have very little concrete power, but of course in aggregate they do & this is going to make it much harder for any political party to maintain internal discipline.

So a weaker parliament, prone to occasional uncontrollable (by the deep state that would normally direct it behind the scenes that is) outbursts of petulance that result in random changes to the law regarding whatever is uppermost in the wider electorates' minds that week. Some power therefore devolves even further to those who can succesfully direct the electorate's worries - in the past the newspapers did an excellent job of this, but with the death of print(tm) social media looks like it's going to take over with all the power law infused randomness that goes along with it. Expect individuals to randomly be promoted to public prominence over single issue topics even more than in the current era. Meanwhile the deep state will do it's best to direct and co-opt as it always has.

Hmm. Looks like I agree with Nick Barlow up top, only with more verbiage!

There is a related question of course: where did power lie 20 years ago & has it shifted much in the intervening years? As someone who came of age 20 years ago or so, today doesn't feel all that different politically, but perhaps things have shifted behind the scenes that I'm blissfully unaware of? Eg the way the Chinese have bought up half the property in London (I exaggerate for effect obviously) presumably brings along with it some political issues, but I don't perceive them as having much in the way of political influence. perhaps I'm wrong?

84:

So, is this a leading question because you think the power won't be in British hands?

From current trends, I think so. I think Britain is already disintegrating in terms of political power. Firstly, I'm amazed how few people pay attention to the European Parliament in elections. They've gone from an irrelevancy to more important than Parliament in terms of legislation (Commission & PM still more important) without anybody really caring about who their MEP is.

Secondly on current polls, the SNP are king-makers in the next parliament, leading to splits of power to the regions over the next few decades, as The Powers That Be are more concerned about London than even England, never mind the UK.

So in this context, who are the power brokers? Do the Isle of Man and Channel Islands turn into the next Switzerland? Not if the EU commission has a say. Its interesting that the "scandal" of "LuxLeaks (http://www.irishtimes.com/business/lux-leaks) comes about two weeks before a vote on Transparency in corporate and banking, at which Luxembourg was expected to veto (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/ending-corporate-secrecy-time-for-the-government-to-support-anti-money-laundering-directive-1.1996803). Tightening financial power is something the EU is concerned about, and not leaving to subsidiarity.

A breakdown of Europe into smaller regions is definitely on the cards and there is a strong emphasis to ensure that The Money does not play these local governments off against each other (cf. UKIP, looking to weaken the EU and the establishments support of same).

85:

(Note to above: I think the power will be in EU and Scottish hands, not British (not just an EU rant).

Secondly I think the tighening of the reins on tax is a stabilisation measure on the EUs part. If we simply extrapolate business as usual (growth of inequality), my family starves to death in a much wealthier Ireland/EU before 2034. All long-term financial planning (in the EU and US, where federal authorities are required to do long-term planning for retirements, etc) assumes "and something happens" to reset the political agenda before then. The clampdown on swiss bank accounts, Irish and Luxembourg tax deals, etc. is part of this.

86:

The "sources of power" have always been hard to grasp. The ideal of a democracy, where power rests with the people, has never been completely true.

However, the combined trends of privatisation of government tasks, the "picketty" trend of ever-more focused wealth, and the UK's long-term balance of payment deficit means that the government will have less and less real power. Instead, large corporate interests will control the basic parameters of government, absent a strong popular movement.

We're already seeing this - corporation tax has been fallen from 28% to 21% since 2008. The various trade agreements (TTIP et al) are being negotiated behind closed doors. It's not clear what you have to do as a banker to get a prison term. The Hinckley Point pricing agreement.

So, by 2034, "power" is likely to rest largely outside "government". Once we run out of things to sell off - by 2034, I'd imagine the NHS will be effectively private, as will pensions, and big chunks of social security are likely to be based on a commercial insurance system - the role of government will likely be "law enforcement" (both creating and enforcing laws to maintain the status quo). This will depend on another source of power - coercion, surveillance, and the management of public sentiment.

Again, we can see the initial signs of this - the omni-present security cameras, NSA/GCHQ surveillance, the marginalization of non-mainstream groups, the widening of the concept of "terrorism".

Finally, Britain's role in the world - in fact, most of Western Europe's role - will be rather different. Our relationship to the currently emerging economies is likely going to be rather different; by 2034, I wouldn't be surprised if we are widely known as the declining economies. And whilst such changes in the global power balance have happened hundreds of times before, this is one of the rare cases where fundamentally different political and cultural systems are involved.

87:

Sorry - this reply took longer than expected. (I got distracted)

Main question: Where do you think the sources of power in the British political system will lie in 2034?

That's quite a hard one - what outcomes do I expect, what do I fear, what do I hope for?

You say "democracy is broken" - and I agree with you. Quite why and how? They are harder questions. So far as we can tell, Democracy worked fairly well in the environment in which it was first defined - the Greek City States, with voting populations measured in the low thousands. With modern states numbering in the tens or low hundreds of millions, the individual citizen feels isolated from the centres of power (probably rightly!).

So what we have at present is nominally a democracy (we are allowed to vote from time to time) but the system has us stitched up. Two main political parties and a number of minnows - but the parties of the political right are very much associated with big business and the money markets, the parties of the left have had to compromise with those power-bases and have lost their soul thereby (thank you Tony B Liar!).
But some of the minnows are growing - and they are gaining popularity, particularly among those who feel disenfranchised, and because they tend not to think too deeply about such matters, are easy prey for a 'popular' movement - rational or not! (UKIP)

One other factor to consider: Where do these people get their information from? Broadly speaking, our popular press concentrates of popular stories and bows to pressure from the establishment. Certainly there are difficult times (News of the World!) when the popular stories encroach too far on what the establishment wants to see, but broadly, our free press have failed to understand (or failed to act on their understanding) that what is in the public interest is not the same as what the public is interested in. Quality of journalism falls, and takes public political awareness (and standards of thought) down with it.

Consequences? It becomes easier for those who already have their hands on the handles of power (political, economic or media/press) to manipulate the understanding of the general populace.

Those handling the power can hang on to it - and while those various aspects (political, economic or media/press) are in rough agreement, they form a concensus - and our government can proceed, claiming to be democratic, with little change - for a very long time!

The current demand for devolution of small countries from current large states (Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and there are others even less credible) is a potentially interesting movement. Scotland nearly went - and still might, in another couple of years when the promises/bribes are broken. But that vote only came close because Whitehall was horribly out of touch with the opinions on the street. I doubt they will make that mistake again - control via media will be applied.

Things only get interesting when there is a break in that consensus, or a major shift in technology, or some new or external factor . . .

OK, in order:
Break the consensus. It has wobbled a bit in the last few years, but the internet (that ought to have made information more freely available) has been hijacked to increase the availability of porn, and bomb-making instructions, and terrorist propaganda - so within your twenty-year horizon I think it likely that the internet will be restricted (cf Great Firewall of China) or will suffer from such close oversight by GCHQ or similar that it will have little or no impact on that consensus.
Major shift in technology. You say " I'm also making the assumption that we're not all going to go a-flying up to AI Singularity Heaven within the next 20 years". and I think you are right. Even Ray Kurzweil does not expect that sort of singularity within that time horizon - but it might be close! Lesser shifts? Unpredictable! But look out for AI developments that could intensify the panopticon nature of our society, and look out for the military (American first) developing teleoperated weaponry and maybe autonomous weaponry. If that is used to oppress a population, you get a genuine people's revolt, and it gets bloody! If such electronic systems get hacked, then anything can happen - the levers of political power become irrelevant.
Other, non ICT/electronic technologies? Genetic advances scare me more than nanomachines scare Prince Charles. There are now clubs where suitably motivated people (and not necessarily all that educated!) can indulge their interests in genetic manipulation - and the source materials are available! It is not a large step for those individuals to do as some scientists have already done - build something like a polio virus from scratch. Again, that is a disaster such that the handles of political power cease to be relevant.
New or external factors The obvious ones are eco-catastrophe and religion-based terrorism. In either case, the levers of power are very important! A slow-developing eco-catastrophe would be handled in Britain by power cuts, price rises, shortages, young people taking to the streets . . . and eventually the riots would have to be put down by the army, with offenders flooding the jails and having to be penned in military camps - I don't want to live through that, but the outcome is that so long as there is anything worth governing, the present establishment (or a recognisable similar successor) remain in power to govern it.
Increased threat from religious terrorism leads to more of what we have already seen - increased surveillance, secret trials, etc. Also no fun at all, it eventually leads to a very restrictive (1984) society and/or religious wars.


In conclusion - on a 20 year horizon I see very little prospect of major change in name - the Conservative party or some similar recognisable successor (I include Blairite Labour in this) remain in power, leaning further to the right, supporting and supported by an increasingly panopticon society - no fun! Opposition will be limited - the political left have always tended to fragment into smaller parties who fight each other with more vehemence than they use against their real enemy - I expect this to continue. New parties may appear, but they will fall into the old grooves. Our best hope for any real change begins with the press driving a new agenda. Any other route for change is likely to fail miserably or make things even worse.


You have probably guessed by now . . I have a life expectancy of 20-25 years, and I think Western civilisation will just about outlive me - but I am becoming less confident by the day. I am not an optimist!

88:

But that ... And the services will be worse, delivered by unaccountable private bodies at inflated prices paid for by tax revenue. also backfires & doesn't work.
Indeed something like this is already happening with Serco/Atos getting public stick & being "sacked" etc ... Also coupled with the fact that to PAY for all this - tax revenue is needed from people in work & having enough to live on & pay tax too ... it can only go so far, before it gorsd into reverse.
I think it will get significantly worse, befpre t starts to get better, but I don't think it can run to a conclusion, for reasons given above....
Also: "unnacountable" - yes that was the wheeze, wasn't it?
Privatise it & then the guvmint can't be blamed when it goes belly-up?
Except that, too, is backfiring badly - see power generation (lack of) & the lights going out in a cold winter ... & no amount of guvmint excuses will wash at that point.
Mind you, the "oops" period is going to have Chinese values of "Interesting" attached.

89:

"Lux-Leaks"
And it tunrs out that Brit/Camoron suspicions about Jean-Claude Juncker may have been on the nail & he may, just possibly be a corrupt little crook on the take ... - we shall see.
If that does prove to be the case, expect further support for UKIP, for obvious reasons.

90:

Scotland nearly went - and still might, in another couple of years when the promises/bribes are broken. But that vote only came close because Whitehall was horribly out of touch with the opinions on the street. I doubt they will make that mistake again - control via media will be applied.

Disagree
Listen to the radio & voters in Rochester & Strood ...
They might as well be in Glasgow or Dundee ....
The idiots still don't get that they are part of the problem.

As for the rest of your polemic - well, there are serious warnings in there - those things might come to pass, but they can be avoided - & probably will be, though it's going to be a close-run thing.
Oh ... controlled sunlight-in-a-bottle a la Lockheed, if it works, will change everything.
The power won't be "too cheap to meter" but it will make a huge differenc.
Lets wai until New_Year_2016 & see that that has brought in results, shall we?

91:

What I'm seeing from across the Pond now is disturbingly similar to what I saw on that side of the Pond a quarter of a century ago. UK politics is always about Old Money — it's just that the definition of what money qualifies as Old (with that sotto voce "respectable" in front of it) evolves. Slowly. Grudgingly. And nearly impossible to notice or predict until it has happened.* This variant on dynasticism is independent of any reforms to present economic structure, and I don't see that changing.

Perhaps a specific example from when I was stationed outside of London might help illustrate what I mean. I was one of the weirdo US officers who actually lived out in the community, in the constituency almost next door to this up-and-coming Tory with a fondness for solid grey ties. This constituency was red-red-red... but getting party backing still required getting personal approval from one of the four Old Labour (land-owning, but this was a largely agricultural/fishing area) families in the constituency. Of note, not one member of the generation in those families in my age cohort actually had a job; they were all full-time in politics and/or caring for their own family interests, including — as became apparent about a decade later — what we in the US call "slumlording" in a somewhat economically depressed seaport city outside the constituency. (Remember, this is a quarter of a century ago, back when council estates still dominated lower-income housing; these sleazebuckets were pioneers!)

One of them is now the MP for the constituency. No, it's not the one noted in the Grauniad over the weekend.

By 2034, I suspect that more Old Money will have non-land-based (and I'm including natural-resource extraction in that) family fortunes to care for. Of course, the best way to care for the family fortune will still be by politics, not by actually managing it.

* It's the same in the US, just that the evolution is neither as slow nor as grudging; it took only a single generation for the Kennedys to be considered Old Money, and one shudders to think of Bill & Melinda's kids. Of course, Bill is himself from the US version of old money...

92:

Philae HAS LANDED successfully on the comet .....

93:

"Finally, Britain's role in the world - in fact, most of Western Europe's role - will be rather different. Our relationship to the currently emerging economies is likely going to be rather different; by 2034, I wouldn't be surprised if we are widely known as the declining economies. "

It's not now, and hasn't been for decades?
In addition, isn't the biggest international power in the UK the City?

