Thursday, March 15, 2007

'The big question'

Prospect Magazine {March 2007 issue} asked 100 writers and thinkers to answer the following question: Left and right defined the 20th century. What's next? almost nobody expects the world to get better in the coming decades, and many think it will get worse. well, not suprising isn't it?


illustration by fudgefactorycomics


Pervez Hoodbhoy, scientist:


Global and national politics will turn simple and Hobbesian in 50-70 years. In the interim, energy hunger will drive the US and European countries to squeeze out, and steal, the last drops of oil from under Muslim sands. As bridges between Islam and the west collapse, expect global civil war and triumphant neo-Talibanic movements circling the globe. Should a few western capitals be levelled, Muslim capitals will be randomly nuked in retaliation. The old planetary order is condemned to die. But the human spirit may yet prevail, and a new and better one may emerge.

. Julian Evans, writer and critic:

The next hundred years will be a battleground between spirit and technology. The imperialist reach of technology is already global in ways that large sections of humanity, not least Islamist extremists, are hostile to. But it is not just terrorists who will be against the west’s technological and economic hegemony. Democratic citizens will voice increasing unease at an empire of innovation that dumps its products on every street and its garbage sacks in every corner of the planet. So political battle lines will be drawn between ideologies of spirit-expressed in everything from Islam and other religious faiths to eco-campaigning-and ideologies of technology, mostly in its economic formulations. One truism of the west is that we could all do with less. Somewhere in the psychological territory the two sides will be fighting for, there will be the warring instincts of those who believe we find our identity, as well as our deepest pleasure and harmony, in intimacy and relationships, with nature as much as each other, and of those who obtain their satisfactions in the desire-based, individualistic life-support systems sold to us by technology.

. Meghnad Desai, economist:

Left/right, north/south, east/west are dead. Politics will be global and/or personal. What little the state will be asked to do—mainly local issues-it will fail to do. People will devise their own solutions, however imperfectly. They will move across borders and create the preconditions of a global polity, not as a behemoth but as a beehive.

. Brian Eno, musician:

Real life vs virtual life


Some people will spend more and more of their time in virtual communities such as Second Life. They will claim that their communities represent the logical extension of citizen democracy. They will be ridiculed and opposed by “First Lifers,” who will insist that reality with all its complications always trumps virtual reality, but the second-lifers in turn will insist that they live in a world of their own design and therefore are by definition more creative and free. This division will deepen and intensify, and will develop from just a cultural preference into a choice about how and where people spend their lives.


Anthony Giddens, sociologist:


“The future isn’t what it used to be,” George Burns once said. And he was right. This century we are peering over a precipice, and it’s an awful long way down. We have unleashed forces into the world that it is not certain that we can control. We may have already done so much damage to the planet that by the end of the century people will live in a world ravaged by storms, with large areas flooded and others arid. But you have to add in nuclear proliferation, and new diseases that we might have inadvertently created. Space might become militarised. The emergence of mega-computers, allied to robotics, might at some point also create beings able to escape the clutches of their creators. Against that, you could say that we haven’t much clue what the future will bring, except it’s bound to be things that we haven’t even suspected. Twenty years ago, Bill Gates thought there was no future in the internet. The current century might turn out much more benign than scary. As for politics, left and right aren’t about to disappear—the metaphor is too strongly entrenched for that. My best guess about where politics will focus would be upon life itself. Life politics concerns the environment, lifestyle change, health, ageing, identity and technology. It may be a politics of survival, it may be a politics of hope, or perhaps a bit of both.



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