Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prescient Ignorance

Andrew Bacevich hasn't made a blog post since April 30, 2010. But if you read it, you'll think he made it today, until you get close to the end. He declares,

The problem with the clichés of the Information Age is that they are entirely bogus. Worse than bogus: They are pernicious. All the yapping about our supposedly fast, flat, and wired world fosters bizarre expectations. Computers, we are told, possess and confer power. Out of power comes mastery.

Don’t believe it. The fact of the matter is this: We live in a world characterized not by ever-greater speed but by never-ending surprise. No one—not the pope, the president, or even a fast-world guru like Thomas Friedman—knows what’s going to happen next. Those who pretend otherwise are frauds.

The Information Age has not notably enhanced our ability either to anticipate the future or to respond to the problems that catch us when we are looking the other way.

It turns out these musings were not inspired by any of the shit which has hit the fan in the past couple of weeks, but by the oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Remember that?

So. I can understand how folks got all excited and happy about the prospect of people power deposing the supremely odious Muamar G/K/Qadd[h/~h]afi; and how they got a sick feeling when it looked like he was going to successfully slaughter his way to a secure future of despotism. So I guess they figured they had to do something. On the other hand, they didn't feel like they had to do something about, say, Robert Mugabe or Laurent Gbagbo. Or the 3 million little kids who die of hunger every year.

Not that it has anything to do with that black goo under the sand. Oh no no, of course not.

But even stipulating the righteousness of the motivation, is this really such a great idea? Nobody has the slightest idea how it will turn out, and in fact nobody really has a plan. I can imagine a lot more unpleasant outcomes than pleasant ones, frankly, and although I'm by no means an expert on Libya I haven't come across anybody who is an expert who even tries to convince us otherwise.

And that's more or less where we stand in general today. We're at a historic moment that feels like -- well, a tsunami. Vast currents are pouring out of their banks, sweeping all before them and cutting new channels that lead no-one knows where. It all has, one way or another, to do with the fossil-fueled industrial age hitting its limits. Just about everyone claims to have their own personal crystal ball, and is happy to tell us what's coming and what to do about it.

I'm just foolish enough to be humble.

1 comment:

roger said...

but we all get bad news very fast. and seemingly endless false news.