I just watched this interview with Tim Wu. He nails it re: the tendency of information industries to move from open to closed systems. I just pre-ordered his new book: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires There is little doubt in my mind how our society is going to evolve in an era of consolidated corporate power and ubiquitous information systems.
Although I don’t subscribe to the idea that history repeats itself, I do believe that history does inform us about human nature and how powerful people fight to consolidate power and influence. This tendency is firmly stapled into our DNA.
There will almost certainly be strife between what used to be the middle class and financial and political elites. I read yesterday that one of the international rating agencies predicted a loss of “social cohesion” in the USA. Right now, there are large strikes in France over raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. It is interesting that here in the USA, the waning middle class seems silent in comparison. In my country the consolidation of power by control of news by just a few corporations has been brilliant in execution, but not in the public good: we see people swayed by corporate controlled news to back political agendas that are very much against their own interests.
I have always had a strong interest in strategy games like Go (I wrote the first commercially available Go playing program) and Chess (I wrote the simple Chess program Apple shipped with very early Apple IIs). The point is: when playing strategy games, you play the current board position. Now, life is not a perfect knowledge game like Chess and Go but as individuals it still makes sense to “play the position” with what knowledge and resources we have.
What knowledge do we have? I would argue very little if you rely on USA filtered and biased news sources. You can improve your knowledge a little by reading multiple international news sources. I also rely on what people I trust write in their blogs and books.
What resources do we have? As individuals our resources are specialized job skills, education, family and friends, real property (hopefully not debt encumbered), owning your own business, cash assets, and social and professional networking. Negative resources are things like excessive personal debt.
In playing Chess and Go, it is almost always useful to understand what moves your opponent wants you to make, and avoid these moves! In our lives, I believe that it is useful to try understanding what the financial and political elites want the masses of non-elites to do. In recent history, using advertising and media control, a vision of extravagant lifestyles has been pushed at people and this has been carefully combined with control of cheap borrowing to induce people into taking on excessive private debt: optimum elite strategy for increasing control, wealth, and influence. The obvious strategy for non-elites is to avoid debt, avoid getting sucked into a materialistic lifestyle, and to invest personal resources in acquiring specialized job skills and making education a life-long process.