I see the big change in that respect is a much higher contrast between the City and the rest of the UK surrounding whatever lands whose only purpose is to support the City. From an international point of view, it'd be like a city-state with a large hinterland.

94:

I suspect automation has the potential to completely upend the western world view in economics.

Much of our economic theory and idea of how things should work is inherited from old Christian dogma. You don't work, you don't eat. Idleness is sin. The slothful shall be punished. Puritan work ethic, my good man! This is why the concept of welfare is repulsive, the idea of providing for the poor and infirm feels like obscenity. It's bizarre that a hippie-dippie message like Jesus was preaching could be turned into this but, well, humans are good at pretzel logic.

We pretty are our jobs in the west, particularly the US. Someone asks who you are, you usually answer with name and profession before anything else. Our jobs are our identities. When we don't have a job, we feel shameful, as if it is a reflection upon us. The American monomyth is long on the self-made idea, that your fate is what you earn.

If we end up with sufficient unemployment, we may well be forced into actually providing a basic living wage, a guaranteed minimum income. I think this could radically upend the old ideology. Just think about when kings and queens and the major players in a society literally believed the same religious dogma as was taught to the masses. Sure, there have been cynics and atheists since religion began but the prevalence of buy-in is something else. You don't get the sense these days that an American president is grappling with theological concerns the same way a medieval king would.

95:

"Of course, the best way to care for the family fortune will still be by politics, not by actually managing it."

Also, the best way to turn a small fortune into a larger one will be politics, and probably moreso (in both the US and UK) over the next few decades.

96:

I suspect that "He who does not work, neither shall he eat" came from experience with primitive communism/communal living in the early church. Apart from running out of money when the second coming didn't arrive on schedule, they appear to have found that people who don't work gossip and create trouble - see e.g. 1 Timothy 5:13

The most plausible excuse for funding the unemployable will be for the sake of their children. This may also provide good suggestions for make-work connected with childcare, although the qualifications required for childcare are rising. If all else fails, you can always pretend that the unemployable are trainable and pay them to attend courses - even if the only jobs open require PhDs in machine learning you can still send people on numeracy courses and pretend there's a way out for them.

97:

Late-night comedians have become the 25-45 year olds' trusted news interpreters.

Democratization of threat - thanks to the Internet anyone can potentially harm/destabilize society, not just big, wealthy corporations/religious groups/governments.

House of Commons à la Facebook - why not? All eligible voters within a constituency are obliged to follow and immediately post their elected MP on matters up for debate. If you don't follow, then you are not entitled to complain - same as ancient Athens' compulsory democracy. Could potentially be a good way to get decent questions from the backbenchers. Summary results would be posted every month and reviewed next time an election rolls around. This could also be a way of identifying good future spokespeople/candidates from the constituency. Newer-tech version could include a Google-glass device that automatically records your physiological/neuronal responses to different comments/proposals and transmits that data for analysis to legislators. Could substantially reduce the cost of elections and referenda.

Language of science & technology -- move over English ...
The Chinese are churning out a lot of Ph.D.s and their academic research funding is not likely to be cut to the bone as has been happening for over a decade elsewhere. In 20-25 years, this is likely to translate into Nobels -- which, let's face it, are a pretty good inidcator of having arrived. At about this same time, I expect that much of cutting-edge research will be published in Mandarin. Indian researchers will probably continue to publish in English.

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110420/full/472276a.html


98:

Here are some trends I've noticed (warning - I'm deep in the USA, living on the Fourth Coast):

1) Privatization means that the money flow/results will be very hard to trace, and very hard to alter (for those not already having power). This means that corruption will be sky-high - much of it legal, and much more simply not provable.

2) This also means that power can jump back and forth over the fence of government vs. 'private' enterprise. The government will have much higher ability to f*ck over somebody by working through private actors, with much lower accountability. So will connected private actors.

3) One connection people are flirting with, but haven't, ah, - consummated yet is bonded labor (as in unfree labor). For example, welfare and other benefits are increasingly tied to working, giving connected employers subsidized labor who suffers greatly if they quit/are fired. That can be extended greatly, i.e., 'you were fired before completing the last day of the month, so you lose benefits for the entire month, and won't be assigned another job/get anymore benefits until we get around to you'. I expect this to move up the social/economic ladder as employers find it useful. This ties in with and will reinforce (1) and (2); if people with connections want to thoroughly punish somebody, they can more easily dejob, dehouse and immiserate them, at low cost. Some have mentioned this in earlier threads about the surveillance society - if a false positive means that a stealthy, cheap, deniable and untraceable process simply screws somebody over (frequently without them even realizing that it was deliberate), then the people will power can really f*ck people over at will, with no cost. Almost a Stalinist system, in the sense that 'it's better to execute a hundred innocent people rather than letting one guilty person go unpunished'.

4) The hollowing out of the labor force. People are in general being pushed down, in many cases to (first-world level) subsistence levels. This has advantages to the Powers That Be, because voting and political participation are likely connected with income and leisure time (they are in the USA). More and more people are working like dogs just to stay housed and fed for the month, with any interruption in jobs/benefits being catastrophic. This also means the wealth accumulation will be hit far, far harder - the divergence in wealth will be even sharper than for income. Adding skyrocketing college debt (to have a *chance* for a decent income) and reduced retirement/medical benefits means that the overwhelming majority of the population will accumulate basically no wealth. The role of inherited wealth will increase - remember that of the OECD(?) countries, the UK was at the top of inter-generational stagnation of incomes. Since political power will follow income, this means that there will be far stronger class elements in UK politics, with the upper classes having a far greater proportion of power than they do now (!!!!!).

99:

6) This also means that the large-party professional politicians are more and more drawn from the same, distinct small upper-middle/upper class group, which were raised, educated, housed and connected more and more differently than the majority of the population, but more similarly with the financial and mass/targeted media professionals. This could lead to a Liberal-Tory coalition government running things for quite some time, even if each party only gets 25%+ of the seats. The System could survive a fall-off in major party votes, even more with gerrymandering districts. If things get desperate, they have the option of coalitions with various third-parties. Given 1-5 above, those third-party leaders could be punished quite savagely if they tried to make real trouble.

Since the financial elites are probably more comfortable with larger, well-known and well-tamed parties, this is the most likely outcome.

100:

Correction: "The role of inherited wealth will increase - remember that of the OECD(?) countries, the UK was at the top of inter-generational immobility of incomes.", in the sense that knowing the percentile of the parents' incomes is a higher predictor of the percentile of the childrens' incomes in the UK than in those 30 other countries.

The USA was just below the UK, and striving hard to become number 1.

101:

Power in the British political system in 2034 will be in the hands of global corporations, run by a ruling board of elite individuals who control world finance: energy, real-estate, agriculture, health/pharmaceuticals, shipping/transportation, and communication technology.

The House of Commons still exists, but purely as a function of illusory identity. MPs represent their constituencies as corporate attachés, and are corporate sponsored. Party affiliations are nothing more than brand names or flavors to appease the populous. The civil service will be privatized, and the same for social security.

Everything will be run by subsidiary companies using AI and automation for rationed distribution of services. Citizens become augmented with implants for ID, communication, entertainment, and health diagnostics. Augmentation allows for tracking and statistical data for rationing of goods and services. And not to forget, compliance. “Have you updated your aug?”

102:

At the same time, the Civil Service/Police/Intelligence system will be consolidating all the authority it can to ensure continuity, and likely giving support to the more right-wing popular groups in the hope of defanging truly revolutionary (and devolutionary) tendencies (EDL marches with MI-5 on the sideline, hooligan firms running riot in Southall with tacit police approval)

Nah, fails the credibility test.

The EDL are a bunch of educational failures who are good at mouthing off in front of a journalist, and kicking off in front of a camera. They're a bunch of fat, drunken, gobsh1tes who couldn't organise a something in a brewery.

Exactly why would the police or intelligence services effectively deputise them? They've spent the last fifty years setting up selection procedures that filter these muppets out at the earliest level! It would be the fastest way yet known to recruit the outraged into the forces of opposition...

I mean, I know it's a left-wing trope that the Army is just itching to come over all South American, but we discussed the necessary scale of any such Army elsewhere. Contrary to belief, the Armed Forces actually run their initial selection of officers and training of NCOs based on ability rather than political reliability. Because we don't have conscription, it's several orders of magnitude too small to achieve anything (for goodness sake, the Metropolitan Police can probably deploy a larger force in the UK).

I've hung around Officers' and Sergeants' Messes for twenty years, and any such inclination and will just aren't there, never seen a sniff of it - in fact, if a charismatic politician tried to abuse HM Armed Forces in such a way, they'd probably be roundly ignored. There are some advantages to a Constitutional Monarchy, one of which is the fact that I and others were Trusty and Well-Beloved of Her Majesty (and have a signed scroll that says so), and not of M.Thatcher, J.Major, A.Blair, G.Brown, or D.Cameron

Work it backwards - to have a politically-inclined Army run by Fascists in 2034, you'd need to be recruiting them as Privates and Second Lieutenants right now, in order to get them to Sergeant-Major / Lieutenant-Colonel level in time for "Der Tag". You'd need to have recruited your Fascist selection staff a good fifteen years ago in order to let the young Fascists slip through the recruit selection system.

CharlesH@69 Another strong effect will be the increasing automation of policing/military.

Again, nope. Exactly how do you automate the Mk.1 Private Soldier, rifle and bayonet attached? Drones can't clear a room, operate in a forest, etc, etc. People generally don't get the force densities and time required in order to clear a single building, let alone a city street. They're huge, and it takes ages.

The strong effect is more likely to be that identified in FR2020 - namely, that so much of the Army will be Reservists, that it cannot deploy anywhere without mobilising them. Look at Germany - disarming by stealth (i.e. underfunding to the extent that they have real problems supporting a deployed Typhoon squadron). This is being repeated across Europe by cash-strapped governments.

As I said up-thread, absent Mr.Putin's stupidity, we won't have an armed force in the land capable of governing without consent. Just, no.

103:

without a successful revolution my guess would be something like this:
'Free Trade' treaties expand ISDS provisions to cover more areas of law and eventually to allow domestic companies to sue the government over legislation changes as well as foreign.
Then a combination of increased workload and national interest pushes dispute settlements into local courts maybe the EU will play but definitly something like a City of London Invester State Dispute Court, I can't see London tolerating EU oversight when they could have more direct power.
With any legislation conflicting with their rulings inviting expensive and embarrasing litigation parliament starts sending bills to the court to approve before finalising into law. And with the court able to compel government to change, remove, or add legislation the real power now lies with our Martian overlords via the court.
Maybe a public backlash would lead to the court officials being elected allow the beige party to provide a better illusion of representation again.
i.e the FIRE sector parasite takes more direct control of the host economy.
I hope I'm wrong.

104:

Particularly para 3 - You mean like the USian habit of addressing people as $job $surname?

105:

Jones the Baker?

Oh wait, that's t'other way round.

106:

Well now, there's lovely for you. :-D

107:

DELETE THIS COMMENT Posted by a non UK reader.

I'm from the Australian system but there are some similarities.

I think there will be a massive datamining with semi AI systems that analyse the entire online history of each person, figure out if they can be swayed, how to sway them, and then sell their vote to the highest bidder.

Whomever has the most money buys the swinging/vulnerable voters. The true believers (right or left) are generally considered uneconomic to convert in the same way that poor ore deposits might be considered uneconomic to exploit.

People of strong convictions will be marginalised in society. They'll be ignored by advertisers and need to pay for all their media, if they can get it at all.

Weak or undecided will be wooed in a way that makes the worst stalkers seem like nothing. People paid to strike up conversations or even act scripted conversations in their presence. TV that interacts with them in a tailored way. Search engine results swayed. Things I can't imagine.

108:

It's been like that for a very, very long time already. What, you think you're equal before the law now?

109:

"People of strong convictions will be marginalised in society. They'll be ignored by advertisers"

I'd like to sign up for this utopia, please!

110:

"Exactly how do you automate the Mk.1 Private Soldier, rifle and bayonet attached? Drones can't clear a room, operate in a forest, etc, etc. "

Drones in the size range from bees to small birds certainly can. They can be weaponized with either toxins, anaesthetic stings or simply explosives.

This is what we can do right now:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgxtIPIDBnY

111:
Again, nope. Exactly how do you automate the Mk.1 Private Soldier, rifle and bayonet attached? Drones can't clear a room, operate in a forest, etc, etc. People generally don't get the force densities and time required in order to clear a single building, let alone a city street. They're huge, and it takes ages.

Didn't our good host mention something about a jumbo jet resembling a seagull, or a submarine a fish? I suspect we'll get something (or somethings) that can clear a room, but I doubt it will be humanoid. Plus, blood votes, has free will and its own prerogatives. Machines don't.

And now we step away from the meta and back to the topic.

112:

I'd like to see the U.K. - and the rest of the world - get an updated, 21st century set of accounting practices since more and more decisions are being made on cost-effectiveness of policy implementation. Starting with financial institutions ... Over 90% of 'inter-financial' transactions are algorithmic, electronic and are not taxed. (Consumers buying books off the Amazon website or shoes at a brick-and-mortar pay a local sales/VAT, i.e., a transaction tax. Banks despite being in the money-moving business do not pay a business transaction tax ... weird/convenient.)

