Two unrelated things that I came across recently that should have some serious implications to anyone writing near-future SF. The first post is actually kind of obvious, in fact it touches on one of the central themes of the singularity. However, it hits a point that I don’t think is explored often enough:
Quantum computing represents a moment of comparative advantage for the nation(s) that pioneers it akin to Great Britain being first with the Industrial Revolution. The first use for the world’s first lab functional quantum computer is to apply it’s power in other fields where innovation is stymied by previously intractable math problems, thus permitting a burst of patentable breakthroughs or discoveries that lead to applied scientific and commercial uses. The second use of the quantum computer’s power will be put towards solving problems related to optimizing quantum computing itself, both in terms of refining the systems and assembling arrays.
Advantages of this nature tend to be self-reinforcing and synergistic. The state that accrues these downstream spillover benefits of quantum computing in rapid succession could potentially leapfrog over everyone else to a degree not seen in centuries.
Or, to put it bluntly, a post-singularity culture is going to be heavily influenced by who gets there first. Akin to the way the geopolitics of the entire world is still influenced by the fact a few European nations sailed out and grabbed a hell of lot of land a few centuries ago.
The second article attacks one of the central bits of conventional wisdom about what the geopolitical landscape is going to look like over the next century or so.
A country is susceptible to a Communist revolution ONLY during a generational crisis period, and only when there’s a fault line between two birth-defined demographic groups, one of which is a market-dominant minority. The resolution of the bloody civil war is to confiscate the property of the market-dominant minority. There’s more than one way to accomplish this goal, some more or less dictatorial than others, but Communism provides one of the most convenient dictatorial templates.
The implications for China are also potentially enormous. The elders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been experiencing enormous panic and paranoia since 1991, when the Soviet Communist economy collapsed. They’ve been fearing for their lives, and rightly so.
Now another Communist economy is collapsing in Cuba, and I can only imagine that Beijing is watching this in horror — and well they should. Ironically, the CCP itself has become a birth-defined market-dominant minority in China, and with tens of thousands of “mass incidents” every year, they know that a full-scale rebellion may be close. China is forced to import huge amounts of food to prevent unrest among the peasants, but as food shortages grow and food prices increase, that can only go so far.
The mostly unspoken assumption about the future balance of power in the world is one of Chinese ascendancy. In fact, as we go through economic shocks, there are a dismaying number of economists and pundits who look on the authoritarian Chinese model with something akin to envy. But what if that model is as fragile as the one that held in Soviet Russia? What happens to the world economy, now that China is so well integrated into it, if China suffers a political meltdown, insurrection, or a civil war? What happens if all those factories building cheap electronics start burning?