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20 November 2006

Centipede crawling

Science fiction author and futurist Bruce Sterling has been following the details of a fascinating variety of political / sexual scandals in a diverse range of countries – India, Israel, United Kingdom, and now the latest in PRC.

The most interesting aspects of these scandals are that what once would have required national level efforts to identify and exploit, and would have been subject to serious debate in the highest echelons of other nations, now is essentially being achieved by the independent activity of private interests within these countries themselves, and debated in the public forum. These are the modern variants of political warfare – but they are fratricidal and self-defeating.

While no doubt an offhanded comment, the idea of an opposition research wiki for the sharing of tactics, techniques and procedures is probably not that far off the mark. It is the open source exchange in the marketplace of political disgrace at work - war by other means. It is not a matter of formal conspiracies among those engaged in similar activities – it is a function of strong innovations in the market being picked up by competitors and applied in new markets.

Of course, the United States has had its share of scandal. But our democracy, at least, has proven that it is certainly resilient enough to endure. Less free regimes, or less robust government structures, face a far harder time of it. And frankly, at the end of the day, a domestic scandal here in America is just politics as usual. Overseas, it’s something interesting and worthy of study… whether considered part of the dynamic of super-empowered individuals, the smartmobby future, or the inevitable disruptions created by the sidewise application of technology….