Mar 25, 20150
Tags: elites, Futurefest, internet, Politics
The question posed was: ‘Does the future need elites?’ My first response is that all the evidence I am aware of, suggests we will always have elites. I am not aware of any animal, machine, or human systems that operate efficiently without a hierarchy or division of tasks/functions/labour. There may be some but they’re clearly a minority solution.
If we’re talking about political elites (this is implicit from the context of the other conversations, choice of speakers, etc.), then one of the primary functions of a political elite is to make decisions on behalf of the society they serve (assuming service rather than domination). The need for decision makers becomes greater as society grows in volume and complexity – family or tribe may be able to make choices that include the opinions and desires of every individual but, beyond such small groups, society needs to surrender perfect inclusion if decisions are to be made with any efficiency.
This justification for, and function of, the political elite has applied for all modern human history (the last 10,000 years – since domestication and agriculture made larger-than-tribe societies possible). However, we are living in a period of revolution. For the first time since humans left the Rift Valley, in Africa, every human being on the planet is potentially able to communicate with every other human being in near real-time. The Internet is a revolution, like fire, agriculture, metallurgy, steam power, and the computer. Each of these technological advances has resulted in paradigm shifts across human endeavour. One of these is the potential for decision-making by the masses, rather than an elite. Options could be presented via the Internet and the masses asked to decide via the Internet. Yes, competency and partisanship are a concern, but that is also true of the elite. Of course, some highly technical or sensitive decisions could not be resolved this way, but many of the big decisions, currently exclusively handled by the elite, could.
So, ‘Does the future need elites?’. Yes. But, perhaps ones whose remit and powers are far more restricted – functionaries – technocrats.