The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age Paperback – August 26, 1999
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Also, the questions they ask that others don't ask is perhaps the most valuable aspect of reading this book. They engage the role of violence as central to why we have the political paradigms we have. No one really bothers to realize how central violence is to how human societies organize themselves. It's very insightful.
Thanks for writing this, gents. I don't agree with everything in the book of course, but your style of question asking, and the models you present are tremendous.
If you do pick this up, you will struggle through the first chapter. Heads up.
The alternative news sources here in 2015 carry predictions of their own that seem to be borrowed from this book.
Top international reviews
Some other reviewers here have seen fit to condemn this book for what they perceive to be its authors' unpalatable "extreme far right libertarian" ideology or "selfish misanthropic" attitude. From my reading of the book, these accusations are unfair. The authors do have a detectable libertarian bent, but this does not detract from the rigour of their historical analysis or the clarity of the reasoning by which they arrive at their conclusions and predictions. Throughout the book their concern is reality, and what shape it will take in the future that is now our present.
By any objective measurement, the authors were immensely successful in their efforts, identifying and anticipating the many of the fundamental technological and social forces that have shaped the last twenty years of world history. Among their predictions (written, let us remember, in 1997) are:
- "A decline in the status and power of traditional elites, as well as a decline in the respect accorded the symbols and beliefs that justify the nation-state"
- "An intense, even violent nationalistic reaction centered among those who lose status, income, and power when what they consider to be "ordinary life" is disrupted by political devolution and new market arrangements."
- "...suspicion of and opposition to globalization, free trade, "foreign" ownership and penetration of local economies"
- "...popular hatred of the information elite, rich people, the well-educated, and complaints about capital flight and disappearing jobs"
- "Lifetime employment will disappear as "jobs" increasingly become tasks or "piece work" rather than positions within an organization."
- "Many members of learned professions will be replaced by interactive information-retrieval systems."
- "The new society, and therefore the new culture, will be defined at one end by what machines can do better than people, by automation that will do away with increasing numbers of low-skill tasks, and at the other by the power that information technology gives to people who actually have the talent to take advantage of it."
- "When the state finds itself unable to meet its committed expenditures by raising tax revenues, it will resort to other, more desperate measures. Among them is printing money."
- "...the advent of the Information Age implies another revolution in the character of money. As cybercommerce begins, it will lead inevitably to the cybermoney....This new digital form of money is destined to play a pivotal role in cybercommerce. It will consist of encrypted sequences of multihundred-digit prime numbers. Unique, anonymous, and verifiable, this money will accommodate the largest transactions. It will also be divisible into the tiniest fraction of value. It will be tradable at a keystroke in a multitrillion-dollar wholesale market without borders."
- "Within the next few decades, for example, narrow-casting will replace broadcasting as the method by which individuals obtain their news. This has significant implications. It amounts to a change in the imaginations of millions from first person plural to singular. As individuals themselves begin to serve as their own news editors, selecting what topics and news stories are of interest, it is far less likely that they well choose to indoctrinate themselves in the urgencies of sacrifice to the nation-state. Indeed, their attitudes are more likely to be informed by the global culture to which they relate as consumers of entertainment that by the highly personal "news" narrow-casts to which they may subscribe."
The authors did not come to these startling insights at random. They are derived from a detailed investigation into "megapolitical" historical trends, the most fundamental and important factors that have shaped the successive forms of human society and civilisation so far.
Anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of the technological, social, and political upheavals of the last two decades would be well advised to read this book. To quote from its introduction, "As technology revolutionizes the tools we use, it also antiquates our laws, reshapes our morals, and alters our perceptions. This book explains how."
I would highly recommend this book!
My only criticism is that it drags on for too long. What it describes could have been said more clearly and concisely in a book half the size. Well worth the read though, and maybe one to prepare ourselves for in future.
given it's age, many of its forecasts are now subject to comparison to what has actually happened and given the number of concrete statements made, the authors really stuck their necks out and have been vindicated by history since then. one or two things were wide of the mark, but then a famous computer expert once said the world would only need 5 computers or some similar quote, so even the sharpest eyes can be deceived.
honestly, I would recommend this book to anyone who takes in interest in curernt affairs and the borokerage of power in the real world.
on the downside, the book does contain a couple of discreet plugs for the authors business interests which are now stale and irrelevant, and there are a couple of repetitive passages here and there.
the informational content is largely peerless amongst the morass of anodyne pap available in the genre and is a must read in my view.