I studied international political science in college and have been struck by a slow burning realization: there are positive and negative tradeoffs between political systems and a one size fits all approach does not always yield the best results for a society. This realization appeared despite being taught that democracy is best or that socialism is best.
This idea came to me when I first read Robert Heinlein’s, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. A story about a prison colony on the moon that through unique circumstances was forced to adapt society and culture to the confines of their environments. Pure democracy and freedom was a luxury they didn’t have. In its place, their was a communal form of libertarianism mixed with a seemingly harsh authoritarian streak. The prison warden representing authoritarian rule and cultural norms and mores represented libertarianism. If you mistreated the few females on the penal colony, you were met with brutal mob justice.
Pure democracy wouldn’t have worked in this setting. How would quick and decisive decisions be made when debate is such a crucial aspect of democracy? In societal level life or death situations, democracy has high levels of inertia and friction that slows down the critical decision making processes.
That isn’t to say that a slow and debated decision making process is bad. It’s more an assessment that there are tradeoffs between socio-economic and political systems. Some systems are better suited for different situations than others.
I think a lot about this as I explore what it means to be a digital citizen. Digital life is the definition of a 1st world luxury good.
Having a baseline education and digital intellect is a prerequisite available to only half the worlds population. But as initiatives such as Starlink become active and the totality of earths population come online, how will our digital norms and mores change? Will the mostly democratic systems of the internet be changed?
The more I explore this concept the more I realize that on a western macro level, the internet is a democracy is shifting towards an oligopoly. A system dominated by FANG and several other massive digital companies.
What started as a digital frontier filled with idealists and first mover technologists has shifted with main stream adoption. The frontier and wild west style landscape has, like in physical history, come to be dominated by an organized oligopoly. A digital land grab is underway as large entities race to gather influence and clout.
How will it the internet socio-political structure evolve in the future? Is there an ideal system? Is it a decentralized form of libertarianism? Something like localism? Or will it be a massive structure of federalist digital society?