Comments/observations:
The European Banking Authority publishes opinions; they don't enforce accounting rules.
Stock prices tend to fluctuate most around the time/date that companies put out their quarterly 'guidance' statements and when they announce actual results. Any deviation from last quarter's guess, including better than expected by the 'street' is severely punished, i.e., stock price drops.
Banks are a large segment in most western economies.
There's almost always a banker on other trading corporations' boards.
More and more financial institution activity is invisible (electronic; no paper trail).
Most financial institutions/banks have on-going nearly perpetual-motion swaps with other banks.
Financial trading algorithms include 'timing' logic - so the recognition of revenue can actually be timed to the millisecond.
One set of funds/revenues (transaction) including its concomitant profit/loss can potentially be zoomed across every financial institution on the planet to yield a predetermined economic sector outcome, i.e., financial markets are all doing great/poorly. (Real-world 'infinite number of rooms in a hotel' Hilbert's paradox scenario ... you just need to get the timing right. The paradox works because the banking system is mostly a closed loop.)

So - if you're a bank you could launch a financial algorithm that shows the economy performing any old way you want. (Like the CEO interviewing a CPA joke: CEO: How much is 2 plus 2? CPA: How much do you want it to be?)

https://www.eba.europa.eu/regulation-and-policy/accounting-and-auditing

113:

An economic argument in favor of data-mining public health records .. and for a pro-active healthcare system. Bottom line: (early stage) diagnosed disease is much cheaper to manage than undiagnosed disease.

Study Reveals $40 Billion in Potential Savings in Healthcare Costs

... software capable of saving up to $40 billion in unnecessary healthcare costs. After conducting a three year study, this highly advanced screening tool will be introduced to major healthcare organizations in 2015.

Software can screen up to one million patients in 30 minutes, identifying a potential Primary Immunodeficiency (PI), a genetic disorder of the immune system that causes increased susceptibility to infections that are often chronic, debilitating and sometimes fatal.

The (U.S.) NIH estimates that as many as 3-6 million Americans are affected by PI, and most are not aware of the underlying cause of their repeated infections. ... software matches more than 350 weighted ICD-9 codes to the 10 warning signs and automatically calculates risk points to establish low, medium, and high-risk categories for patients in a hospital or payer database. Those at high-risk are recommended for further testing.

A sampling of 2,056,857 patients in the IMS Database were screened ... and the data showed 1:478 had 2 or more of the 10 Warning Signs and 1:583 were scored as high risk, consistent with NIH estimates of incidence and prevalence.

...

Healthcare costs for each category were identified from U.S. Government websites. The study demonstrated that annually an undiagnosed patient costs the healthcare system an average of $108,462 more than a diagnosed patient. The study concluded that the cost of undiagnosed patients with PI in the U.S. represents more than $40 billion in unnecessary healthcare costs.

The study was peer reviewed and published in a leading scientific journal.

114:

Moldbug-style neoreactionism seems to be becoming increasingly popular in the tech sector in the united states. Is there any suggestion that this is occurring in british tech as well? When right-populists (by which I mean the UKIP and anybody else with a lynch-the-immigrants platform) collaborates with wealthy objectivist-leaning forces who consider themselves libertarian, particularly the ones with a taste for strong charismatic leaders, this is not a recipe for good times even if most of the people involved are crazy -- history shows that you only need about a third of the population to support the crazy murderous positions in order for them to become possible domestically, and less than that for crazy murderous positions to become part of foreign policy.

I don't mean to suggest that politicians with these positions must even be elected. When industries are privatized, the wealthy can buy them up. When government functions are circumvented by private corporations, this too adds to the power of whoever owns them. All we need is for Peter Thiel to make a big investment in the London branch of Uber and start a site for auctioning off parking spaces, then have him make some generous donations to whatever UKIP successor appears.

115:

Thank you for pointing out my silliness.

I had recently read [0] and my optimism imagined the opposite direction. If inexperienced Albanians suffered from all the pyramid schemes, then maybe experienced people fare better. In 2007 I was in early university and starting to both make money and watch the news. I've grown up, so to speak, on financial crises. In 2034 my generation will be in senior positions.

(Of course, economic problems are a multidimensional space and patterns in one dimension may lead to folley in another.)

0 - http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2000/03/jarvis.htm

116:

Absent environmental collapse, which I certainly wouldn't rule out, I'm not sure things will be any more different in 2034 than 2014 is from 1994.

I'm a bit sceptical about the 'beige dictatorship' concept. I can't help thinking it's a political radical's explanation of why policies which he or she personally supports and wants to see more widely adopted aren't being proposed by any party with a serious shot at winning elections. It might simply be that his or her views aren't nearly so widely shared as s/he'd like to think. I suspect the similarity between the two big parties is more an illustration of Hotelling's Law. The fact that both parties support certain policies which have no widespread support among the populace at large is to some extent maybe a groupthink thing, but in part simply an illustration of the fact that the public want contradictory things: Scandinavian public services and US taxation. And because we notice changes in taxation immediately, and only slowly realise when public services are being run down, the direction of politics has been heading US-wards. How do the Scandinavians manage it? Well, for starters, I'm not sure that they will *continue* to, but there's an element of "well, I wouldn't start from here".

Of course, there will be changes - but quite what these will be I find rather hard to guess at. I think that the civil service will remain powerful (insofar as it is at present) but it will be a procurer of services rather than a provider of them. The Tories (and to a lesser extent, Labour) appear to believe that getting into a position of buying in services from private contractors will make them better than doing everything in-house. I think they're falling for what Chris Dillow would call the fallacy of managerialism - that any issue can be solved by throwing better managers at it, and that management is something the private sector is better at.

Absent the environmental collapse, I don't see any revolutionary movement getting far. The latest recession didn't even see the usual increase in crime rates. In part, I suspect that this is because 2014 is a better time to be young and poor than 1981. There's more to entertain ourselves with for free than once there was.

That said, I wouldn't be too surprised if the UK had broken up. Not the way I'd bet, but I wouldn't place too much on either outcome. The SNP *might* go back into its box - might be essentially the Alex Salmond show - but it's not looking like that. And at some point a future Tory UK government might decide it's no longer worth buying the Scots off with the Barnett formula (it's a fact nobody on either side likes to acknowledge, but Scotland gets more money per head than any other part of the UK, and it's really hard to see quite why this should be) and they'd rather see us go. Probably when the oil drys up. And when it does happen, we'll find that the UK's problems are really much more about the intrinsic limitations of government, and not the particular failings of Westminster, I think. But it would be nice to be proven wrong.

117:

Sadly I'm sure that we'll still be swamped with ads for toothpaste. It's just that we'll be excluded from the political debate. I really think we're just at the very beginning of targeted advertising. Custom built echo chambers with advertising are surely on the way (they're here in seed form now).

118:

SF reader @ #112 & sideways @ #115 .....
Healthcare & costs & taxes ....
Scandinavian public services and US taxation
Except US taxes are as high, or higher than in the UK - though lower than Scandinavia or France, of course.
Um.
Healthcare (certainly in Britan) could be a lot cheaper of the total shambles of the lack of internal administration could be sorted.
Recent experience has show me just how much time, effort & therefore money is being wasted on an almost complete lack of any joined-up simple adminstration, right at the most basic level.

This really needs sorting, yesterday - oh & I can give specifics, if anyone is interested, but not right now, okay?

119:

There may well be no environmental collapse before 2034, but there is almost certain to be major financial collapses, probably exceeding the 2008 one by quite a margin. Simply because the conditions that caused the 2008 crisis have not been rectified, only postponed.

120:

You can also take a look at "Kill Decision" by Daniel Suarez. He describes military swarm drones which probably aren't too far from what is possible technologically.

121:

I think we're straying a bit away from the core of the topic. And I am sceptical about small drones, especially as swarms. Something small for recce is possible, but once you want to take action you come up against the weight of effective weapons. And you either need hugely more powerful computing on board, essentially AI, or something pretty fancy in reliable communications for command and control.

We're only talking about the next twenty years, which means that just about every combat weapon of 2034 is likely to be already in design and development, even if some are incremental improvements on century-old technology. I don't think things can change so fast.

It's a general time scale that suggests the big political factors are already here. The people who will be running things are already passed through university. The Lord High Everything-Else of 2034 Britain is already making a mark.

What will do more to change warfare than any new machines, or new commanders, will be the economics. Which will be more cost effective? The robot, or the teleoperated machine? And what will work best in a situation more like the Ukraine than Iraq?

There's a lot of answers which seem to depend on strong AI to work on a full battlefield. The drones over Iraq and Syria may not have to worry about jamming of their communications. Putting the equivalent of boots on the ground is nothing like so easy.

122:

As a general point from what I said above, we have a lot of big-solution problems facing us, and we stuck with the fixes we already have. Our politicians, and possibly the financial institutions, have already missed their chance.

An example: five years ago Sheffield Forgemasters were looking for the money to build a gigantic forge press, needed to make parts for nuclear reactors. They were given a cheap loan by the Labour government before the election, which was withdrawn by the Conservatives after the election.

It is disputed how many companies have the capacity needed. Some sources say there was one other plant, others say there are five.

I don't know how long it would have taken to build. An F-35B is expensive enough that the cost of just one would have been nearly enough to provide the loan, and the interest already paid would have been enough to cover the difference. We've just agreed to buy another four!

Whoever ends up running the country is likely to be the sort of person who is a bit better at long-term planning than the current mob.

123:

See, I lean much more towards the "not as much change as we would think" line of thought.

Our major financial crashes excluding bubbles and speculation were in 1929, 1987 and 2008.
That's on par to being "the next generation making the mistakes", and suggests we'll probably get another one around 2020.

Charlie and nile make good points about the privatisation of the civil service, but I'm sceptical as to how much of a difference that will make to How Stuff Is Done. I'm keeping in the back of my mind here the revolving doors between the political military and the MI complex. Would privatising the NHS really make much of a change to the grandees at the top, or would they simply move with it, to provide "a stable handover". And if they move, there is low likelyhood of rapid changes in strategy other than to try and gouge money out of every sector, but they'll still run off the public purse just as outsourcing does in business.

Yes, privatisation will make a lot of changes to how services are presented to end users, and the quality will drop and costs will spiral. But I just don't see it making substantial changes to the power blocks that are in charge behind the scenes now other than in name. (rapidly becoming relevant US example - the rise of Blackwater, Halliburton and the regulatory capture across the board from SEC to FCC)

The main power shift I see between 1994 and now is the decline of old media, though some bastions like the Mail are still huge online as well as off. The media as a whole has been essentially neutered, the only hostile stories are those that are deemed acceptable, or which have enough of a life of their own, in which case the target is frequently redirected ("Bankers" caused it -> it was unexpected -> no-one could have seen it coming / We will punish them -> it is unfair to target specific individuals for institutional failings -> the statute of limitations has run out .... sorry).

There is a lot of visibility of a police state, but I think a lot of that is simply an expansion of powers to affect white residents more than in the past. Ethnic minorities are unlikely to report much in the way of change.

124:

"We're only talking about the next twenty years, which means that just about every combat weapon of 2034 is likely to be already in design and development, even if some are incremental improvements on century-old technology. I don't think things can change so fast."

I think things can change that fast, if the "things" are small enough. A hummingbird drone with camera eye and a small shaped charge for killing a Human could be put into production tomorrow. If you want it indiscriminate it is even easier - echo location and IR heat sensor.

Small combat drones will evolve far more rapidly than tanks, planes or even rifles.

125:

I think we can learn two lessons from History.

First, where societies change without a sudden revolution or invasion, the new structures are usually there for a long time before they take over. On a micro level, the liberal social values of the later 20th century are really just 1900s Bohemian values. On a macro level, in 5th century, the Roman Empire was *also* a network of barbarian kingdoms *at the same time*.

Second, centrifugal forces tend to win out unless there are clear self-interest reasons for them not to. Thus in 10th and 11th century France, the King was defied with impunity by Dukes with castles, who, however were defied with impunity by Counts with castles, who, however, were defied with impunity by Knights with castles.

So I predict that as the 21st century progresses, a clash between centralising transnational corporations and the economically centrifugal forces of (1) hi-tech cottage industries, such as 3D printing, (2) the impossibility of protecting IP against piracy, and (3) hobbiests with access to technology.

In this context, in the next 20 years I predict that since transnational corporations are wealthy and organised, they will have a last hurrah (isn't that already happening), wield massive oppressive influence and do their best to turn the world into something like a make like a YA dystopia. This won't, however, last.

126:

That's a remarkable feat. But it only flies for five minutes before it runs out of power, less than a mile, and the range for sending pictures back is a hundred yards.

That's a long way from a weapons system that can do away with infantry. Apparently reconnaissance troops started using such nano-drones a couple of years ago, and there are bigger beasts.

OK, insect-sized devices that can fly into a bunker and inject an enemy soldier with some sort of poison? The USA has been working on possible chemical agents for longer than I have been alive, and despite all the hype they never seemed to find anything better than the nerve gases. And how long before the chemical has sufficient effect?

