Fear of Covid led to lockdowns, remote work, location arbitrage, competitive governance, and accelerated the digital transformation. All these trends now converge, creating an unstoppable wave of human migration and change. People are moving for a variety of reasons but especially for their political beliefs. As these trends continue and converge, they build momentum and will lead to the end of the nation-state as we know it.
Here’s how it will happen, why it will happen, and what it means for the world.
This is where we’re heading, whether you like it or not.
The world is going through a radical transformation in how we live, work, and form relationships. Deep down, you know this. It’s a feeling that life today is not how it was yesterday. A feeling that life won’t be the same in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Yet most people don’t understand what’s happening.
The good news is that it’s not impossible to learn where the world is heading. We just need to learn about the technological and psychological trends taking place today.
These trends might seem unrelated, but they work together beneath society’s surface, driving us towards an inevitable outcome. They move the world from a mass formation society to an unbundled society with an emphasis on individualism, localism, and digital integration.
Countries will balkanize, splitting apart into unique segments as people migrate to new places in pursuit of their ideological needs. And in the process, we’ll see global conflict, more fear, and newfound desperation for authoritarian policies.
This is the first of a series of essays that cover the trends that get us there, why they’re happening, how they work together, and what these changes likely mean for the future of the digital age.
Remote Work & The Internet Are Foundational Trends Worth Paying Attention To
Remote work and the internet are at the core of many of these changes. They lead to the following social changes, feeding off each other and acting as force multipliers that accelerate change.
- A new class struggle is forming between remote, digital, and location-independent incomes vs location-dependent incomes ie: it’s a struggle between a new, mobile social class vs a geographically restricted social class
- Location Arbitrage & Competitive Governance are created by the new social class which is able to leverage mobility to extract value from society in unprecedented ways, forcing governments to adapt
- Technological Progressivism vs Conservatism is an embedded concept in this class struggle, ie: there is a fight over social norms and mores, a desire to change norms and moral codes according to the emergent class needs vs keep things as they’ve been for 80 years
- Minimal Government and Strong Civil Liberties vs Authoritarianism as the class divide emerges, the world will experience confusion, fear, and anger, leading some to want government intervention ie: does everyone have a right to free lifestyle design, or will some lifestyles and beliefs be banned?
- Globalization vs Isolationism as this class struggle emerges those that seek more authoritarian control over lifestyle design will reject an integrated world for an isolationist mindset ie: an integrated world vs a fragmented world
Fear Is A Catalyst For This Change
Remote work evolved in response to expanding mobile access to the internet. The smartphone, cloud computing, and global video chat were a few changes that made remote work possible. But the advance of remote work was slow and restricted to “Digital Nomads”.
Then Covid happened and accelerated the adoption of many digital trends..
Fear of Covid accelerated the push to remote work because of the role collective fear played in transforming society’s wants and needs.
Keep in mind that fear is one of the most powerful motivators of human action and inaction. It’s one of the main reasons people give more power to governments in times of crisis. It causes us to willingly give up our civil liberties in exchange for a sense of security. And this is exactly what was at play during the height of Covid.
Fear of Covid caused workers and governments to pressure corporations to adapt workstyles to allow for remote work across society.
This was a huge acceleration of the remote work trend and it led to an interesting outcome when combined with the realities of lockdowns.
Remote Work & The Tech-Enabled Exit Creates Foundational Changes
Remote work helps people use what’s called a technology-enabled exit. Ie: if you can work remotely, you can pretty much live anywhere. This causes remote workers to reevaluate their wants and needs and can causes them to relocate to places that better meet their desires. Exiting one place for another, using remote work technology to maintain continuity of income.
This process of moving from one place to another to gain value is a type of location arbitrage. People are now assessing the value of living in one place versus many other places and then deciding to move to the place that provides them the most value.
At the societal scale, the tech-enabled exit and the desire to exploit location arbitrage are combining to reshape society.
It leads to competitive governance. Where politicians and governments that want to attract certain groups and repel others design policies along specific ideological lines.
Perhaps the most popular example of recent competitive governance in the time of the tech enabled exit has occurred in Miami and San Francisco. Mayor Suarez and his pro-technology, red carpet approach to attracting people versus the San Francisco “woke” progressive movement which is driving the tech sector away in favor of other belief systems.
Another important example of competitive governance is the variety of longer-term nomad visas appearing all over the world.
The point is that remote work is changing how people, businesses, and governments co-exist.
Fear, Remote Work, & Shifting Preferences Cause Society To Unbundle As People Migrate
Now tie fear of Covid, remote work, the technology-enabled exit, location arbitrage, and competitive governance together. And you’ll start to see from a high level how society will split along new ideological lines.
Covid scared people and that fear led to lockdowns, which in turn led to widescale remote work. A large number of people now had the ability to decide to relocate to locations with less strict Covid policies. A location based arbitrage that only remote workers could benefit from. In contrast to the many people that despite lockdowns, still had to earn a living doing physical or location based work.
As we learned from the Miama/San Francisco example, some governments are happy to have lax Covid policies while others are happy to have strict policies. Reinforcing the competitive governance trend. But more importantly, unbundling society from having only a few options to many options.
