If nation state rules have been pre-eminent in the human brain for the last 200 or 300 years, this is because people's lives have been lived in a 'nation state' environment, physically resident for most of the time in a nation state, obliged to fight for it on occasion, speaking its language, and for the last 100 years educated, healed, married and buried by it. Earlier parts of the book have pointed out that this state of affairs is a relatively recent arrival in the course of human history, and that there is nothing whatever in the human psyche to require an organization on the scale of the nation state to oversee it. On the contrary, the nation state can be seen as a perversion on a giant scale of 'The Fathers', the group-centred mechanism that evolved to provide an explicitly moral basis for human society.
Previous chapters have flirted with the idea that globalization, that hate object of the protesting classes, will create the playing field on which the re-collectivization of human society can be acted out, driven on by technology. Now it is time to address the issue of globalization head on. As ever, the starting point for this rather challenging subject will be trade, whose origins in the collective nature of the human mind were outlined in Chapter Six, and may be the hinge on which the great, rusty juggernaut of the State can be turned.
Trade is one of the few major human activities which have successfully resisted control by the State, indeed it has been in the forefront of the process of globalization, or the weakening of the Nation State, to look at it backwards. Nowadays trade is overwhelmingly international, and this is reflected not just in the legal systems it needs, but in the growth of very many international organisations to which regulatory power is rather quickly leaching away from national governments.
Great tranches of business life are coming under the sway of international or global organizations which provide rule-based codes of conduct. These codes, since they are often delivered with the active involvement of nation states, are readily accepted by individuals. Paradoxically, they are also accepted by nation states, even though each new global 'code of conduct' is another nail hammered into the coffin of the hegemony of the state.
International – and often global – conventions, ruling bodies, courts and treaties now cover shipping, airlines, banking, insurance, telecommunications, investment, intellectual property, and even the environment, to pick just some of the most obvious examples. Within the European Union, which has some pretensions to being a proto-world government, virtually all economic activity is subject to supra-national regulation. Governments have little power to intervene once they have signed up to international instruments, and if they do so then they can be confronted before the relevant international tribunal or court.
On a day-to-day basis, individuals come into contact more and more frequently with the increasingly globalized nature of international business – instructions for the new kettle in sixteen languages – TV footage of American executives being arrested and questioned in France – Warsaw Convention rules for compensation for lost baggage – and cannot fail to gain a growing understanding of the international nature of the economic environment.
But many aspects of globalization strike even more directly at personal lives, through the tendency of international agreements both to include language providing for human rights and freedoms, and in some cases even to provide judicial fora in which these newly-acquired rights can be established and defended. Needless to say, it is not the Nation State which has stepped forward to enlarge the rights and freedoms of its citizens, something which is normally anathema to the secretive bureaucrats who run governments. The European Union, by contrast, which establishes its citizens' freedoms very clearly in the Treaty of Rome and its successors – free mobility of goods, services, capital and labor – has done a far better job of preserving them than most nation states, with the supra-national European Court of Human Rights well to the fore in bashing member states that transgress the freedoms.
As a set of operating principles, the freedoms are a lot clearer and easier to implement than any list of human rights. In fact the two intersect, and by the time the four freedoms have been robustly implemented there is not too much missing from most people's lists of human rights. Recent documents of the European Union have indeed attempted to synthesize the freedoms with human rights.
Implementation of the four freedoms on an international level leaves component member states with little power to legislate in a way that would infringe on them; and it seems highly likely that the EU's freedoms will be imitated in equivalent federal multilateral areas elsewhere in the world. In fact it seems inevitable that some sort of combined 'human rights' and 'freedoms' convention or set of rules will become guiding global principles well before 2050, and they will be backed up by global fora on the lines of the existing European Court of Human Rights. These fora will be much used by international (global) organizations representing groups of people of various stripes. It is easy to imagine FIFA pleading the case of a footballer 'unfairly' expelled from his national team for 'unbecoming behaviour' before a World Court of Human Rights (Sporting Division). The Court of Arbitration for Sport already exists, in fact; all national Olympic bodies recognize the Court as having final jurisdiction over sporting disputes.