Plus, how do you guide the drone to a target. How do you get enough power to get a signal back to a human controller, without the controller having to be in infantry engagement range of the enemy. So instead you need autonomous AI good enough to identify targets, instead of wiping out a Marks & Spencer shop display. Power and weight: how big is your sneaky robot insect now?

I really don't see how you can replace the infantry. I can see them using small drones, but the current tech in use, with the range and endurance that might replace infantry, has about 300 times the mass of these short-range recce devices.

127:

Sorry, Charlie, but I think there's a huge amount of wishful thinking lurking just off-stage in this thread. Just avoiding a complete economic collapse, without exacerbating climate-change, is going to be a huge problem. There's maybe going to be some small drone weapons, but the small, cheap, stuff on YouTube has its fair share of CGI fakery there.

What's a swarm of nano-drones going to be able to do against a tank with mosquito nets over the hatches?

Of course, I might be arguing against the very secret weapon with which I intend to take over the world, thereby lulling my enemies into a false sense of security. Though my cunning plan is more likely to be directed at the goal of maintaining ethical standards in gaming journalism.

Just call me Missy.

128:

Piketty did a youtube interview for the Economist a few months ago in which he expressed optimism, about progress toward transparency of global financial institutions such that governments could really determine where their citizens' money was hiding from taxation, and do something about it. If he's wrong, then wealth will just keep piling up in a few hands via secret tax havens, while conditions deteriorate for the great majority throughout the world. If he's rightly optimistic, as may be justifiable by increased cooperation among governments and the continued improvement of data mining techniques to track the money, then the means could itself become the end, a true global government.

129:

One possibility for the new future would be something like the Big Deal in Ken MacLeod's 'Descent' where the beige dictatorship take drastic steps to correct the worst excesses of capital-dominated capitalism in order to regain the consent of the governed, including co-ordinated surprise assaults on money-havens around the world, with the specific exception of Switzerland.

'Why Switzerland?' 'Read up on Swiss defence policy,'

.. of course, that's just science fiction

130:

See also this hour plus long youtube video ...

CUNY TV Special: "Capital in the 21st Century" with Thomas Piketty

Panel discussion led by Thomas Piketty, author, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," who discusses economic growth, returns on capital, and inequality with four economists: Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University; Paul Krugman, Princeton University; Steven Durlauf, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Branko Milanovic, CUNY Graduate Center. Introductions by Chase Robinson, CUNY Graduate Center, and Janet Gornick, Luxembourg Income Study Center. Taped April 16, 2014 at the CUNY Graduate Center.

131:

I'm not saying that older people are racist, but that they could effectively become racist in practice. While denying it.

I've lived in various parts of the US, including the South. And racism is a bit more overt there, but not any greater than what I've seen in the Northeast or West. The difference is that people in the Northeast claim to not be racist while they live in their small 98% white suburbs and towns or upscale neighborhoods with good schools and low taxes, and use zoning and regulations to keep people out. American culture is an offshoot of British culture, even if we did get a bunch of Italians and Germans thrown into the mix. So it is possible.

But it presupposes that there will be limited resources for Britain in the future, and that people will fight over them. It's also possible that there is no demographic fight over the resources and everyone just makes due with fewer and crappier social programs. (Which is actually kind of how the southern states do things. No one gets good services.)

132:

"But it only flies for five minutes before it runs out of power, less than a mile, and the range for sending pictures back is a hundred yards."

Do you have any idea how powerful that is as a force multiplier - even if you need one soldier controlling one drone? As for injectable poisons, there are far more deadly toxins than Sarin or VX, some of which are fatal in nanogram quantities. However, nothing is likely to kill more rapidly than a miniature shaped charge.

Add in some "AI in a box" and a soldier can control a swarm of them. Or they can be dropped from a helicopter. Or left in place to be activated remotely.

133:

All of this talk of killer bee drones with nerve agents rather misses the point; namely, that there's a difference between being a soldier and an infantryman (not to worry, many soldiers miss the subtlety too).

All soldiers are trained to a basic level for an armed fight; and should be able to fight in groups of ten to twenty, for a few hours. But that's not the difficult part. The combat arms spend their time working on fighting as coordinated groups of hundreds or thousands, for weeks at a time. They have to fight in streets, houses, woods, deserts, and extreme cold; both by day and night. The term "three-block war" was coined to suggest that within a few hundred meters of a city, the same army could be acting as an aid worker or police force to civilians, acting as a peace-keeper or negotiator between two armed factions within a local ceasefire, and doing full-on "break things and kill people" stuff to an armed opponent.

Weapon systems replace their predecessors if they offer a significant increase in effectiveness, or ease of use and training burden (e.g. longbow replaced by musket; anti-tank gun by anti-tank missile). A UAV squadron can actually require more staff than manned airframes, and still be less capable - they're used because they have greater endurance, and because it matters less if they get shot down.

It's easy to say "weaponized bee drones", but what happens when you try to use them next to an Old Folks and Cuddly Puppy Home (tm), or a burning building? How susceptible are they to decoys (say, a shop dummy with a heating element inside)? How do they cope with wire gauze or body armour? How many crates of bees do you need to deliver to your forward positions, per day, on order to actually hold a position over a period of a week? (because I can't see someone plugging every member of a bee swarm into a charger, and solar power doesn't work well in a northern winter or under a tree canopy).

A soldier with a rifle can kill things almost immediately within a 300m radius. The rifle requires zero standby power, zero recharging. The drone swarm will take a minute or two to cover the same distance, and require the focus of the operator throughout. Once deployed, it will be useless within an hour and then need to be replaced.

Then consider the after effects - the unused and out-of-power drones left lying around, each carrying lethal doses of nerve agent. The delights of dealing with the wounded, as required under the Laws of War (yay, you get to treat someone who may have half a lethal dose of contact poison spilled on them). The problems that occur if someone drops a swarm crate off the back of the truck, or leaves it in the sun for a few hours. Trust me, anyone started carrying nerve agents within the same grid square, and I'd be in full CBRN gear.

(Polite Mode) Forgive me if I suggest that it's a solution looking for a problem, and is right up there with the Panjandrum mine clearance tool and Stick mine? File under "very silly idea"?

134:


" Add in some "AI in a box" and a soldier can control a swarm of them. Or they can be dropped from a helicopter. Or left in place to be activated remotely. "

Really? Assuming that the Tech works perfectly and the poisonous stuff Delivery Systems aren’t deflected by, say, those ever so Primitive Countermeasures that those Primitive Enemies can’t possibly think of? Oh Dear Me NO! ...


http://jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/jm-countermeasures.htm

Or you could consider...


“Grab Their Belts To Fight Them ..."

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/grab-their-belts-to-fight-them

So...Drones at the Wasp Level of Size? Fly Sprays linked to a simple App locked to a vibration Detector? That will NEVER Occur To them for they are the Primitive Enemy and we have the N.S.A. and also G.C.H.Q. and all those other ever so impressive acronyms...


Look up “insurgents hack us drones “on Google ...and then consider that those primitive enemy insurgents might just be capable of doing the same thing, and then start looking up designs for model airplanes ....


Of COURSE that...insert expletive of choice... won’t look for that now will they? Insurgents are Dumb and won’t know how to use the internet!


http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB126102247889095011

The other day my Furry Friend Shona ..Who is the Keeshond of The Baskervilles ... and I encountered a small girl and her Mum ..this happens distressingly often for these days, for no middle aged man in the U.K. wants to be considered to be a man who lures the attention of little girls by means of his Particularly Cute Hound.

So, when that small girl was prised off Shonas neck whilst exclaiming, “ You are SO LUSH!!! You ARE a Teddy Bear!! " - now and then I consider carrying a crowbar small person prising off Shonas neck for the use of - The Small Girl...I’m not all that good on Children’s ages but maybe about 6 is? .. Asked her Mum if she could have HER I pad so that she could take a photo of Shona, and then look up the same on the Internet so that ...and so on and so forth. I asked Girls Mum...Really??

Small Girl s Mum explained that the I pad did indeed belong to Small Girl...instead of a doll last xMass... but that whilst S.G. could take a photo she would have to wait until they had a stop at the nearby cafe, or preferably until they got home, before doing the Research.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=keeshond+puppies&client=firefox-a&hs=o23&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=dVxmVODKCo3SaL-KgKgN&ved=0CCIQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=551

But of course Primitive Insurgent type deluded Religious Nutters are utterly incapable of doing the research that a six year old girl can accomplish. Not even when backed up by Iran...oh dear me no!


Not that Iran is doing research on Irresistibly Cute Hounds?


135:

"I suspect the similarity between the two big parties is more an illustration of Hotelling's Law. The fact that both parties support certain policies which have no widespread support among the populace at large is to some extent maybe a groupthink thing, but in part simply an illustration of the fact that the public want contradictory things: Scandinavian public services and US taxation. And because we notice changes in taxation immediately, and only slowly realise when public services are being run down, the direction of politics has been heading US-wards. How do the Scandinavians manage it? Well, for starters, I'm not sure that they will *continue* to, but there's an element of "well, I wouldn't start from here"."

There's that, and the fact that the preferences of the rich are far more powerful than the preferences of the rest of us (which the rich can manipulate). And that's electoral; when it comes to the quiet day-to-day dealings, it's far more so.

136:

If something in the building is killing drones, you drop a Hellfire through the roof.

137:

"There may well be no environmental collapse before 2034, but there is almost certain to be major financial collapses, probably exceeding the 2008 one by quite a margin. Simply because the conditions that caused the 2008 crisis have not been rectified, only postponed."

I'd say ratcheted up several notches, assuming that what happened in the USA has happened in the UK (from casual browsing, it has):

1) It's clear that Big Finance has even more clout in the government (and media) than pessimists thought a decade ago.
2) Big Finance can get vast bailouts, while imposing austerity on everybody else.
3) This gives them more power, because they have cash when nobody else does (it'd nice to be flush during a depression; you can buy anything you'd like).
4) This only applies to Big Boyz, with massive clout, whose failure would be like a financial nuke.
5) Therefore, you should not only strive to get big, but once you are one of the Big Boyz, you should structure your transactions so that if things go seriously wrong, they jump immediately to Armageddon.
6) This is also more profitable, because you can take riskier bets which pay off more. Until things go sour, in which case (a) you might have cashed in, (b) your failure plausibly threatens national stability, (c) that + clout = bailout.

138:

I have two responses; the first will be on politics, the second will be on drones.

"It's a general time scale that suggests the big political factors are already here. The people who will be running things are already passed through university. The Lord High Everything-Else of 2034 Britain is already making a mark."

That person is now likely to be twenty-four years old. What was politics like in the UK in 1984? Some factors, like Thatcherism/neoliberalism, were dominant. Others, like the EU/immigration, were smaller. A peaceful end of the Cold War was not in people's imaginations, much less planning. Labour becoming Tory-lite (and the Tories becoming much worse, and the Lib-Dems helping them) were not, either. The Great Financial Collapse was for cheap paperbacks, and always got it wrong (fearing hyperinflation).

139:

This is the second reply - skip if not interested in drones!

I think we're straying a bit away from the core of the topic. And I am sceptical about small drones, especially as swarms. Something small for recce is possible, but once you want to take action you come up against the weight of effective weapons. And you either need hugely more powerful computing on board, essentially AI, or something pretty fancy in reliable communications for command and control.

[re: drones] "We're only talking about the next twenty years, which means that just about every combat weapon of 2034 is likely to be already in design and development, even if some are incremental improvements on century-old technology. I don't think things can change so fast."

Twenty years ago was 1994. According to Wikipedia, that's when the Predator was *conceived*. It and its relatives are now available in fleets, are massively used, and have changed the face of aerial warfare (at least for recon and ground attack). The same factors (electronics, replacing people, cost) are more powerful than before. They also mesh nicely with the political currents.

A cetain Scottish bloger, Charles Stross, has written on the effects of Moore's law on AI(-like stuff) in the near future.

"What will do more to change warfare than any new machines, or new commanders, will be the economics. Which will be more cost effective? The robot, or the teleoperated machine? And what will work best in a situation more like the Ukraine than Iraq?"

The answer to that is pretty clear - electronics are displacing people in First World Armies. I imagine in 2034 there will still be swarms of cheap teenagers.

"There's a lot of answers which seem to depend on strong AI to work on a full battlefield. The drones over Iraq and Syria may not have to worry about jamming of their communications. Putting the equivalent of boots on the ground is nothing like so easy."

And I'm guessing that the USA and other big powers are working hard on that.

A cetain Scottish bloger, Charles Stross, has written on communications in the near future.

140:

Indeed? And let’s suppose that your Intel tells you that the building is a hospital or a refugee centre?

Just collateral damage eh wot? And the natives are Bound to realise the necessity of your attack and certainly won’t retaliate against our cities just as soon as they have developed the technology so to do? Oh, dearie Dearie me No! And even if they do we can be absolutely sure that ' Our ' and ' Our ' Allies in the ..

