Mark Twain said “History never repeats itself but it rhymes”. So, what has changed in the technological landscape since the period of the protests of 1968 and today? Hyperconnectivity, AI and automation have certainly had a considerable impact and it is difficult to predict how the extent of this impact will evolve.
One area that could provide a clue is to look at the way US and UK governments have tried to coordinate a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, by thinking in terms of the move from “governing in private” to “governing in public”. Social media is relatively new and in politics it is increasing the complexity of governing in public. Factors may include hyperpartisanship of civil servants, but moreover time constraints mean government departments are incapable of processing huge streams of low signal-to-noise chatter. In other words, governments lack the technological infrastructure to handle the characteristics of big data; volume, variety, velocity and veracity.
What does this mean for American hegemony? An electoral shock in the 2020 US presidential election could lead to regime shift and the emergence of a new form of technocratic politics. Sold as “governing in public”, this form of technocracy may prove effective in an economic depression.
Today there is the likelihood of a global financial crisis and many are predicting the collapse of fiat currencies, in particular the US dollar. A technocratic government will start by offering the electorate critical public digital services and these will expand over time into useful “free” digital services. Governing in public means governing in real time and will be enabled by digital services outsourced to Big Tech. Like China, the US will introduce a central bank digital currency (CBDC) ushering in a new age of multiple reserve currencies. A technocratic government promising radical high-tech approaches to tackling climate change will become increasingly difficult to remove from office once in power.