John Robb at BoingBoing
John has a nice interview with futurist and augmented reality pioneer Chris Arkenberg, over at BoingBoing:
John Robb Interview: Open Source Warfare and Resilience
….The United States is suffering both the economic decline of its industry and the ongoing dismantling of the social welfare apparatus supporting the citizenry. In your opinion, will this inevitably lead to some form of armed insurgency in America?
Yes. The establishment of a predatory and deeply unstable global economic system – beyond the control of any group of nations – is in the process of gutting developed democracies. Think in terms of the 2008 crisis, over and over again. Most of what we consider normal in the developed world, from the middle class lifestyle to government social safety nets, will be nearly gone in less than a decade. Most developed governments will be in and out of financial insolvency. Democracy, as we knew it, will wither and the nation-state bureaucracy will increasingly become an enforcer for the global bond market and kleptocratic transnational corporations. Think Argentina, Greece, Spain, Iceland, etc. As a result, the legitimacy of the developed democracies will fade and the sense of betrayal will be pervasive (think in terms of the collapse of the Soviet Union). People will begin to shift their loyalties to any local group that can provide for their daily needs. Many of these groups will be crime fueled local insurgencies and militias. In short, the developed democracies will hollow out
Hat Tip to Charles Cameron.
June 16th, 2010 at 12:27 pm
Why does John Robb think that the solution to deranged, out-of-control mobs is to create more mobs? What makes him so sure that his platonic ideal ‘tinkerers’ are devoid of political aspirations, and aren’t going to be deranged lunatics? It sounds like a bunch of utopian magical thinking and technology-inspired millennarianism.
June 16th, 2010 at 12:50 pm
Its has very strong millenarian overtones, thats why it think it has such a great appeal to certain elements in American society, his vision is a kind of technological rapture, where the new world will be won by those in the resilient vanguard, although not without a good deal of bloodshed, but hey hum it will be worth it in the end. His open source insurgency work is very valuable, but his theorizing on resilient communities and future outcomes of the nation state are suspect. Never discard an imperfect present for a yet to be realized perfectible future.
June 17th, 2010 at 6:20 am
Having read Robb for a long time and met him, I think it is important to distinguish between what trends he argues are going to happen and the things he would like to have happen as good social outcomes. Sometimes he is not entirely clear but my impression is that Robb is angry toward elites for adopting policies that, in his view, stupidly accelerate social disintegration because they are following personal incentives and not celebrating the effects.
The resilient communities work, if Robb is wrong, will do no harm by creating pockets of local small producer quasi-independence. At worst, the ppl involved lose time and the marginal benefits of economies of scale. At best if Robb is right or partially correct, ppl in RCs will be buffered against loss. Whether the various tech involved plays out as promised is too early to tell. There’s always spillover costs, unanticipated benefits and effects to new tech as well as overselling of potential.
June 17th, 2010 at 12:38 pm
Thanks Marc. That second paragraph has made me changed my mind.
June 18th, 2010 at 4:07 am
In a lot of ways, I see Robb as a modern Karl Marx. Marx’s suggested a new economic arrangement as former agrarian societies were transforming into industrial states. Robb is suggesting a new economic model as we move from the nation state industrial era and into the post nation state information age. Both men discuss revolutionary activity, for Marx its the worker, and Robb with the global guerrilla. Both provide a Utopian vision, and both describe a new man of the age (Marx = Socialist New Man. Robb = Super-empowered individual).
The Networked Resilient Community economic idea/system has the potential to be for the modern revolutionary what Socialist economics was for the old revolutionaries. The old revolutionaries were against the Monarchy, industrialists, and its Christian spiritual order. The new revolutionary is against the transnational elite and its multicultural materialist order.
The 20th century was a struggle between command economies and free market economies. The 21st century has potential to be a struggle between the transnational elites who favor a global managerial state (with them at the Apex), and with individual nations and tribes who wish to live in their own cultural spatial systems.
June 18th, 2010 at 5:13 am
An intriguing comparison, with some validity and some key differences:
Marx and Robb are both dialectical thinkers concerned with systems.
Economic determinism is a large influence for both, moreso though for Marx. Robb is not a pure economic determinist, more of an "economics influencist".
Both are contrarians in their own time who are anti-elite.
Marx would have hated resilient communities with a volcanic passion. Robb is pointing to tech reviving small producers as a viable social model. Those are the ppl Marx and also Lenin could not abide ( peasantry, yeomen, petit bourgeoisie – the "little people" who were"independent" ).
I think you are right with your last paragraph, though I’d add more networks to tribes and nation-states. I also wonder how John would view himself vis-a-vis Karl Marx.
June 19th, 2010 at 2:44 pm
Barnett made the same Marx comparison when John’s book came out. http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/johnrobb/2007/05/tom_barnett_on_.html
June 19th, 2010 at 3:23 pm
Shylok, Unforchantly that link is broke, but I’m certainly not surprised someone else saw this as well. Incidentally, I see Dr. Barnett as the modern MacKinder, with the Gap/Core being Barnett’s version of "heartland theory." Both are quasi-elites who came up with programs that were geopolitical in nature. In one of Barnett’s briefs he said something like "being the simple social scientist I am," I drew a line around all the conflict points." Barnett didn’t want to say "being the simple geopolitian I am…etc..etc" because "geopolitics" became associated with Nazis after WWII. Both MacKinder’s and Barnett’s theories are entertained by the power structure, but never truly became/become state doctrine. Both men came out towards the end of the State/Empire’s power cycle. (I know, I know, Empire is the enforcement of maximal rule sets…etc…etc).
When contrasting Robb and Barnett, it strikes me how well they fit my prediction of future conflict. Robb is champion of the networked tribe and local empowerment, while Barnett supports global government enforced by a transnational system administrator.
August 13th, 2010 at 5:15 pm
This is the link now: