New Leadership

Thousands of bloggers are retroactively handicapping the elections, so you aren’t going to find that here. Instead let’s look forward together. The Democrats will have their new leadership, and so too in turn will the Republicans — will the new leaders bring new direction?

Large-scale questions face us in this bright new millenium, questions about direction and goals for the next one hundred years which should be answered soon. Over the past few years most of our leaders have looked into the future and blinked, turning back to the moment, the news cycle, and the comfort of past debate. The few who are focused on the long term future tend to be ignored by their peers. It’s more comforting to talk in circles than to lead to new direction.

At some point we have to break the nihilistic scare and crisis cycle; whether we tell folks they are doomed by terrorism, or doomed by global warming, or doomed by marxism, or fundamentalist christians, or second-hand smoke, it makes little difference. Leading with fear always fails over time.

We must lead with political philosophy that creates general policies and position, and those policies and positions must be articulate and consistently voiced. They can never be allowed to devolve to truisms or bumper stickers that are only hauled out at election cycle, instead they must be acted upon or they are false. The purpose can’t be to get elected, it can’t be just to govern, it must be to enable and act upon the policies we create.

The last elections can be viewed as a wave of anti-federalism, and the blue-dog Democrat conservatives who defeated the Republicans in the southern states have a firm grounding in state’s-rights and fiscal conservatism. There are policies that appeal to them as well as the average Republican. There are policies that appeal to Libertarians as well as the average Republican – somehow over the past six years we’ve allowed those to fall by the wayside.

Both political parties and all the alternative pocket parties suck when it comes to science and technology, and technology is going to be the driving force of this century. The future is going to happen; we can either ride the wave, we can retreat to an atavistic cave on Mt. Neoludd, or we can ignorantly drown in the coming change.

In the interest of opening more political debate on the longer-term future, I am going to be writing several articles regarding approaches to it, and challenges for it.

A firm reminder before I start the lists of what-ifs: You can’t control the future and technology: both are unpredictable, however you can prepare for it.

What-iffing is a favorite pastime of science-fiction writers, futurists, and long-term thinkers. These excercises can become mind-numbing if taken to extremes, and they can be worrisome — if you are nihilistic in nature I do not recommend it. 

When What-iffing, nihilists tend to create pseudo-science crisis’ like global warming, nuclear winter, ocean death, overpopulation, famine, and scarcity because they do not take creativity, the adaptivity of humanity, and the dynamic force of capitalism into account. It’s a natural outcome of projection without accounting for natural limiting factors, much like the giant-bug monsters in movies that aren’t physically possible.

For Optimists however what-iffing is a highly pleasurable pastime, to dream of what could be is the first step to creating it. This first list of what-ifs are things possible with existing technology, to create them we need policy, design, and engineering, and capitalism, not government programs and long-term breakthroughs. [Nihilists: stop reading here, you will just come up with a series of nonsensical reasons why none of this will or could work, what’s the point in that]

  • What if we had high-speed transcontinental freight and passenger rail?
  • What if we had large fish ranches and sea-produce farms?
  • What if our country were a net exporter of cheap, clean, energy?
  • What if we could deliver the force of a nuclear explosion anywhere in the world in minutes without nuclear fallout?
  • What if broadband networking was truly ubiquitous and wireless?
  • What if we had nuclear fuel storage that was safe?
  • What if we had portable nuclear reactors we could lease?
  • What if we had a permanent manned presence in space or on the moon?
  • What if we could grow replacement organs from our own cells?
  • What if all lightbulbs were LEDs?
  • What if all planes were 50% lighter?
  • What if cars were hydrogen powered?
  • What if television were three dimensional?
  • What if we could talk or think our input into computers instead of typing into them?

All of this is not only possible, but probable over the next fifty years. Some of it will take policy at federal level, but most of it will occur through the actions of individual business’s and in some cases states.

As an example, high-speed transcontinental rail wil take congress creating the challenge, the right of way, and the leases. Looking at it is exciting hower: you could make the the same mag-lev rail system a cross-country power intertie as well as a broadband network path.

Any coastal northern state could create fish farming policy, and business — some are doing that already. Others of these future changes will be driven by business, such as ubiquitous wireless broadband. Over the next months I will demonstrate how some of this is happening now, and how other things are somewhat easily enabled.

To wrap up: if Republicans want to lead America into the future, they can’t oppose the future, they can’t oppose real science, and they can’t operate soley at a federal level. Dynamism and change takes open, general rulesets, not restrictive, rigidly-detailed rulesets. To experiment and achieve these things we must not fetter capitalism, the states, nor individuals as they create the unfolding future.

Update: It looks like Captain Ed is going to start looking forward as well. I submit we all need to; the past cannot be changed, let’s not live in a thirty year dead political philosophy quaqmire the way our opponents do.