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/eisenhower-warns-of-military-industrial-complex

WILL save us ..At a modest cost.

141:

"What's a swarm of nano-drones going to be able to do against a tank with mosquito nets over the hatches?"

True nano? That's hard.

100 micro-drones with 100g payloads?
Blind its sensors, trash the main gun barrel, mess with the engine,....

142:

I am afraid there are two options which would lead to very different outcomes and they are about equally likely. Will the UK leave the EU or not?

Now, if you wish to challenge the establishment then you need to look at what the establishment, which is politically divided, holds in common. In Europe that commonality is internationalism in the sense of a commitment to international organizations, essentially open borders (maybe not to poor people) and international cooperation. The really fundamental opposition in Europe aims at that and one can claim that the peak has been reached and the political pendulum is swinging back to nationalism.
If the current party system breaks down that would be the fault line.

But in general terms the future looks similar to the past. I don't see a compelling reason for drastic change. So there will be a House of Commons and a ceremonial monarch.

143:

The answer to that is pretty clear - electronics are displacing people in First World Armies.

Please provide evidence for that assertion. Armies are shrinking because major land wars are not on the near horizon, because professional soldiers and small wars are expensive, and because governments would (sensibly) rather spend the money on vote-winning stuff like education and healthcare.

Fifty years of Moore's Law have not changed the basic size or shape of the infantry platoon, in either the US or UK Army. A soldier in a 1944 rifle section would recognise every role and nearly every piece of equipment in the 2014 rifle section. Saying "electronics are displacing people" is perhaps true if your 1903 job is "semaphore flag man" or your 1940 job "carrier pigeon platoon". But that's about it.

Saying that "electronics will replace soldiers" displays a lack of understanding of the military. It's like saying "drones and electronics will replace doctors and social workers" - they won't, because the vast majority of the work is people facing. They can assist, but at the end of the day you're still going to need a pair of boots on the ground.

Fixations on k3wl lethality ignores reality - which is that most modern military problems are not now, and will not in the future, be solved by a drone strike.

144:

"Fifty years of Moore's Law have not changed the basic size or shape of the infantry platoon, in either the US or UK Army."

Nor in 2000 years if we are talking Roman army.
Who do you think would win in a timewar fight - a modern platoon or a legion?

145:

Remind me - how many Money Men have gone to prison for fraud for rigging the financial markets and defrauding people of billions?

146:

If something in the building is killing drones, you drop a Hellfire through the roof.

This is a wonderful tactic for your enemy to adopt if you have many many cheap buildings, many empty, and Hellfires still cost $110,000 apiece. That's dirt cheap by missile standards but since micro-drones may be vulnerable to what are in effect bug zappers you can see the economic disparity there.

Also, if Hellfires are dropped into tool sheds and old barns they're not available for bunkers or vehicles.

147:

You are assuming one drone per recce. Also, killing 1 enemy combatant per $100k is extremely cost effective. One enemy death per 100,000 rounds of rifle ammo is about the norm in Afghanistan for US forces.

148:

Barry, re your #136: All that works fine, until you go just that bit too far - and you end up with your fancy corporate HQ in flames and, not too long afterwards, find yourself being introduced to a length of natural fibre and a lamp post.

I think that there is a fair chance, in the UK, of something like this happening to a large number of corporate board members and investment bankers before the time period specified.

149:

Uh, Hellfire against cats playing with small flying objects? That's evil!

150:

I think Bank Bailout No.2 by the govt in a new financial crisis would be a cause of serious social violence. Investment bankers hanging from lampposts would not be a metaphor.

151:

Also, killing 1 enemy combatant per $100k is extremely cost effective.

O RLY? So given the US military budget is about 700 billion dollars, once the USA have 7 million enemies they can pack in?

152:

I think wether the next global financial crisis will result in another bailout is an interesting question. Usually the source of power is attributed to big money (Marx) or gun barrels (Lenin). I'd like to take a more abstract approach: power comes from making true of promises. After all, money is just the promise to give you something back for a piece of paper. Inflation, devaluation and bankruptcy hurt these promises. OTOH social security, pensions and insurance are also basically promises. Even law enforcement can be seen as a promise. The question is what happens when a society can't keep all promises at the same time. A government that in a crisis only bails out the rich will lose all legitimization.

153:

Let's see...
Cost to USA to date in Afghanistan - $750 billion
Taliban deaths (conservative est.) - 20,000

That works out at $36 million per dead Taliban.
Like I said, if they could do it for $100k each that would be very cost effective.

154:

Ah, I think I should take back that Marx attributes power only to big money - I recall he believed in the power of the worker's class. And that quote about gun barrels was from Mao Tsetung, not Lenin. Sorry folks.

155:

True-life example of what Ike meant ... The Sovereign State: The Secret History of ITT by Anthony Sampson. While this book covers corporate antics up to the time of Harold Geneen, the Wikipedia excerpt below shows that this corporation's modus operandi hasn't changed.

Criminal prosecution

In March 2007, ITT Corporation became the first major defense contractor to be convicted for criminal violations of the US Arms Export Control Act. The fines resulted from ITT's outsourcing program, in which they transferred night vision goggles and classified information about countermeasures against laser weapons, including light interference filters to engineers in Singapore, the People's Republic of China, and the United Kingdom.[41] They were fined US$100 million although they were also given the option of spending half of that sum on research and development of new night vision technology. The United States government will assume rights to the resulting intellectual property.[42][43]

In its investigation and subsequent ruling the United States Department of Justice found that the corporation went to significant lengths to circumvent rules regarding the exports including setting up a front company. According to U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee, the company fought the investigation in order "to essentially run out the clock on the statute of limitations."[44]

Wonder what they're up to these days ... lots of wars, coups, plots, etc. going on just now.

156:

That quote about how political power grows from the barrel of a gun, leads us back to the subject of Scottish Politics...

I rather think that Enric Miralles did conscripted service in Spain; his Parliament Buildings design is covered on the outside with the silhouettes of pistols (even the guides can only suggest "hairdryer" as an alternative), and the main chamber is lined with plywood silhouettes (claimed to represent "the people") that are rather similar to the boards on which a paper "charging man" figure target is pasted on military ranges; the size of a Figure 14 target.

You have to love an architect with a sense of humour, especially if they get all their jokes into the design...

157:

No takers for a resurgence of the state? After all, ATOS has terminated their WCA contract early, some rail franchise holders are running away from their franchises and this week SERCO admitted public sector contracts would bring in £1.5 billion less than predicted. So perhaps the private sector will wise up to the profitability of public services or perhaps the usual contractors will become so tarnished by scandal that even the sleaziest minster can't award them a contract. There's already a lot of support for renationalisation of rail, and twenty years is enough time for privatisation to peak and the pendulum to start swinging back – after all the 'golden age' the oldies will want to recreate will be one of public ownership. And if you can build an autonomous machine that, say, patches potholes, why rent one from the private sector – it would be more *cough* efficient for the public to own it directly.

Bit of a comet shot, but if it bounces enough time it could land.

158:

“That quote about how political power grows from the barrel of a gun, leads us back to the subject of Scottish Politics... "

Oh the relief from, suchlike stuff as resembles...

“Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly.

Asymmetric warfare can describe a conflict in which the resources of two belligerents differ in essence and in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other's characteristic weaknesses. Such struggles often involve strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the weaker combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality.[1] Such strategies may not necessarily be militarized.[2] This is in contrast to symmetric warfare, where two powers have similar military power and resources and rely on tactics that are similar overall, differing only in details and execution.

The term is also frequently used to describe what is also called "guerrilla warfare", "insurgency", "terrorism", "counterinsurgency", and "counterterrorism", essentially violent conflict between a formal military and an informal, less equipped and supported, undermanned but resilient opponent." and wishful thinking along the lines of nano machinery replacing those ever so vulnerable combat troopers who at vast training expense must face improvised roadside bombs and weaponised Children..But here after a brief reconnoitre...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymmetric_warfare

Hereafter a Dramatic Difference! But...wait?


" SNP conference: Nicola Sturgeon says party could hold balance of power " ..

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-30061564

And we are back to, " Asymmetric warfare "

159:

Ever had to support someone through an ATOS examination?

I have and it wasn't pretty I can tell you. But I'd done my homework on ATOS ..." we are not a caring profession “and so forth on their training documentation for new staff/medical professionals.

My...err...client? .. was terrified and was interviewed by a, " Medical Professional" who had one leg and who kept doing physical exercises and demanding to know ..." Can You DO that!! " happily my client kept to her - training/ guidance - and said NO but I wonder just how many targets were persuaded, through sheer Shame, to be on the wrong side of the highly Scientific Testing Procedures?

ATOS and its successor, whomsoever that might be, have a target to achieve lest they fail to make a profit.

I wonder how far you get through this hereafter linked post of some time ago, when I did my research, before you begin to feel nauseous...

http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/open-letter-on-atos-healthcare-to-the-bmj-and-rcn/

160:

"Fifty years of Moore's Law have not changed the basic size or shape of the infantry platoon, in either the US or UK Army. A soldier in a 1944 rifle section would recognise every role and nearly every piece of equipment in the 2014 rifle section. Saying "electronics are displacing people" is perhaps true if your 1903 job is "semaphore flag man" or your 1940 job "carrier pigeon platoon". But that's about it."

No, he would not. He'd barely recognize *a few* of the many radios. GPS, laser designators, night vision sights, any data uplinks. Infantry drones would be beyond SF, and drones with computer uplinks beyond that. He'd recognize a Javelin, but only as a panzerfaust, not as a homing missile.

161:

"Remind me - how many Money Men have gone to prison for fraud for rigging the financial markets and defrauding people of billions?"

This makes no sense whatsoever in light of my comment. Please reread.

162:

So, is this a leading question because you think the power won't be in British hands?

Nope, it's a leading question because I'm casting the runes, in pursuit of a future project, and don't want to apply my own filter bubble to what comes back to me (any more than is inevitable given the venue where I'm asking the question).

If it's begging any questions, it's by making the assumption that the United Kingdom as we know it will still exist -- or if it exists in name, be functionally relevant -- in 20 years' time. But that's another matter.

Parenthetically: I have been away from keyboard for 4 days, with just a phone for company. Which makes following a long blog thread just about impossible. I'm back now (for a bit) and will try to catch up.

163:

"This is a wonderful tactic for your enemy to adopt if you have many many cheap buildings, many empty, and Hellfires still cost $110,000 apiece. That's dirt cheap by missile standards but since micro-drones may be vulnerable to what are in effect bug zappers you can see the economic disparity there."

We're doing that now, with Predators. As for countermeasures, a whole bunch of people don't seem to realize that countermeasures are also used against soldiers, and that scared/angry soldiers have lousy judgement.

164:

the role of government will likely be "law enforcement" (both creating and enforcing laws to maintain the status quo). This will depend on another source of power - coercion, surveillance, and the management of public sentiment.

I am inclined to think that a lot of law enforcement -- public order policing, basically -- will be outsourced by then: either to the private sector or (radically) to the public via social networks oriented towards promoting Peelian principals ("the public are the police and the police are the public"), at least for low-level anti-social behaviour issues.

165:

So far as we can tell, Democracy worked fairly well in the environment in which it was first defined - the Greek City States, with voting populations measured in the low thousands.

Who consisted of adult male slave-owning landholding soldiers. One voter per hundred-odd bodies. Not a model most of us wish to return to!

166:

Also coupled with the fact that to PAY for all this - tax revenue is needed from people in work & having enough to live on & pay tax too ...

Why do you think the national deficit has mushroomed during a period of "austerity" supposedly intended to reduce public borrowing (as well as spending) Greg?

Austerity isn't about reducing public borrowing, or spending. It's just a plausible excuse (to your typical economics-illiterate newspaper-reading voter) for diverting public spending into the pockets of the ruling party's backers, while whacking on the usual totemic class enemies (the poor, disabled, sick, unemployed, undereducated, mentally ill, lefties, dissidents, non-conformists).

167:

"Barry, re your #136: All that works fine, until you go just that bit too far - and you end up with your fancy corporate HQ in flames and, not too long afterwards, find yourself being introduced to a length of natural fibre and a lamp post."

We went through something which would have been the stuff of bad paperbacks, and if anything, the Big Boyz came through stronger. I agree that there are limits, but they are probably more like WWI than anything less catastrophic.

Also, these same guys have mobs of their own, who will happily blame everything on designated targets.

168:

That would be possibly the best surprising future.

169:

I am currently reading about the 30 years war and in the introduction, the author explains the Imperial constitution of the Holy Roman Empire. This started me thinking about Charlie's question. The Holy Roman Empire was a series of interlocking sovereignties with vertical and horizontal fidelities. I could see Europe adopting a similar structure with power diffused throughout various levels. The Banks and Financial institutions would be just another power base. The Human resources of the banks etc. need to live somewhere, need food,water and power which puts them at the mercy of the suppliers, get too annoying and you starve(or try to grab them by force thereby annoying other power bases). I agree 20 years is probably too short for a full-blooded reformation along these lines but we might see a start.

170:

What's a swarm of nano-drones going to be able to do against a tank with mosquito nets over the hatches?

Keep the crew buttoned up and unable to occupy territory effectively. (This goes for APCs carrying infantry as much as for actual MBTs.)

Personally, I don't think micro-drones are going to be easy to weaponize. Rather, we're already seeing impressive work on cyborg insects (chip-controlled cockroaches, flies, and so on). I'd look for it to move up a level: electronic remote control of Japanese giant hornets, for example. Preferably after genetically modifying them to express conotoxins or irukandji toxin in their stingers, turning them from a painful nuisance into something as debilitating as small-arms fire. Use terminator genes to ensure they can't breed in the wild then use drones/cheap cruise missiles to dump hornets' nests into a target area and you've got a rather nasty area denial weapon that is technically not subject to the Geneva Conventions on biological or chemical warfare, AIUI (it's got a human controller in the loop, it's not microbiological, it's mostly non-lethal, it's not a chemical weapon) ...

171:

No takers for a resurgence of the state?

If the UK existed in a legislative vacuum, I'd say it was a distinct possibility on the 10-20 year time frame. However, the UK is bound by a whole bunch of WTO-mediated trade treaties, some of which (like the proposed TTP) would bind their hands. It'd be possible to go against them, but the UK gov would then have to repudiate a bunch of treaties with legally binding arbitration clauses and other annoying shit that would really damage the ability of UK based businesses to engage in overseas trade if lobbying pressure was brought to bear on the enforcement side in other countries.

172:

Sorry Charlie, I thought the commetariat here was already awake enough to realise your response to my question about taxes requiring tax-paying workers to provide monies to keep the cycle going.
I partly & only partly, disagree with It's just a plausible excuse (to your typical economics-illiterate newspaper-reading voter) for diverting public spending into the pockets of the ruling party's backers... as in. yes, there is far too much "blaming the vivtims" going on, but that also is an excuse.
We ahould note that, probably more by luck than judgement the boy George's "remedy" such as it is,appears to be working better here that almost anywhere else in Europe, at any rate ... look at the economic state iof France or Spain, compared to here f'rinstance.
Where I am in 150% agreement is the threat posed by TTIP - a proposal that, it should be noted, that UKIP are dead against, cough.

173:

Trade treaties are more enforceable for physical goods and services. If the U.K. economy shifts mostly toward e-commerce, then treaties might get ignored. Or as historically/repeatedly happens with the U.S. - each treaty dispute resolution would take about 10-12 years to go through the court system - effectively eviscerating them.

174:

TTIP includes the same arbitration method that has resulted in the Australian government being ordered to compensate Philip Morris for lost profits due to their anti-smoking campaign. I tentatively suggest it's worth worrying about.

175:

Between then and now there is an Economic Singularity waiting to happen. Beyond that nothing is predictable in the political arena.

176:

The sources of power in the British political system will be mostly corporate. This has already happened, and the trend is towards more corporate power. Whatever the problem, the solution is incorporation. The working class needs to organise, especially now that the unions have been crushed and Labour sold out. The middle class needs to pool capital so they can start businesses, especially now that the upper class isn't lending to them. The upper class needs to create more moats and walls to defend their piles, and ever more elaborate instruments to blow bubbles and fleece the rest of us. Basically, I think capitalism has won so overwhelmingly that the socialists have to incorporate to compete.

I don't think the forms of the system will change that much. Parliament is useful for keeping score and making deals. And as we have seen, the function of the state can be changed radically without changing its structure much. Any reform such as abolishing the House of Lords will be accomplished only if it is such a non-event that nobody cares to defend the old way.

177:

I do not think that the economic sea change is a singularity as such. I think that the first order effect are visible, complete removal of whole categories of careers and jobs and their replacement by automation and massive improverment in productivity for many more by the same automation.
At a rate (IMHO) faster then they can be replaced by new categories of jobs.
Something similar has happened before, in the Roman Republic when Marius and Sulla started campaigning in the east and retuend massive amounts of slave to Italy that completely dsiplaced the livelyhoods of the Roman middle classes.
The Patrician response was "bread and Circuses" and I think that will be the first tool reached for.

Basically I think that 2034 will be the peroid where the elite will be trying to keep the show on the road as usual and the next new thing will be struggling to emerge.
A period a bit like the era from 1830 to 1900 in Europe.

178:

The Patrician response was "Bread and Circuses" and I think that will be the first tool reached for.

Bit behind the times, aren't you?
This started many years ago.
What do you think all the TV soaps are for?
Then there was ( I hate to mention it, even now it makes my blood boil. ) ... the XXXth Olympiad.
Pure panem et circenses with the vile fascist crawler ( or is that crawler-to-fascists? ) Coe presiding over the whole sham.
Londoners are still paying for this fiasco....

179:

It's not just degrading the tank (a swarmed attack of nanobots can easily take down a tank), nor just keeping them buttoned up. A nanobot can also act as a "you're marked for death sonny" targeting device for a relatively simple bomb, dropped from height (think laser designator, without the laser) at a time of your choosing. You going to sit in a tank that you are fairly certain already has a bulls eye painted on it?

However, realistically, tanks are dead anyway (same as ships, etc.) in a battlefield that really take to heed what it's possible to do to do to slow moving platforms in a real NEC battlespace.

And how the hell did this conversation divert off from political dystopias, back to military tech?

Final thought on the original question. I covered how we are very likely to have a bifurcation point in the next twenty years, and how money is progressively protecting itself after capturing politics as normal. So what's the best we can hope for?

Well, IT developments have progressively put more and more power into the hands of smaller and smaller groups. It's what the powers that be tend to be worried about, both reasonably (terrorism) and unreasonably (free expression of dissent).

However the cycle time associated with government and even business/finance is significantly longer than what those techie small groups can manage. In short, if you can grow a 'faceache' to a global concern in a short timeframe, you can do more purposeful things too.

We can only hope that one such group, disaffected from the corruption and failure of the political process seeks to be public-spirited and revolutionises it. What would it look like? No idea, that's the point - but the potential is there for it to be achieved in a way that earlier ages didn't have.

180:

You're making the same damn mistake as everyone else.

A nanobot marking a tank for a smart bomb? Trouble is that it has to be able to radiate a useful signal. Those tiny drones, the size of large insects and small birds, have only so much space for a battery. Any signal it emits is limited by transmitter size effects on wavelength.

All together now: Ye cannae break the laws of physics!

A big chunk of the current political problems come from people forgetting that.

181:

You are confusing power for signal to noise ratio.

182:

A spread spectrum signal can be below the ambient noise level and still be detectable. 100mW will get you a range of 15km. You can buy such modules off the shelf right now.

183:

"Trade treaties are more enforceable for physical goods and services. If the U.K. economy shifts mostly toward e-commerce, then treaties might get ignored. Or as historically/repeatedly happens with the U.S. - each treaty dispute resolution would take about 10-12 years to go through the court system - effectively eviscerating them"

For e-commerce, life gets hard if you're subject to deliberate restrictions on communication[1], nonenforcement of your contracts, and seizure of your money/being banned from the world's major banking systems.

Second, taking a long time to resolve treaty disputes only helps you if you benefit from that; if somebody f*cks you over, and you're the one trying to get action taken, you're in trouble. An example would be that a party gets an injunction against another party, which would violate a treaty. If the second party has to spend ten years getting the injunction voided,......

Third, depending on the clout of the powers involved, treaty disputes could be resolved more quickly. And since these treaties were desired by major financial and commercial elites, I'll bet that they favor those elites.

184:

"The middle class needs to pool capital so they can start businesses, especially now that the upper class isn't lending to them. "

The trend over the past few decades is that the middle class not only can't do that, but that their existing pools are depleted. Throw in US prices for higher education, needing to work for free for several years, being laid off more frequently, longer, with fewer benefits, US healthcare 'system', and likely trashing of pensions, combined with housing and financial crashes, and the middle class will effectively be right next to the pre-WWII working class, albeit with white shirts and hands not caked with grease or coal.

185:

anonemouse & Barry ... thanks

Didn't know this ... this (Philip Morris winning a lost-profits lawsuit) is completely insane...I was of the impression that British common law had left that behind sometime around the 16th century: a merchant suing a hired assassin for non-performance.

Yes -- being able to control the court's agenda, especially timing, is key.

When did thinking you can never win become the default attitude in the U.S.?

186:


" .. And the middle class will effectively be right next to the pre-WWII working class, albeit with white shirts and hands not caked with grease or coal. .."

I wouldn't be too sure of that if I were you!


Hereabouts, in the UK's North Eastern Seaboard, once upon a Long Time ago we had wide expanses of landscape along the Coast that were so blighted by Industry that the Cliffs were Black with Coal processing that was just dumped over the nearest cliff and thence into the North Sea...it still happens to a minor degree as compared to way back then, thus...

" Campaigner’s fears over minewater pollution off Sunderland coast " ..

http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/local/all-news/campaigner-s-fears-over-minewater-pollution-off-sunderland-coast-1-6725234

Not just there.


A couple of decades ago I was walking along a Tyne Side riverside path that was not to far distant from an Athletics Stadium at Gateshead when I spotted - using my highly trained detective skills as learned from the right kind of literature - an iridescent stream of insect wing shininess that crossed the path ahead in a wide shallow stream, that was identified by a passing Native..There’s always at least one such... as...


First... ‘Don’t step in it or it'll eat yer boots! ' and as being a not so rare phenomena that took place since way back then and also WAY up bank and beyond the ever so Healthy stadium there had been a Chemical Plant in Gateshead that had been closed down in the 1930s and then, err, Landscaped ? ..Had lots of earth dumped on the raw remains of pits in which they had followed the then custom of disposing of Wastes by digging a very big hole - on THEIR LAND, Mine! I tell you! GET ORF MY LARND!! -- And so on


And Second? Well, “What can you do?” he said in a weary sort of disenfranchised way.
Jobs for the Middle Classes are likely to include ever so Heroic Environmental Plus.... SO Right On GREEN that it HURTS and gets hands dirty in an environmental sort of way. Plus or minus work gangs established by the Government of whatever Stamp or stance forms in the U.K. after the next Parliaments cutbacks really begin to Cut.
Come to think of it though, work gloves will be mandatory and health and safety requirements will be met.
Manual Labour WILL be done though, and the middle classes will be depressed and much lower paid...in every sort of way that you can define ‘depressed’
Think that I'm exaggerating? How are your local Public Branch Libraries doing round your way?
What career paths are being recommended to Middle Class kids around your way ..Apart from Start Your Own Business and also Workers NOT Shirkers! Read the Daily Heil and suchlike and Only Believe In Vote For US! It will all come out all right for the economy is doing ever so well.

I'm expecting to see a DIG FOR VICTORY campaign for a middle class officer core ..Training will be provided.. Supervising a peasant /criminal/unpaid work lumpan proletariat in a few years time whomsoever wins the next UK election in May 2015.
Oh, and also Scotland will gain its Independence towards the end of 2020s ..well I've been so glum I feel bound to end on a cheerful note.


187:

Or, you could use several types of gnat-drones, each designed to perform a different function.

188:

" When did thinking you can never win become the default attitude in the U.S.? "

No lack of choices on the Social Smorgasbord and bearing in mind that I am English, how’s about Early May 1970 ...

" http://www.newsweek.com/2014/10/03/how-win-over-working-class-white-men-273001.html

At the end of that piece in comments theres something that sounds like authentic despair..


" Mike Markey • Top Commenter • Arthur Hill Technical
I used to be a Democrat years ago. My mother and father were proud FDR and Truman Democrats. Neither left this world as such. Today, I wouldn't vote for a Democrat for dog catcher. The Democrat party made a decision long ago to throw the white working male and their wives for that matter, to the dogs. According nearly every Democrat you listen to, we all are racists, sexists and homophobes. We are responsible for every single ill this country has. We are "bitter clingers" in the words of the current leader of this party. The Democrat party since LBJ has thrown it's lot in with any group that they can get dependent on a government controlled by them. They've become the party of the EBT (single) mom, the illegal immigrant and the ignorant and guilt ridden rich of Hollywood and Silicon valley. They can save their breath when it comes to expecting us to support them. They despise us and we despise them. Working white men and their wives don't vote democrat and we won't be fooled by their lies.
Reply •
• 22 • September 25 at 8:57am "


I really, Really, don't understand US of American Politics.

189:

Okay - maybe the world is not completely insane ... see below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investor-state_dispute_settlement

Excerpt:

"In 2011, the Australian government announced that it would discontinue the practice of seeking inclusion of investor state dispute settlement provisions in trade agreements with developing countries. It stated that it:

"...supports the principle of national treatment — that foreign and domestic businesses are treated equally under the law. However, the Government does not support provisions that would confer greater legal rights on foreign businesses than those available to domestic businesses. Nor will the Government support provisions that would constrain the ability of Australian governments to make laws on social, environmental and economic matters in circumstances where those laws do not discriminate between domestic and foreign businesses. The Government has not and will not accept provisions that limit its capacity to put health warnings or plain packaging requirements on tobacco products or its ability to continue the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.."

