The Pace of Change Is Going to Be a Political Issue
Can governance keep up with change?
The pace of change is going to be a political issue.
Can governance keep up with demand?
If we look back at human history we can see that the speed at which things change is accelerating. The stone age lasted longer than the bronze age and so on. The rate of change is getting faster and faster, which raises several questions; the first being where will this ever increasing speed of change take humans? And the others is are humans evolving to cope with this?
The growth in the world wide population, on Earth, is also accelerating; it is increasing at a faster rate than ever before. Can our science find a way of meeting the demands this makes on the resources we depend on? Logically the rate of increase must have a finite point. A terminal increase speed. There must come a level of population at which it stops increasing, this seems logical but will it? There is a natural balance to all things and examples in wild animal populations suggest that a species will increase in numbers until a point is reached, where food shortages or increases in predators stops the increase and cause a fall back in population. Are we humans to follow this natural pattern?
We live in a society where technology has replaced the evolved fight and flight, safety characteristics in human behaviour. The speed at which these technologies are changing is also increasing. Human evolution is probably continuing, it is claimed our bodies will evolve to cope with the wide spread pollutants, which our stone age ancestors did not have to cope with. There is also the possibility that we can evolve to cope with the huge range of electromagnetic waves we now saturate the planet with. Human evolution, from apes to modern humans, has been very slow, measured in tens of thousands of years for small changes. We now are creating changes, to our environment, that demand evolution speeds up. Will it?
Even if it does; where will these evolved changes take us?
Changes to work. Through the ages a person's work defined their status within a community and it was very rare for anyone to move to a different status. Jobs were for life, even if you did not like the work. The industrial revolution changed this to some extent and started the concept of the mobility of labour. The speed at which people change jobs is getting faster. Very few now expect to stay in the same job with the same employer from age 16 to age 70. Working practices have changed, much of the physical effort is now taken on by machines, the person controlling the machine has replaced the muscular navvy. The machines themselves are changed and developed at a faster rate than ever before. The skills of a machine turner of 1950 will be of no use in a computer controlled automated work shop of today.
Changes in personal relationships. This is more difficult to evaluate than most social, financial or technology factors; since the truth about relationships on a “general level” is so hard to find. There was always an acceptance of an ideal family of man woman and 2 children but this was not even a realistic norm in Victorian Britain, not as an average over the whole population. What is a reasonable assumption is that the increase in the mobility of people, the more education and the greater technology of communication, are factors that are leading to greater fragmentation of family groups. Before the second world war, it was common for families to stay within a recognised area and marry or form partnerships that stayed within a few miles of that area. As the huge factories broke up and as people became more accustomed to going further afield to find work, the geographic areas, occupied by familial groups, expanded. The concept of “extended” families after divorce and bereavement, became more common and the distances people moved to find better housing and employment (better education encouraged this as did the greater specialisation in education and work). So people who are related to each other are now spread out more than they were in previous eras. International travel is making this spread wider than it was a hundred years ago.
Changes to family unity. This is affected by the changes in relationships and is just as hard to evaluate. There does seem less cohesion in family groups that there were 200 years ago but is this because our knowledge of how things were, generally, 200 years ago is false? We only have records of the educated and relatively wealthy social groups. Because the number of children born and raised by only one parent is increasing, statistically, there is a rate of change in family structure and so unity.
Changes to the number of years humans are children. Childhood is defined as the period between birth and puberty. It is often said that childhood is getting shorter, the age at which puberty occurs, although always variable, appears to be generally starting at an earlier age. The social behaviour of children seems to be changing. What would have been the expected behaviour at 16 now occurs at 12 or 13. Although the brain is 90% developed at a very young age, it is reported by specialists that the connecting up of the various functions, within the brain, is not complete until the age of around 30. What we do not know is if this has changed in the last 500 years. It is something that is so very difficult to measure and there are so many exceptions to any rule about people but the impression is that childhood is getting shorter. The average life expectancy is increasing and so if childhood ends at an earlier age and death comes at a later age, we are adults for longer than ever before.
Changes to governance. Look back at English history; or in the history of any geographic area; and you will find a similar pattern. Small family groups of hunter gatherers, larger groups of tribal settlements with agriculture. More organised collections of such settlements forming a territory with a sense of ownership. Nations formed by military force causing borders to be enforced, and control by an elite. Expansion of nations by conquest or amalgamation of elite families. Empires. Commonwealths. Break up of Empires back into nation states. Political unions which ebb and flow with national borders being replaced and reinstated. These can all be seen historically but the speed at which these changes occur is speeding up. The Roman empire lasted far longer than that of Soviet Russia. The Celtic civilisation is reported to have lasted 5,000 years, far longer than the Roman empire.
Changes to the relationship between the state and the individual. This is changing, the briefest study of social history will show that until relatively (in history terms) recently; people felt a strong bond with their country of birth and a loyalty to that state. The various wars showed that this was not always a good thing but also shows such loyalty did exist. Now this appears to be deceasing, again due to changes to communication technology, greater general education and greater mobility of populations. General access to information must have played a part but now we have access to disinformation, fake news and deliberate attempts to mislead large numbers of people about issues of government policy and even the environment. These distortions are changing the general attitude towards authority in general. In Britain of the 1930s the police force were respected and any “order” given by a police officer would have been obeyed without dissent. That is not the situation today. Similarly an announcement from a government source, as published in the printed media would have been accepted as factual. Not any more.
Changes to the relationship between the government and the governed. This is easier to track since the media, which is probably a contributing factor in any changes, glories in publicising any and every breakdown in this relationship. The sheer size of populations make governance by acceptance more difficult. Now a minority of people who disagree (on material or religious grounds) with any political policy will still be counted in millions. This means although they are a minority they have sufficient numbers to make control and peaceful persuasion so much harder than it used to be.
Where is all this going to take us? What sort of society is being created? Evolution is survival of the fittest. If populations go on increasing, with social and technological changes keeping up an ever increasing speed of change, where will it end? Will it end? A stone age human is so very different from our present day version, physically, mentally and in understanding of the world. This change has taken about 30,000 years (very rough estimate, since our knowledge of stone age people is also changing). At the present rate of increase in populations, with the associated reduction in life support resources; we cannot continue as we are for another 30,000 years. So will our rate of change slow down? Will human evolution speed up? Each of us will have to provide our own answers but at least thinking about it will have started.
Is any politician brave enough to fund long term plans for governing in the future? There are so many variables but contingency plans should be debated and then some effort made at controlling the rate of change; otherwise we risk anarchy; in its true form, which will occur by default.