There is a price to paid by individuals, however, for their new rights and freedoms, in terms of transparency. The old bargain between the individual and the State was more or less 'live and let live' – if a person didn't cross the lines set down by the State, that is didn't break the law, didn't attack the State or otherwise get noticed, then they were allowed to live their lives as they chose, and their privacy was guaranteed in most countries by explict provisions of the law. In 1950 a normal, law-abiding citizen of a Western country could rely upon it that their domestic arrangements and their financial affairs would remain confidential, if that is what they wanted. Now it is very different: for all the hoopla with which privacy laws are brought into being by modern states, the reality is that there is hardly any left – and it is going to get worse.
The mechanisms that ensure transparency, the codes of behaviour, the 'know-your-customer' routines, the standards for iris recognition, the levels of encryption, and the rest – these will not of course be national standards. How could that work? They will have to be international standards, and once again the poor old nation state – you almost start to feel sorry for it – will be left out in the cold.
The dystopian visions of an all-seeing, all-knowing, remote and hostile State – as in 1984 or Brave New World are therefore wide of the mark. As has been seen, the rule-making on both sides of the equation, for transparency on the one side, and for human rights and freedoms on the other, will be in the hands of multilateral bodies, while dispute resolution will equally be subject to international juridical process.
Governments at various levels defend their assault upon individual privacy, with more or less justice, as being a response to aggravated levels of criminal activity, whether it is termed money-laundering to finance terrorism (today's Aunt Sally for all legislators), identity fraud made possible by the credit card explosion, or the phishing which has made the Internet into a minefield for the unwary.
Civil liberties activists do what they can to moderate the onrush of scrutiny; but the fact is that the case is already lost. Despite all precautions a person may take, the details of their lives will become increasingly available to all and sundry. This is perhaps one of the less welcome results of the 'information explosion' and the Internet. But we have to learn to live with it, and our consciousnesses have to take it on board, as a significant opening-out of the private individual towards her environment. The fact that an individual now has to be more or less transparent to the outside world – very little pretending is any longer possible, at least as far as 'public' roles and status are concerned – represents a major breaking-down of the inter-personal barriers that have traditionally characterized society. This can be seen not only in public life, but in all manner of private relationships as well. Sons no longer call their fathers, 'Sir', boys and girls are far more at ease in each other's company, formality in business relationships simply looks peculiar, first names are de rigeur after one or two meetings instead of the ten or twelve that might have been necessary fifty years ago. And this is not just a tide of fashion which may ebb and flow – there is a real sense of readiness to be open (or at least, to pretend to be open) in human relationships that was not present before.
All such developments work to increase the individual's 'global' consciousness, her awareness of global, rather than national standards of behaviour, building up feelings of global solidarity (groupishness) in people's minds, replacing bit by bit the national solidarity which has been so prominent for two hundred years.
The globalization that is taking place in economic and political spheres is echoed in other sectors, which can be loosely labelled 'cultural'. A proliferation of international bodies to represent or rule over this or that sport or artistic activity is already taking place (Bell, The Futures of the Human Race).
Few words are as hard to define as culture. In a strict, anthropological sense, 'cultural' is often used in contradistinction to 'genetic'. That's to say, if a piece of human behaviour cannot be attributed to genetic evolution, then it is said to have a cultural origin. On the other hand, in discussing the culture of a human group or tribe, the word is usually being used in a portmanteau sense and includes both genetic and non-genetic elements. In this book, it would not make much sense to discuss the globalization of genetic aspects of culture, since they are already common to all humans; clearly, its arguments are concerned more with the differences between humans rather than their similarities. On the whole, the word will be used here to convey the totality of the idea that a person has of their own (or another) society, and inevitably this is going to trespass sometimes onto genetic ground, not least because it is often unclear where the dividing line actually occurs.
As people increasingly feel themselves as actors on a global, rather than a national stage, so will culture become global rather than national. This is not at all to say that culture will become homogenized into some kind of featureless global mish-mash – what is feared by some opponents of globalization – because a person who steps out of the strait-jacket of national cultural identity has freedom in both directions, both onto a bigger stage and also onto selected smaller ones. Although the vociferous opponents of globalization focus their attentions mainly on its economic dimensions, cultural globalization is arguably more fundamental to the process. Without cultural globalization to create a common mental framework among humans, economic or political globalization would have only peripheral impact on most aspects of human life.
In fact, cultural globalization is already well advanced. When American chocolate bars began to elbow traditional Russian sweets off the supermarket shelves in the 1990s, the Russians called it 'snickerizatsiya'. Even the old-style magazin (grocery store – and it was a French word adopted in the 18th century) turned into a 'supermarkyet'; and you can't move in Central Moscow without falling into an Irish bar. The French look down their Gallic noses at 'Mickey Mouse' culture (a French word, of course) and have a grand institution whose task it is to maintain the purity of the sacred French language. But still there is Disneyland outside Paris, where children go at le 'weekend', and there are 'pubs' on the Champs Elysees.
Culture, as expressed and articulated by groups of people (nations, villages, schools, legislatures, clubs etc) evidently changes along with development of individuals' internal understanding of their roles. Since much of the cultural identity of modern human individuals is wrapped up with the concept of nationality, changes to the form, role and status of nations will have a disproportionate influence on culture. This section will review some of the changes taking place, and likely to take place, in a number of cultural fields, preparatory to a final chapter which will present some guesses about the possible future of consciousness itself.
Language, more than any other aspect of the human scene, must be seen as the central repository of culture, as witness the desperate attempts by the cultural establishment in numerous countries – not just France – to preserve the use and the purity of their languages. If any one thing creates the cultural 'set' of a person's mind, it must surely be the language they learn as children, what the French call the 'langue maternelle'.
There are an enormous number of languages in existence, and they are in a constant state of evolution, so that it would never be possible to define that number exactly. Ethnologists and anthropologists constantly bemoan the loss of diversity in languages as minority cultures become subsumed into more successful ones. If a language has not been written down (still the case for a majority of the languages spoken on the planet) then once its speakers have died out, its culture is lost. The culture of a written language survives the death of the language in the sense that books, plays, operas and other cultural artefacts involving that language remain extant, and can give some clue of what the culture of speakers of the language may have been like. But without a recording of the psyche of a speaker – and preferably many speakers – of the language, how far can we really assert that we 'know' that culture?
The question is far from academic, since the time is not far off (2020?) when immediate machine translation from one language to another will become a reality, and soon after that (2030?) there will be a 'babel-fish' as in The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy – an implant which will enable an individual to hear another's speech in her own language. These technologies, and the implacable advance of English as a common global language, will undermine the existence of today's widely differentiated set of languages and the variegated cultures they generate.
There are further, more speculative possibilities. Despite intense study, there is no agreement yet on whether psychological concepts exist in the absence of language, and are merely clothed in verbal form when communicated to one's linguistic consciousness or to the outside world, or whether the concepts are stored in absolute linguistic form. At the present stage of brain research, it's not possible to be sure whether language is simply an interface, or whether it is involved in the storage of absolute meaning. If the former, children will learn to communicate via implanted bio-electronic devices, and language, perhaps some form of highly stylized English, will be used only as a store of historical information. Even that may not be necessary: if machines come to imitate the workings of the human brain (something that is explored in Chapter Eleven) then they could presumably imitate the non-linguistic storage of concepts and syntax as easily as they will shortly be able to imitate language itself. Perhaps it is not a distortion of the situation to say that opinion is tending towards a considerable degree of independence of conceptual thought from language. It is quite difficult to explain a person who speaks a number of languages equally fluently without supposing some degree of shared conceptual storage.
Most people, however, probably think that at least some types of meaning are stored in linguistic form. There may be a distinction between words which can be (and are) represented by non-linguistic cognitive contents, and words which cannot, corresponding to the distinction between concepts which predated symbolic language (eg the concept of a hill) which are adequately represented in images, and symbolic linguistic concepts such as names or words descriptive of time, which are understood badly if at all other than through words. It is interesting that writers on consciousness have tended to see names, time words and other culturally advanced linguistic representations as having arrived very late on, as recently perhaps as the dawn of recorded history, for which indeed they are a necessary and perhaps sufficient condition.