And when people are afraid, when their priorities change, and when they have the ability to move, they choose to do so. Especially when they are presented with viable alternatives.
And so as these concepts begin to blend into society’s makeup, a migration has started along ideological lines
The point is that these trends are converging, interacting with each other, and leading to an active migration of people along a growing number of ideological reasons.
Unbundling Society From Mass Formation to a Fragmented World
So what does any of this mean? And why does it matter?
These trends are best described as the unbundling of late industrial society. They take us from a mass formation societies with a few common identities and belief systems to a fragmenting society with many ideological beliefs and morals. This was a trend already underway as a result of the internet and global connectivity. Remote work, the tech enabled exit, and Covid policy divergence just poured fuel on the fire.
Although most migration has taken place within the domestic borders of nation-states, some migration has occurred on an international basis. And as a result of digital connectivity, this has led to the growth of globally dispersed digital communities.
What this means is that although you may be a republican in a state with progressive views, you can still live in your ideological bubble online.Connecting wtih your ideological peers online. And ultimately, building bonds that might entice you to use the technology enabled exit to relocate to live with your ideolgical peers
This isn’t just an unbundling along political lines. It’s an unbundling of thought across many aspects of society. From a few ways of living to many ways of living.
And this unbundling via migration is happening fast. You can already see it in migration data: The ‘Big Sort,’ again: Americans are moving for political alignment : NPR
The point is that communities are forming that are geographically dispersed but digitally connected. And as the internet creates more lifestyle options, people are taking advantage of those options, and it’s leading these geographically dispersed communities to relocate together.
These migrations along ideological lines challenge and weaken the unifying forces of nation state societies.
A Neo Medieval Society Forms
A locally dispersed but digitally connected society causes political and policy-oriented problems. Loyalties are split across the world, oftentimes positioning local beliefs against digitally dispersed and global beliefs.
And this “neo-medieval” phenomenon, when combined with Covid policy preferences, remote work, and the tech-enabled exit reinforces the migration trends underway.
These trends are at the core of the digital transformation of society. They are the lens through which we must analyze many of the policy choices and reactions made to these policies.
The point is that digital trends cause people to form bonds with digital and globally dispersed communities. And these bonds create friction between the needs of the state and the needs of the digital community. This creates policy challenges and can lead to conflict within the nation state model.
As The World Unbundles, Authoritarianism Rises In Reaction To Change
We can see countless examples of how neo medievalism is fraying the bonds of the nation state.
Like when Justin Trudeau enacted emergency powers in Canada to crush an oppositional movement. These powers entitled the government to arrest and freeze the financial assets of protesters and their supporters. A policy that bifurcated support along Covid policy, civil liberties, and location dependent vs location independent income streams.
It was a push towards authoritarianism, which is the nation-state’s autoimmune response to neo medievalism. Where once nation states were culturally homogenous, they are now increasingly diverse. And this diversity is pulling at the fabric of what binds national communities together. Common geography and national pastimes are increasingly not enough to bind us together. Only the suspension of civil liberties and enforcement of common identity can do that.
Canada, New Zealand, Australia, US Progressives, China, and Russia. All have shown in recent times examples of shifting policy towards authoritarianism to consolidate control. To keep the influence of the state from eroding under the pressure of globalization.
The point is that as beliefs and cultures are no longer tied to geographic regions, nation states will struggle to maintain political unity. And they’ll increasingly suspend civil liberties of minority groups to maintain the integrity of the nation state.
Society is Balkanizing
So where does this all lead to?
All the trends above inevitably lead to a balkanization effect for many of the nation-states of the late industrial age. Ie: where nation states break apart into smaller states or regions.
There will be some major exceptions like Russia, China, Japan that either have more authoritarian structures already in place or strong historically homogeonous cultures strongly tied to nationalist roots.
These nations are able to censor and resist neo medievalism more effectively. This balkanization effect is an explanation for why countries like Canada willingly adopt authoritarianism. In essence, to hold on to national identity countries will increasingly restrict and censor oppositional beliefs. That’s why David Sack’s social credit score essay is important to read and understand in this context. Governments that are in jeopardy of balkanization because of remote work and the technology enabled exit will adopt social credit systems to control and maintain national sovereignty.
The grand point is that remote work creates the technology enabled exit. The internet supports geographically dispersed communities and loyalties creating neo medievalism. And the tech enabled exit in a neo medieval world leads to the balkanization of nation-states, and the reactive push towards authoritarianism.
All These Trends Lay The Foundation For What Comes Next
These trends and the societal changes they bring are what incentivizes decentralized, digital infrastructure. ie: bitcoin, crypto, and the Web 3.0 community.
To be clear, decentralized infrastructure is a byproduct of fragmenting national communities at the hands of growing decentralized digital communities. It supports the growing needs of geographically dispersed communites increasingly under attack by the authoritarian autoimmune system of the nation-states.
In the next essay, I’ll cover more on how decentralization is critical to a balkanizing and more authoritarian world. And how these trends ultimately lead to the formation of new neo medieval communities.