To me, this means that governments have the right to decide which has the greater value to its society - public health vs. corporate profits(Philip Morris)

190:

How about 2034 is the year of the 'battered class syndrome'? Same symptoms and responses (including legal) as battered spouse/person ..

"However, since the victim is not at fault and the violence is internally driven by the abuser's need to control, this self-blame results in feelings of helplessness rather than empowerment. The feeling of being both responsible for and helpless to stop the violence leads in turn to depression and passivity. This learned depression and passivity makes it difficult for the abused partner to marshal the resources and support system needed to leave.[9]"

Key item is 'learned helplessness'.

191:

Could they all be wiped out/neutralised by the modern day equivilent of a bucket of piss hung from the side of the path or the turret of the High Tech Armoured Veahical?

Seriously? How would a low tech army counter high tech drones using available low tech ..later eqivilent of, say, ' Improvised explosive device ' ..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvised_explosive_device

Alternativly they could just use suicide attacks by legions of zombies armed with shaped charges ..err, we need an alternative term for ' suicide ' here but you know what I mean.

192:


Oh, and also armed with Insecticide bombs to counter the Genetically Engineered Hornets...Take that Charlie!

193:

The gnat-drones would mostly be used for surveillance and mapping ... the fighting would be done by humans. First, you'd have to become aware that you've been 'infected', hence why such gnat-drones should be passive/benign or pass for something akin to local pests ... so that they would remain ignored, unremarkable. (Therefore knowledge that gnat-drones exist must be secret.)

Continually 'evolve' such gnat-drones during the manufacturing process so that each 'generation' is made of a slightly different signature material to emit a slightly different 'signal'. Therefore no one retaliatory response would completely wipe them out.

The gnat-drone manufacturing process itself would have to be multi-stage so that no one manufacturer/supplier would know what the finally assembled product is, and become ... erm... susceptible... to developing a countermeasure. There ought to be enough paranoiacs in the military to pull this off, and the military already has a reputation for uber-bureaucracy.

194:

No, he would not. He'd barely recognize *a few* of the many radios. GPS, laser designators, night vision sights, any data uplinks

In an infantry platoon? By 'eck, yours are suspiciously well equipped. The only true novelty is GPS, but even that takes about five seconds to explain, and has sod-all difference to the bloke with a bayonet. Big hint - we still aren't at the point where every single soldier carries a map (mainly because the FOO from the Artillery, or the MFC from the Mortar Platoon is still the bloke with the radio, making indirect fire appear on target as if by magic. No change there, then).

Your 1944 soldier would look at the box with an earpiece and go "radios have shrunk - and look, you've got one each". Night vision is hardly a novel concept, basically it's an optic sight on a rifle. Lets you see in the dark? Cool, saves on the illumination rounds for the platoon mortar. As for "homing", you don't find Javelin in a rifle platoon. You find the unguided descendants of PIAT / Panzerfaust / Bazooka (note that Fritz-X and Gnat saw operational use at sea by 1945). Even if Boston Robotics gets the grandchild of Big Dog in operation, the 1944 Chindit is just going to say "Oh look, a mechanical mule". Fundamentally, it's all about the person with a gun.

He'd probably look amazed at the rather small torch (sorry, laser light module) on the rifle, but it's just a torch. The rifle is still a rifle, there's still a knife stuck on the end of it. The grenades are still grenades, there are still maps and compasses. Hell, I still carried a whistle as a company commander (not a pistol, though - why stand out?) and eight years ago we didn't even have data uplinks at Battalion level, let alone at platoon.

My point is that much of this is people skills, not easily replaced by automation. Without strong AI, the best you're going to achieve is teleoperation; without a compact power source, the best you're going to achieve is a short-legged stormtrooper followed by a reliance on riflepersons while they refuel. Good luck trying to get your tele-operated infantrybot into dense secondary vegetation, where radio is most definitely a short-range feature. Good luck in an steel-framed building, and/or in the presence of jamming.

You next question is to ask after the bandwidth required to teleoperate a battalion of five hundred soldierbots, at the sensor resolution and real-time needs demanded of a soldier replacement. Now scale it up to a couple of divisions, and ask yourself whether that's feasible in twenty years even with Moore's Law in operation...

195:

Arnold, please have somebody explain literal speech vs. metaphor.

No, Joe/Josephine Random Brit in 2034 will be better off than their counterpart in 1934. However, they will be fare less economically secure than their counterpart in 1964, far more likely to be downwardly mobile, at far greater risk of becoming homeless and permanently out of the white-collar/skilled labor job market.

196:

Me: "No, he would not. He'd barely recognize *a few* of the many radios. GPS, laser designators, night vision sights, any data uplinks"

Martin: In an infantry platoon? By 'eck, yours are suspiciously well equipped. "

Yes, it's called 'The US Army'. Now, I expect the UK forces to be lagging behind the US in terms how much much expensive and shiny stuff they equip their troops with, but 20 years will make a vast difference.

[If people don't want to read my comments, they can be summarized a 'I believe that Martin is soooooooooooo wrong...'.]

"The only true novelty is GPS, but even that takes about five seconds to explain, and has sod-all difference to the bloke with a bayonet."

I've thought from your comments on earlier thread that you were an officer in the UK ground forces, but this single comment makes me wonder! Knowing exactly where you are, and (through links) where your friendly units are, is a revolution in warfare thats - revolutionary! I don't know about you, but I've gotten lost lots of times at night, fortunately in peacetime training.

" Big hint - we still aren't at the point where every single soldier carries a map (mainly because the FOO from the Artillery, or the MFC from the Mortar Platoon is still the bloke with the radio, making indirect fire appear on target as if by magic. No change there, then)."

Going from one guy in a platoon who calls for fire, in accurately, to everybody being able to call in immediate and highly random fire probably makes going from flintlock muskets to percussion cap rifles look like nothing.

"Your 1944 soldier would look at the box with an earpiece and go "radios have shrunk - and look, you've got one each". "

One radio per platoon with a mile or two range, vs. multiple radios per squad, with up to 20 miles range (before satellite relays) makes a vast difference in coordinating forces. It's feasible now for half-squads to move around a built-up area and coordinate their movements, without yelling.

"Night vision is hardly a novel concept, basically it's an optic sight on a rifle."

At his point I seriously have to ask what your background is. I'm not being insulting, it's that this might be equivalent to a Napoleonic Era British officer looking at a waterproof black powder, and scoffing that it just means that you can shoot a tad bit better.

Being able to spot people hundreds of yards away in darkness (and to kill them accurately) is an incredible advantage. If you were in the USA, I would ask you to talk to some Vietnam Vets, and ask them what they would have given for what we've got now. BTW, in the summer of 2003, there was a quote from a US Army officer about fighting the guerrillas (before they decided to go with IED's), 'They don't seem to realize that we can see in the dark'.

"As for "homing", you don't find Javelin in a rifle platoon. You find the unguided descendants of PIAT / Panzerfaust / Bazooka (note that Fritz-X and Gnat saw operational use at sea by 1945). Even if Boston Robotics gets the grandchild of Big Dog in operation, the 1944 Chindit is just going to say "Oh look, a mechanical mule". Fundamentally, it's all about the person with a gun."

I realized that this is a case of American English vs. British English. In the US Army, the Javelin is a platoon-level fire and forget antitank (or building, etc.) missile. It's moving into British forces as a MILAN replacement. the ability to put a powerful warhead *on target* from a kilometer while you duck back into cover is sorta useful.

"He'd probably look amazed at the rather small torch (sorry, laser light module) on the rifle, but it's just a torch. "

No, it's not. It's the ability to put a dot on a target, and have a far better idea of where your rounds are going.


"The rifle is still a rifle, there's still a knife stuck on the end of it."

Nightime. Me, with a night vision rifle. You, with a Lee-Enfield - heck, I'll spot you a FN-FAL, with no NVS.


"...and eight years ago we didn't even have data uplinks at Battalion level, let alone at platoon."

That's eight years ago. What will UK forces have in twenty?

"My point is that much of this is people skills, not easily replaced by automation."

You'll still need people, that's for sure. However, the sensory and lethality will be amplified by - 100 to 1?

"Without strong AI, the best you're going to achieve is teleoperation; without a compact power source, the best you're going to achieve is a short-legged stormtrooper followed by a reliance on riflepersons while they refuel. Good luck trying to get your tele-operated infantrybot into dense secondary vegetation, where radio is most definitely a short-range feature. Good luck in an steel-framed building, and/or in the presence of jamming."

Power sources - one of the things I've been amazed at in the drone threads is people who seem to think that an infantry platoon doesn't need lots and lots and lots of supplies.

As for 'strong AI', what will we have in twenty years which will do at least a good a job as a person on the ground (who hasn't slept in 4 days, who is in fear of death and mutilation, who has seen friends killed or hideously maimed, and who doesn't understand the innocent bystanders/insert ethnic insult here/murdering scum who surround him.


"You next question is to ask after the bandwidth required to teleoperate a battalion of five hundred soldierbots, at the sensor resolution and real-time needs demanded of a soldier replacement. "

That might be doable now - see Stross' blog posts where he talks about mesh communications, and what the limits on that might be.

197:

Yes, it's a big squeeze. I'm not saying the attempts of the working and middle classes to organise and pool capital will succeed. Just that they are less likely to follow the old pattern of mass movements and government-mediated social welfare, because that's being run down and corrupted. The welfare state model is great when it's allowed to work, because the law can be used to prevent defection, and it's more efficient than other models at large scale. But it requires social agreement or at least the acquiescence of the powers that be. It was nice while it lasted, but that's gone now.

198:

Many of the early democracies seem to equate those who can vote with those who fight. If you weren't someone who could potentially resort to violence to get your way, you didn't count. And voting told the losing side that they didn't have enough spears to get their way.

199:

It would be nice if Australia simply told PM to get stuffed, but it's still in arbitration with no result expected before Feb 15 http://www.pca-cpa.org/showpage.asp?pag_id=1494

200:

Hmmm ..
equipment over the years huh?
TRY THIS ...
"Soldier's kit, 1066 - 2014
Yet, all of them (I think) contain the same three items ..
A spoon, a bivvy tin & a knife (forks came later .....)

201:

Well, I may be maligning some previous posters, but I think a closer
look at history would be beneficial. For some bizarre reason, political
systems as such are incredibly stable. Russia was absolutism moderated
by assassination. China was mandarins. And so on. The details change
but the system remains. The 20th century in the UK was anomalous,
because of the impact of the two world wars - the first led to the rise
of the labour party and socialism in politics, and the second totally
bankrupted Britain and broke up its empire. All we are seeing is a
return to traditional politics, with the English favouring the moneyed
establishment and signs of revolt in the Celtic periphery.

But Westminster isn't where the real political power is, anyway, which
is (now) in Whitehall. It has effectively emasculated almost all
alternative (local and charity) politics, and I don't believe the
current proposals will reverse that, except temporarily. But it has
also sold us down the river (and the origin of that expression is
relevant!) to the USA military-industrial complex, as far as I can tell
starting before even the politicians were doing the same. The evidence
is very strong but will not fit on this postcard :-)

I believe that the current loons WILL drag us out of the EU. Whereupon
we will cease to be useful as the USA M-E C's fifth column in the EU,
and the USA will impose global laws against money laundering and
fraudulent gambling with other people's money, which we know it wants to
do but the UK doesn't. Whereupon the UK (or England) will lose 15% of
its foreign exchange overnight, leading to a loss of confidence and
economic collapse. But, unlike in 1950, we won't be all pulling
together :-( If the SNP has a clue, it will force another referendum,
leave and claim that (as one of the two equal kingdoms) it is not doing
the same.

202:

Let me translate that: "since ISDS has been used against us, we no longer think it's the best thing since sliced bread." And Australia no longer seeking ISDS clauses in its treaties doesn't help with a US/EU treaty.

203:

I' ve got a comment in modeation, replying to Martin; after that I'm put of the 'techie' side of the drone wars. I've derailed the thread enough.

204:

Thank you, Greg. Those pictures were interesting.

205:

Arnold, I think in the 1970s Democrats forgot how to explain that helping working class minorities couldn't stay inside the lines, and would help everyone, at least a little, because a well compensated worker supports small business. And tell yourself three times, "The United States can best serve the world as a conspicuous bad example.", until such time as our political establishment get over their rectal-cerebral inversion.

206:

"... USA will impose global laws against money laundering and fraudulent gambling with other people's money, which we know it wants to do but the UK doesn't."

The USA has a track record of compelling other nations to sign treaties which it then chooses to not sign, abandon or just not follow-through on. (See military example below; there are even more commercial/economic examples.) There is less and less trust of U.S.-led policy because of this; a shame because the U.S. otherwise has the best resources to actually conduct a global anti-crime initiative.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html

"US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease; Haiti claims US-administered Navassa Island; US has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other states; ..."

207:

To SFreader: right. But, in THIS case, we have strong evidence
that the reason the USA backed off was because the UK had
hysterics behind the scenes about the impact on London's
massive 'financial services'. If we cease to be as useful,
what are the chances of that changing?

208:

> The rifle is still a rifle, there's still a knife stuck on
> the end of it.