A compound word such as the Acropolis carries within itself both the concept of a hill, presumed to be stored as an image, and the name 'Acropolis', which is stored in a lexicon. What we don't yet know is whether that name storage is in some way photographic, or whether via reference to phonemes, or by some other as yet undescribed storage method. Quite possibly it would be by a mixture of all of these.
It's pretty certain that by 2040 the word 'hill' will have been substituted for many purposes by a non-linguistic representation of a hill, infinitely more shaded and meaningful than the word itself. Try imagining a hill, green perhaps, with sheep dotted around, a few copses clinging to the steeper ravines, and swallows wheeling overhead. Now, be honest, do you really need words to describe that to yourself? Why then would you need words to communicate it to a fellow human being, once the mechanisms of expression and communication have been understood? On the other hand, it is not so easy to form a picture of love. Perhaps one could communicate the feeling of love without words, even so. But then try imagining (imaging) mercy. You might be able to picture an example of mercy, but the concept? It is not exactly a feeling as such. So maybe there will be a residual use for conceptual linguistic symbols – evolutionary biologists now suppose that it was the invention of symbolic thought (not just words) that marked the great cognitive leap forward for early humans.
The brain is rather amazing at storing linguistic concepts, whatever the method employed; but it has limitations, particularly for older people. There will be no need in future, however, to be limited by the brain's current lexical capacity; a complete set of currently used linguistic concepts and symbols can be contained in a bio-electronic or purely electronic lexicon which would be available to all individuals (either external or implanted). This would represent an extension of consciousness: not just Tower Hill and the Acropolis, but lots of other hills as well would be available in the lexicon. Hills already assimilated into a person's psyche would be tagged as such; other hills would have contextual/keyword tags and would be available as needed.
The types of word for which separate storage is needed in the brain are probably those which might as well be the same in all languages. 'Hour' or 'mercy' don't seem to carry a lot of separate national or other cultural significance. Interestingly, though, it is quite hard to think of a name-word which doesn't have extraneous resonances for particular cultures; think of 'Thatcher', 'Orinoco', 'Sahara', 'Rome' or 'Sirius'.
If linguistic forms are necessary to the creation and expression of at least some types of conceptual ideas, then language will remain in use. Different languages would not have a purpose in most adult communication because of the ease of machine translation between different languages; but it would still be necessary for children to learn a language, simply to develop their 'acquis humanitaire'. Many parents might choose English as that language.
If on the other hand it's the case that language is at least partly just a cloak placed around non-linguistic thought for the purposes of expression, then it is possible that communication between individuals could become non-verbal, at least to an extent. What then of culture? Beethoven will still be Beethoven; Cezanne will still be Cezanne; and love will still be love: 'A rose by any other name smells just as sweet'. But then there is poetry, and literature and song. Despite all the difficulties of interpretation after four thousand years we still go to Greek plays (not in Greek, though). And most of us don't dance around the may-pole or sacrifice goats.
It's a presumably unpopular conclusion that different languages might not remain in use. Without adult need for language, what would be the purpose of having more than one language?
Perhaps what is to be expected is a prolonged period in which language-based cultures are preserved for speakers of individual languages, while every-day social and business affairs are conducted via translation devices, and new forms are developed to contain, communicate and propagate artistic and philosophical content in which linguistic forms play a lesser role. Eventually, however, spoken language as we know it will probably disappear, and there will of course be no need for written language once direct 'brain to computer' communication is established, even if some types of word remain in use in the human cognitive space. The time-scale is perhaps one hundred years; maybe less.
Turning back to culture, it is to be expected that the 'langue maternelle' sort of culture – nursery rhymes and so on – would persist in its variegated hues for some time to come, but that grown-up culture, in so far as it is delivered via language, will become subject to globalization tendencies, at least in the mainstream of human affairs.
National allegiances and stereotypes certainly persist, but sport has already become international, thanks to television. Certain sports will continue to bulk large in national self-images and national culture, as for instance football (for all countries) and cricket (for the British Commonwealth), but even there internationalization is creeping in. Many of the superstars of British football are foreigners – French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Brazilian. Several major British football clubs are owned by foreigners, indeed many more are publicly listed and open to foreign takeover. What would you say about the place of football in the cultural make-up of a Chelsea fan, whose club is owned by a Russian billionaire, managed by a Spaniard and which fields a majority of non-British players?
Imagine a group of Schumacher's fans, from a number of different countries, gathering in a bar after a Formula One race in – say – Italy. Of course they will talk in English, perhaps with a smattering of other language words. What could be more groupish, more globalized, or less national?
For an adult,
'the media' is probably the main channel through which culture is reinforced,
absorbed and varied. Language forms the greater part of this cultural
input, and much of what was said above about language also applies to
the future of the media. That is to say, linguistic translation devices
will have a major impact on the form and content of media communication.
This will manifest itself in television and the movies (and their delivery
through the Internet) before it affects printed newspapers.
It is true that many types of artistic expression are dependent on national culture. There is not much danger that an Impressionist picture of Paris will be mistaken for a Social Realist townscape in Siberia, or a Mexican bodega painted by Diego Rivera. But that is perhaps mostly because the subject matter is national in character. Stylistically, impressionism was more or less the same everywhere, with some time lags, just as in music, the forms of musical composition tended to vary more or less in step across a wide swathe of countries (cultures). There is nothing 'national' about the string quartet, even if it did originate in Austro-Hungary. Composers from all countries have used that form, and still do, although it is a bit out of fashion at the moment. The same goes for popular culture and fashion.
Styles have always crossed national boundaries. Indeed, that is just one more proof that it is language, and the nation states which made it into their competitive banner, which is to blame for the antagonism of different linguistically-based cultures. It is significant that the best writers are widely translated – always said to be 'universal' – Shakespeare and Dostoevsky for example. Where is national culture in this? The arts are perhaps more a reflection of cultural norms than a cause of them. If national languages remain, they will be expressed through the arts; if a common language develops, likewise.
The existence of a common (globalized) library of images, cognitive concepts and cultural 'memes' implies the possibility that small niche groups can form on a globalized basis. That has always been possible on a national or local scale. Although held back by communication limitations, there are of course such groups in existence as the The Friends of Battle Arts Festival, the Rome (Nevada) Operatic and Dramatic Society, and the Omsk Association of Balalaika Players. There would seem to be no limits, through the Internet, of the scope for formation of a bewildering number of affiliations of this type, especially when language ceases to be a barrier.
Newspapers and magazines are the spiritual home of national print languages and as long as a language continues to be learned and used in a country, newspapers will survive in that language. The extinction of newspapers at the hands of the Internet is frequently prophesied; they are expensive to produce, dirty to handle, bulky and carry much material that is redundant for any given reader. But all this is outweighed by their convenience. It will not be until national languages are supplanted by non-linguistic communication, or the development of a common language, that newspapers will disappear, although paper as such may be supplanted by an electronic version of itself by as early as 2020. Between 2050 and 2080, however, as effective direct delivery of cognitive content begins to bypass visual and auditory sensory channels, they will fade away, and by 2100 they will have gone, along with all paper or non-electronic representations of media content. But you don't need to sell those shares just yet!
Another characteristic of existing media which can be expected to change rapidly is that they are typically highly standardized. Movies, books and television programs are mass-market products. This is partly a result of technological limitations, and partly a reflection of mass cultural similarities, in which of course national self-stereotypes play a large role. Since globalization and the Internet will combine to offer individuals access to a far wider range of cultural possibilities than most people currently experience, there will be an explosion – already visible and already remarked upon – of 'niche' interests which can be served by new forms of media using sophisticated content management and distribution techniques. Needless to say, this is a highly 'groupish' phenomenon: when say 50 people can not only identify a common set of interests even when they have never met before, but can readily and cheaply obtain media feeds of various types accurately tailored to that set of interests, it is evident that the old model of standardized content and distribution will quickly die. This new type of medium can already be seen in operation, although so far in fairly primitive form, on sites such as Google.
