We thought to have reached a governance optimum, with rule of the many (democracy) guided by the best (expertocracy). The US election seems to turn it upside down, with rule of the rich (plutocracy), guided by the worst (ochlocracy). Do we need to prepare for much more extremistic scenarios?
The power as we knew it is not just shifting, but mutating and decaying – with 9/11, China joining WTO, financial crisis and Trump election as major events. So in the 21st century, power is easier to acquire, harder to keep, easier to lose. Emerging are new micro powers like radical parties, hackers, whistleblowers, religious cults.
We have seen a significant decline of global inequality, mainly because of the economic development of China. The Asian middle classes and the super-rich of the west have been the biggest winners of globalisation. But this won’t lead to a global levelling. We might end up with a combination of two inequalities: class and location, where class seems to become more important a factor than location, just as it was in the 19th century.
The weaker state identities become, the bigger the need for replacement identities. Today we can see this in the Levant, with further years of semi-chaos to come. Countries with imperial roots, like Turkey and Iran, will fare better. A different source of conflict is building up in East Asia: decades of economic success (like in China and in Japan) lead to build-up of military capacities – and possibly to their use. All major powers in the world are right now developing weapons as powerful as possible, but below the nuclear threshold. This makes them deployable. So a new major conflict in 2030 or 2040 will surprise us in velocity, ferocity and lethality.
Once social media was hailed as speaking truth to power. Now it’s about speaking truth to social media. The challenge is to create participation without populism. This will need new procedures and new institutions, preferably coming from bottom-up.
We are living in an age of anxiety, and the intellectuals have not done a good job in addressing other people’s anxiety. We have to enter into the world of emotions and to connect with people with anxiety. It’s okay to have fears – but it’s not okay to be guided by fear.
The conflicts and unsolved global problems have a root cause: lack of sustainability. There’s a need for a resilient design of society. Technologies like the Internet of Things and Blockchain can make it possible and can at the same time reduce the threat of digital totalitarianism. Bottom-up instruments can lead to glocalisation. Even money could be fed bottom-up. Instead of pouring money top-down from central banks to banks, money can be given to people for pure investment purpose.
In the field of global influence, religion is top, and emotions win over science. The better you are able to put your thoughts into stories and pictures, the better they can be swallowed. We are only just beginning to understand, how leadership in networks works. Unlike hierarchical leaders, the network leaders are almost invisible – which makes it especially important to find the tools to identify them.
The Future of Power – Key Takeaways