...and a Roman legionnaire would look at the rifle with bayonet and go, "Oh, look a verutum with a weird-looking shaft!" (depending on how long your rifle was; the Romans had hald a dozen designations for spears based primarily on length)

209:

I suspect we might have at least one revolution, maybe more. Which is uncomfortable since without them I'd expect to be alive still in 2034.

We seem to be moving towards a landed gentry and the "the rest" possibly a restoration era England, possibly more Middle Ages. Rising inequality and all the rest. I think this will prove untenable and there will be a revolution - whether French, Russian or whatever in style we shall have to see. I think like both of those we'll have a collapse in the revolutionary structures and a more distributed, egalitarian system in place.

I would hope that what we'll see is a novel form of informational democracy. Central committees coming together to make a range of recommendations, put the evidence and that range out and a plebiscite to the populace on each one. Not yes/no questions but pick from these 5 (or more) choices and these are the consequences and costs and so on. That's probably too optimistic and unlikely in 20 years but a girl can hope.

Failing that, representative democracy but fluid representation. You don't elect an MP, leaders emerge on issues from the equivalent of twitter. Something like the civil service still exists but you have online communities thrashing through the issues until a majority emerges (possibly a clear majority rather than a simple majority). The civil service then exists to implement the will of the people.

Either way, a move back to power being in the hands of the power. Big money and the like still want power and exert their influence through advertising, reaching out to the communities and the like but I think there are too many horror stories about mega-corporate futures for people to let that happen openly. Perhaps finding out someone has done it will trigger one of the revolutions.

210:

See my post @#72 in the next thread [ the one titled "oh Dear" ]
I also think we are heading towards a fundamentally different system, but not "landed gentry" as in 17-18thC, but medieval with feudatory duties to the coporations, rather than individual "barons".
Possibly more Middle Ages - yes spot on.
As I said elsewhere, what do we do about it?

I know that voting for LibLabCon/ConDemLab is futile, & "marxist" parties will be equally irrelevant, since their anaysis (even though faulty & wrong) simply does not apply in such a situation.
Errr .....

211:

I'm not equipped to comment on treaties. But if you're right, then maybe everything will be run by charities. Or, given how much of a buzz there is donating to a kickstarter (compared to donating to a traditional charity), perhaps we'll have more direct funding. So, as you drive over a pothole, it will tweet you about a crowd funding project to repair it. (Note to self: I must create a Twitter account for that pothole the council refuses to repair.) The power then shifts to the crowd and we get the tyranny of the mainstream extending from art to public services (“it's fairer, init?”); wallet democracy and mob rule.

212:

Yeah, I was aware of their track record. And if your "client" had lost, you'd've discovered how overwhelmed the Tribunal system is - but also how impartial judges can be.

213:

This is at the bottom of a looong list and is based on the antipodian perspective but...
The tight orbit of the beige dictatorship and the 'old media' is finally broken the the death of Murdoch senior and the financial collapse of the GMG on the 29th of Feb 2020, leaving 'The Greys' (as they are now referred to) confused and stabby.

Mainstream politics is now a mess of minor parties forming flash coalitions and people who got elected on a platform (Linux 6.0) of direct representation.

The 24 hour news cycle has become the Twitter new cycle, with nothing holding the community interest for more than the time it takes to read 140 characters or watch a 30s animated GIF.

The last of the old school media is screaming nightmares of fox attacks to octogenarians. In the new chaotic system patterns emerge, there is a gradual shift to more humane governance, the general will of the people is far to the left of the dying 'old media' and policy starts to reflect this.

The platforms for participative democracy become more robust and start to freeze out into to distinct systems. The Facebook elections (general will of the people) and the technical elections (roads and pipes).
For the old school peddlers of favor it is an apocalypse.
For people in charge of 'serious things' it is a god send. The backroom boys fiddle the numbers, the vote goes the RIGHT way and nobody takes too much notice as long as we don't take thing into our own hands too often. Best of all, we don't have to brief those part timers on state secrets, no more frightening folks into acting RIGHT just direct action wot wot.

So, in summary, the Beige Dictatorship dies with old school media. There is a fast growth of short term coalitions of minor parties followed a slow growth of direct representation. State security loves it, they don't have to deal with anybody with Authority and can now directly affect policy, but they are aware that if they over use it, it will become obvious.
There is a slow shift to the left but everything to do with criminal justice and censorship is knee jerk (hypocrites are very very hard done by), police powers increase, but punishment for misuse of power exponentially increases.

(May be beer talking)

214:

Re the discussion about drones and their role in combat: I think you're all missing the point, which is that drone weapons (I'm not talking about recon drones) are by their very nature terror weapons. They're not meant to discriminate between enemy soldiers and hospitals/cute animal homes. He who orders a drone strike has already made the decision not to give a f**k about "collateral damage".

This makes the current US theater interesting to watch, where the proponents of drone warfare have to make an awkward dance around the fact that they're fighting their alleged "war on terror" by resorting to terrorism. This leads to bizarre rationalizations, like artificially keeping the collateral damage count low by automatically declaring all adult males who got killed by drones to be enemy fighters after the fact.

Whereas the truth is quite simple: a drone strike is not the extension of any type of "classical" warfare; it's the equivalent of a suicide bombing — with the added benefit that the suicide bomber doesn't need to be physically present at the site of the strike, and therefore lives another day and can carry out even more bombings.

And drone terrorism is working very well. A lot of people in Pakistan and Yemen are genuinely terrified by the knowledge that their lives can be ended any moment literally "out of the blue sky".

215:

They're not meant to discriminate between enemy soldiers and hospitals/cute animal homes. He who orders a drone strike has already made the decision not to give a f**k about "collateral damage"...a drone strike is not the extension of any type of "classical" warfare; it's the equivalent of a suicide bombing

Wonderful polemic, shame it's based on ignorance.

If the effort wasn't to increase discrimination, and decrease the number of innocent deaths, why the move from dumb bombs to laser-guided bombs? Why the shrinking of the typical LGB over the last few years from 1000 to 500 to 250lb? Why the effort away from bombs and ripple-fired unguided weapons, and towards Brimstone and guided 70mm rockets? Why the 2003 RAF example of strapping a Paveway package onto a concrete practise bomb, the better to avoid killing the innocent? More to the point, why are there lawyers embedded at every HQ that creates a target list?

The key difference with a UAV is increased endurance. It can stooge around comparatively unnoticed, at least compared to twenty tons of supersonic bomber with a short loiter time and a specialist skill in turning petroleum into noise.

Manned aircraft are expensive to keep turning and burning, so it's either drop the bomb now or not at all. The UAV is prized because it is more precise - it can afford to wait until that Toyota Hilux drives through the village and onto the open road, it can fly slow enough to target the second vehicle not the whole convoy, it can fly around a target to launch from an angle where any overshoot / undershoot will avoid other dwellings.

You really don't "get" the destructive power of an first-world armed force that genuinely isn't interested in collateral damage - it is terrifying. Trust me when I say that they do care, or there would be an awful lot more deaths. They don't recruit pilots or gunners from the ranks of sociopaths, they recruit them from people like you or me. I'm not denying that there are those who would rather kill some foreign civilians rather than lose any US soldiers, but equally there are those in HQs in Afghanistan refusing fire support to isolated patrol bases because of the fear of civilian casualties; go look up the phrase "courageous restraint".

Question: have you seen the level of dehumanisation of the civilians in Afghanistan, that was present (say) in WW2, or Korea? Insulting terms to be applied to entire populations? I haven't, and it's reassuring in a way. I would suggest that it means that soldiers and aircrew aren't having to fool themselves about the effect of their operations on the civilian population.

Question: how many innocent civilians died in the SEAL raid on Abbotabad?

216:

Apologies if this is off topic. However, I ran across this article today. I'm not that familiar with British politics, but I figured these demographic changes might affect things. Note that this map is only for one city.

http://www.citylab.com/work/2013/11/londons-class-divides/6056/

217:

Useless, I'm afraid
In those maps "working class" is the old, discerdited (marxist) definition ... i.e. anyone earning over the median income, or on a monthly salary or both can't be working-class.
Which is, quite frankly, bollocks.
You can be paid £100k+ a year now & still be working class, because you are still dependant upon the bosses' whim & the corporates' desires.
Charlie has expounded on this at length.

I note though, that one thing has not changed - ever since the Saxons settled right next-door to the Roman city, where have the poor immigrants always come to?
Bethnal Green & Spitalfields, that's where, including some of my ancestors & the jews ( 2 or 3 times ) since then & the Bengalis & now ( I think ) the Somalis ....

P.S. For a current fascinating view of that area, see the on-going blog: Spitalfields Life

218:

“ P.S. For a current fascinating view of that area, see the on-going blog: Spitalfields Life .. “

Thanks for that, and it is a link that is well worth following, but from there Observers of the International could do a google on " spitalfields property prices " And then look at " Rightmove " starting at 'lowest price ' ..

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/find.html?locationIdentifier=REGION^96867&sortType=1&numberOfPropertiesPerPage=50

Skip through the commercial /parking space 'property ' and next up is ...

" £340,000
1 bedroom flat for sale Chicksand Street, Brick Lane, E1

Boasting a sought-after location, this fantastic one bedroom flat benefits from a recent refurbishment to an excellent standard throughout and bright interiors. More details › "

So, to afford that modest property? Your income would need to be just a bit above the U.K. average..


http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/uk-average-salary-26500-figures-3002995


Things got ever so slightly crazy in the UK housing market before the Great Recession clicked home in 2007 but, if we were to go back to when we British were buying in a slightly Sane Market in a period of major Financial Inflation - not a bad thing IF your salary kept up to the Inflation levels and was stable ...you can tell that this was the late 1970s cant you?.. Then your mortgage providers - usually a Building Society - would, after having gained your approval - check with your Employer to check whether you were telling the truth about your salary, and then gratuitously grant you a mortgage of Three and a half times your income .. The balance had to be made in CASH! And then you had to have sufficient savings to pay removal costs.

I made it but it really was a close run thing on a public service salary.

And now? Well say that the average income in the U.K. is about £26,000 a year. Three and a half times that to be on the safe side? You’d need quite a lot of cash to make up the difference for the purchase of a flat in a modest area of London like just say, Spitalfields.

On the other paw ...

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/find.html?locationIdentifier=REGION^933&sortType=1&numberOfPropertiesPerPage=50


Skipping past the more obvious, “ opportunities” ... “

£35,000 Fixed Price
3 bedroom house for sale Thornton Street, Middlesbrough, TS3

ATTENTION PROPERTY INVESTORS/FIRST-TIME BUYERS Move straight into this IMMACULATE three bedroom end-terraced home with secure OFF-STREET PARKING. Living accommodation comprises, in brief, entrance hall, two reception rooms, kitchen and W.C to the ground floor with three bedrooms and bathroom to t... More details › “

There isn't a housing shortage in the U.K. but there is such a crises in the South East of England in places like Spitalfields.

The Solution? Move the Jobs - and the Income to go with said JOBs - up North. Chances of that happening? Well would you move up here Greg? No? Me neither if, say, I were living in London within walking distance of Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.

http://www.ronniescotts.co.uk/

219:

I have lived right here since 1948 ...
I can't presently afford the underpinning I need (Thank you for nothing London Borough of What the Fuck, for your destabilising "building" works)
But, I'm not moving - why should I?
Transport to the middle [ Note ] is in the top 5% for anywhere in Ldndon - I can drive to open country (Epping Forest) in 20 minutes, the local shops are getting better all the time & I have a well-established allotment.
Of course I'm not moving.

]NOTE: From the Medieval village to the Roman city in 16 minutes, crossing the kilometre-wide marsh/nature reserve on the way.

220:

I forgot
There are Three GBG pubs within 5/6 minutes walk of here, & a brewery has just opened up, too - guess who the CAMRA Brewery Liason Officer for that one is?
Oh, it's Wild Card Brwery btw ( Advertising plug ... )

221:

The welfare state model is great when it's allowed to work, because the law can be used to prevent defection, and it's more efficient than other models at large scale. But it requires social agreement or at least the acquiescence of the powers that be. It was nice while it lasted, but that's gone now.

You have a relevant point there. We used to hear lots of cranking about providing 'bread and circuses' to the masses but I think that's backwards. Indeed, it's often been common for the relatively well off to pay their social upkeep by providing feasts, fairs, festivals, and so on to the masses. (Not to mention employment producing projects like pyramids, architectural follies, and aquaducts.) It's when the social fabric begins breaking down we see aristocrats becoming stingy assholes and saying things like, "Let the peasants buy their own damn bread! It'll do them good to work harder. And do you know how expensive circuses are?" Pick your own sequence of cause and effect...

222:

Yeah
And it was fairly common for "the servants" in Great Houses to live to 75-80 in (relative) comfort, whilst industrial workers, esp in the period 1750-1850 would be lucky to make it to 45-50.
The servants, of course all got food from the estate's own agriculture, too, which made them better fed, as well.
Unfortuanately, we are regressing to an earlier & darker period, that of Feudalism, rather than that of the Enlightenment, I think.

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