If you are someone who enjoys chicanery, volatility, and a world without rules, the needle on your happy meter will remain pegged for the foreseeable future. The world Daniel Suarez creates in his techno-thriller Daemon and its sequel Freedom seems to be more real than fantasy as unexplained flash crashes and debt-induced contagions threaten to destroy our many efforts to construct durable institutions to suppress endemic anarchy in the international system. Suarez may prove to be as prescient as his predecessor of Americano angst, Tom Clancy. Alas, anarchy appears to be gaining the upper hand—as Machiavelli’s adherents would argue it always has. Our stubborn invocation of sovereignty ensures it. Our rapacious leaders in both D.C. and Wall Street exploit it. It is simply antithetical for humans to stick much more than a toe into the Rubicon’s waters of civil transformation before withdrawing; there are few Caesars among us.
However, while we wring our hands over the effects of market mayhem and cringe at the timidity of our political leaders who wilt under kliegs supplied by hyper-partisan (so-called) news bureaus, we can also find solace in the uncertainty and upheaval that allows creative destruction to do its thing: to purge the system of bad ideas and incompetent leaders. Anarchy amps our turpitude but it also makes room for reinvention—for new ideas and leaders to take the stage. Many (relative) innocents will be hurt, but we must embrace this Darwinian moment and adapt our own behaviors and expectations to new realities. We must avert our eyes from headlines crafted by Chicken Little hacks and dig deeper into human activity. When we do, we realize that we are one major ah ha! away from an explosion of innovation. For example, last week’s announcement of the proof-of-concept of synthetically driven cell production means creative destruction is underway. Next-gen Edison’s remain busy while entitled malcontents who capture headlines hurl stones in Athens’ public square.
Moreover, predictions based on watersheds, contagions, and dominoes are seldom, if ever, realized. More often, they are used to perpetrate a political slight of hand, like we must fight in Vietnam to stop the contagion of communism; or, if we establish a democracy in Iraq it will produce liberal domino effects throughout the Mid-east. Or the latest: if Greece goes under the global financial system will collapse. The reality is that factors that produce effects in one place at a point in time seldom propagate. Variability of both factors and outcomes is much more probable. And, we humans have a distinct advantage. As Matt Ridley points out in The Rational Optimist, humans have mastered the practice of exchange and specialization allowing wealth and intelligence to metastasize across our global civilization. This means most of us will be okay—as we always have been—notwithstanding enduring the hue, cry, and anger of fear-mongering politicos, displaced non-adapters, and bigoted extremists.
Social order is changing, forced by crises, real or perceived. Sovereignty will become a personal claim, not just a claim of state. Anarchy will prevail both inter, and intra state. Eventually, new structures will emerge based on new norms and narratives. Myths will be written anew. Collective action based on intelligent exchange and specialization will prevail. A new ‘normal’ will be revealed. This dialectic phase will end and a higher truth will emerge, just as it has throughout the history of humankind.