Doug Casey on “The Diamond Age”

Doug Casey on “The Diamond Age”

By Doug Casey

Science fiction has always offered both a more accurate and more timely look at the future than any think tank. For one thing, a good book is the product of a genius, not a committee of suits trying to reach a consensus. And a format of fiction allows one to speculate in ways that a “serious person” can’t do in nonfiction.

Every educated person should have read the classics by Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C Clarke, among others. Add Neal Stephenson to that list. I’ve been a fan of Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age since it was published in 1995. I strongly recommend you read the book.

There are many themes in Diamond Age, which refers to a near-term future (I’ll guess around 2050) when nanotechnology has transformed much of life. Although not nearly as radically as I believe will actually be the case. (See my essays on the future here and here.)

But one theme in the book is quite a breakthrough, and spot-on. It posits the creation of “phyles” as the major form of social and political organization. The word comes from the same root as phylum, from the Greek, meaning “tribe” or “clan”. But I think it’s also a pun on the word “filial”, with its connotations of family.

The book posits, I believe correctly, that in the near future most nation states will have broken down. Many will have ceased to exist. It’s quite logical, because they’re a dysfunctional way for people to organize. And it’s happening right before our eyes. None of the countries in the Mid-East, Africa, or Central Asia have any coherence. They’re just the result of some ruler’s military prowess, or some politicians drawing lines on a distant map. Nation states themselves have really only been around since the 17th century. Before that, people weren’t loyal to a country; they were loyal to a chief, a king or an emperor.

Loyalty to a country can make some sense, on at least a primitive atavistic level, as long as the inhabitants of the “country” share a common language, religion, ethnicity, and customs. But it makes no sense when they have little in common. So it’s natural, and salubrious, for the various religious, ethnic, racial, cultural or economic groups within a country that’s become too big, too “diverse”, and too “inclusive”, to want to get out. Everyone recognizes—even if they don’t say it—that a national government is just a vehicle for theft, benefitting the group that controls it.

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Doug Casey

For over a quarter of a century, legendary investor and best-selling author Doug Casey and his team at Casey Research have been helping self-directed investors to earn superior returns through innovative investment research designed to take advantage of market dislocations..