Education – or the lack of it – may be one of the greatest failures of the nation state, which has tended to use it to establish and reinforce sterotypical and highly nationalistic mind-sets (consciousness) among its citizens. Choice in education is what the customer (the parent) wants, and seldom gets. This is not going to change quickly, although there are some hopeful signs, such as the International Schools Movement. Still, it will happen eventually, in a top-down kind of way, beginning with tertiary and adult education, where customer-led change is already well under way, and moving down the age groups. The Internet, of course, will play a major role in this process. Already it forms a means of delivery of alternative cultural content into schools. Teachers can be lazy like the rest of us, and will readily accept well-packaged educational content for direct delivery to their classes, once the desk-top computer is a standard feature of classrooms. That day may not be too far off, at least in richer countries.
Once there is competition between providers of, say, basic mathematical courses on the Internet, the school may become just an enabling institution. In fact, it is hard to see why schools would need to exist at all in their current, wildly expensive and ineffectual form. Groups of parents could take over supervision in private user groups or could hire teachers to supervise ad hoc groups of matched children in a wide variety of educational environments (all those useless libraries, for instance).
It is a reasonable assumption that international norms will develop for the educational process, both in terms of curriculae and methodology. The beginnings of this process can be seen in the International Schools Movement, and it will be pushed along by the Internet, together with the dissolution of language barriers, which will accelerate with the advent of effective machine translation, beginning in the 2020s.
Global political activity is at an early stage of development, and among formal global organizations it looks more like nation state competition than the expression of global political ideas. Most international organizations are oligarchic rather than democratic, thus not needing – and they don't display – political behaviour. The International Olympic Committee is a good example.
Organisations such as the World Trade Organization, the UN, the WHO, the IMF, and the World Bank attract political activity on the part of their member states, or sometimes (a bit more global) on the part of regional groupings of states. Thus, organisations grouping the 'non-developed' or the 'non-aligned' or the 'Caribbean' states have political roles in the formation of policy at a multilateral level.
However, politics addressed to electors hardly exists at a global level except perhaps in the EU where it is just beginning. For true global political activity one has to look to the emergence of popular global movements. Organizations such as Greenpeace, greens in general, and environmentalists in general have global messages to deliver, and global support. Anti-globalisers are probably a popular global movement, ironically enough, although their ideas are so muddled that it is hard to put a meaningful label on them.
It is to be expected that global organizations will develop to work on behalf of shareholders, consumers, students, and other groups. There is every reason to think that such organizations will come to have rule-making and even judicial powers in the same way as producer groups, although as in so many other sectors, it will take the demolition of language barriers before truly popular, global, political organizations emerge.
What is the globalization of religion? Does it mean the globalization of ethical structures? That is happening through globalized rule-making bodies such as FIFA, the WTO and alternative reality worlds, which tend to follow strictly groupish models as was demonstrated in Chapter Eight.
Culturally speaking, religions are dead meat in 'Western' countries. It doesn't look this way in the USA; but this is just a 'lost generation' looking for spiritual sustenance in a morally barren world. The urge to affiliate is so strong that people will do all kinds of nutty things like becoming scientologists or terrorists if they are not offered more satisfying alternatives. There weren't too many terrorists in 1400, since the media and public opinion, which are the proximate targets of terrorists, didn't exist. There were criminals, outlaws and roving bands of opportunistic soldiers, it's true, but most of them just didn't believe in anything, which is a different problem (we still have it). Goya. Actually, believing in nothing and believing in nutty religions are about the same – they are both responses to an ungrounded world.
In most non-'Western' countries, including of course Islamic states, religion retains its primary ethical significance; but this has to be seen as a corollary of the stage of development of the societies concerned, and is likely to change rapidly as the Internet and other types of media make inroads into popular education in such regions.
Although religion has lost its efficacy as a store and provider of morality in many parts of the world, it still provides necessary psychological support for large numbers of humans. The leaders of major Western democracies continue to need to put themselves forward as practising Christians, regardless of their true beliefs. And the outraged reaction to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, published in 2006, much of it no doubt hypocritical, shows that religion is still a no-go area for social reformers.
The picture will look very different by 2030, and religion can be assumed to have a rapidly diminishing contribution to make to human culture during the first half of the 21st century. It is important to stress, as ever, that ethics and morality need to have a very high profile in human life; it is simply that they will be delivered in other ways.
Just because the Internet already uses electronic representations of linguistic and non-linguistic content (before laboriously turning it back into words and pictures) it will be the leader in the use of new forms of representation of human cultural products; and just because the Internet was from the beginning global, it will most always be the first place that globalized cultural expression will show itself. Other than in the use of language, the Internet is already in the vanguard of the globalization of such fields as sport, education, the law, business, the arts, ethics and life-style. But, importantly, as remarked before, the Internet allows and encourages minority interests and groups just as much or even more than it encourages 'global' cultural expression.
As an example of the new forms of social organization that are enabled by the Internet, we may take electronic voting. They may still troop through the lobbies to be counted, like sheep, at Westminster, but in any modern legislature they simply press a button, and the vote is over in a second. On the Internet, major news sites – and many others – conduct polls on burning questions of the day. This instantly measured public opinion is beginning to affect politics. If as a member of a legislature you are due to speak on a contentious topic, do you not check the 'blogs' and the polls before you leave your office for the floor?
It will take time, but we are within sight of instant, well-informed electronic democracy. That may be a good or a bad thing, but it will surely be different, and by the way it is extremely groupish. All drivers (a group) will vote against motorway tolls. Or will they? If they are also have apartments in a city centre they may think twice. The key is in the phrase 'well-informed'. Historically, legislators have been able to do a better job of legislating than joe public partly because they had access to more information. Anyone who has been a legislator will know that the paperwork is daunting, and most of it relates to information you need to absorb and analyze before you vote. Frequently you change your mind as you read through the mountain, even if the whips change it back again for you afterwards! There are no whips on the Internet, unless you count Wikipedia's morally righteous editors.
Technology impacts on individual brains by enlarging the cognitive space of the human mind. We have seen in previous chapters how consciousness in humans was expanded by the invention of language, followed by the use of writing to record and store information they could not carry in their brains. Printing enormously extended the availability of written stores of material. Now, physical means of extending linguistic consciousness have been succeeded by other types of recording technique, including video, DVD, movies, and computer storage. All these add to the reach of consciousness.
A Californian e-Bay trader living in a 'gated' community who accumulates his profits in an offshore bank account (legal as long as he pays his taxes), spends his evenings on Everquest, chats with putative Ukrainian girl-friends over Skype VOIP, and goes to his tennis club (games set up using ICQ, of course, among club members) in the afternoons is about as detached from the conventional 'real'-world economy as he could be. Almost everything he does is the result of group activity and is governed by sets of group rules (laws) that are independent of the State's rule of law.
Beyond that, there are social and cultural aspects of human life which have developed as features of groups writ small or large, from the hunter-gatherer band to the nation of China, and these, not being determined genetically, are capable of change. The word evolution is often applied to such changes, partly because no-one is quite sure where the gene-pool leaves off and society begins, and partly because new societal forms and behaviours do indeed evolve in the sense that the fittest of them survive. In this discussion, it must be understood that the word 'evolve' is not used to imply Darwinian adaptation of the gene-pool, but to mean selection of the most adaptive social techniques, and by all means many of these will be in our heads. Darwin was perfectly aware of this distinction, and comfortable with it.
Bhagwati, J (2004) In Defense of Globalization, Oxford University Press
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, http://www.tas-cas.org
The International Olympic Committee, http://www.olympic.org/uk/index_uk.asp
Wolf, M (2004) Why Globalization Works, Yale University Press
The World Trade Organization, http://www.wto.org/
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