Earth from Space - Author Philip Oldfield

Divided the world will fall like the Roman Empire

Much like ancient Rome, forces sowing destruction, discontent and division, plague the world, underpinned and undermined by an abundant wealth of inequality that arguably, in history, has had no equal.

Shear forces left unchecked will inexorably result in the collapse of societies and the implosion of civilization turning inwards as the world erupts and unravels in chaos.

Building higher and higher walls, stronger and stronger borders, ever more vigilance and surveillance, whilst the established status quo of the world order remains unchanged, will not save humanity from itself.

There are other ways for the world to live in agreement. We need to speak with one voice, merge our energies, bring our strengths to bear. Or should we wait, tinker at the edges until the poisonous concoction humanity has created is drank to the full, and much like ancient Rome, when it was sacked by the Visgoths in AD410, passively and separately watch the world decline and fragment for 500 years or so until its days are finally over?

World under siege

From all fronts come threats to the world’s lands, oceans and atmosphere: deforestation, desertification, the warming of the oceans, extreme weather conditions and the ongoing mass extinction of flora and fauna.

Imagine a world where eco-systems implode and pests undergo a population explosion as natural predators decline or die out.Imagine a future harried by rampant pandemics, unchecked by the decreasing efficacy of drugs, too ineffective to prevent human decimation. Then magnify the suffering because of the ongoing and uneven access to basics – home, food and water. Mass human migrations would dwarf the movement of people fleeing the Syrian civil war – like wilder beast on the Serengeti – so imperiled by famine, poverty, wars and revolutions they must either flee or face the harsh cosh life is swinging their way.

Meanwhile, the destitute, forced on the move are likely to have their human rights ‘trampled’ by those who choose to see some or all as a threat, rather than recognizing, but for the grace of where we live, it could be you or I.

Without effective planning, without resources – finance, work force and infrastructure – the destination countries would be overwhelmed. It takes little imagination to visualize the ensuing chaos, nor the burgeoning calls for protected borders in the destination countries to stem the flood of people, the arrival of which could be used as a justification to burst the banks of democracy and sweep away more freedoms and civil liberties.

Humanity put to the test

Our humanity for humanity is constantly tested. Civil wars, proxy wars, or land grabs and torture by ISIS, all have become a daily digest in the news. So much so, unless we are the ones affected, it can mostly pass us by as we walk by on the other side of the road and continue with our life’s own struggles.

Is civilization not on the brink, teetering on the edge of being unraveled? The yarn, the laws, which holds us together and the strength and courage we undoubtedly have in our humanity to stand up and fight for humanity – is being torn down, whilst ‘Rome burns.’

Is civilization not on the brink, teetering on the edge of being unraveled? The yarn, the laws, which holds us together and the strength and courage we undoubtedly have in our humanity to stand up and fight for humanity – is being torn down, whilst ‘Rome burns.’

Fences surrounding prison camp - Author - Philip Oldfield
World awash with money - Author - Philip Oldfield

Yet more join political parties and charities as activists, all working within the framework and mission of their own groupings and organizations that exist in the world.

It is the separateness of the goals which result in weakness. Strength lies in unity. Together we can hive our demands for change, to coin a hackneyed phrase – to go back to the future… of the planet.

This is not about rowing back from technological ingenuity, nor about sacrificing our lives to the totality of AI in the future. Nor is it a call to focus on population control or hark back to some nostalgic era – an age of sail, or adherence to one or more universal religions.

Rather, if we all had ears to hear, we might imagine it as a call from the heart of the planet.

Rather than growth, rather than fragmentation and competition for power and control by individuals, non-state actors, nation states or regional and global super powers and rather than stripping assets from companies and the planet - the world collectively, needs to act and choose another path. But how?

World is awash with capital

Bain and Company (2012) argue the world is awash with capital.

"... the volume of total financial assets will rise by some 50%, from $600 trillion [$6,000 billion] in 2010 to $900 trillion [$9,000 billion] by 2020 (all figures are in US dollars at the 2010 price level and market foreign exchange rates), even as the world economy increases by $27 trillion over the same period."

There are over 1,600 billionaires in the world and 14.6 million millionaires, with a combined wealth of over $7.05 trillion and $56.4 trillion respectively. The world’s top 2,000 companies profits in 2014, were $2.64 trillion.

The annual costs of action... a little over $2 trillion.

  1. End hunger - $30 billion 
  2. Provide access to clean water and sanitation - $535 billion
  3. Vaccinate and immunize against major diseases - $8 billion
  4. Develop new vaccines to combat emerging threats - $2 billion
  5. Tackle climate change: Stern Review and Statista

It is time for a combined, global effort by humanity for humanity. It is time to pave the way for the World's alternative future. It's nearly midnight and the fees are now due. We really are in the last chance saloon.

Philip A. Oldfield

Refugee behind fence - Author - Philip Oldfield
Artificial Intelligence - Author - Philip Oldfield

This is the tragedy

The rise of fascism in all of its guises around the world feeds off chaos, injustices, sows fear, creates and harnesses apprehension and stirs followers to follow their unholy paths. The alienated feels wanted, are given meaning and rally to the calls of megaphone hyperbole that offer simplistic solutions to multi-causal problems.

Technology solves everything... 

Into this growing onslaught is the ever growing – some might argue, insidious – presence and integration of artificial intelligence (AI): watching, guiding, enhancing and distracting humanity from the complexity and hand-on reality of living and managing our world.

In fifteen years or so, some forecast, AI will have replaced over half of the current jobs available. The net will be cast far and wide in the pool of labor, from professionals to caring staff to manual, farming and factory workers, all will be drag netted aside in the drive to increase productivity.

Historically of course, as one revolution follows another – agricultural to industrial to technological – old jobs are replaced with unforeseen new ones. Pity the workers caught in transition waiting to surf the next wave of new employment opportunities as capital switches flow and moves location in search of ever increasing profits.

The world may well create employees as flexible as credit cards. The risk is, as AI swipes away the need for workers, there will be zero interest from the market in the human workforce.

If so, and if society and civilization’s fabric is to hold together, then a new way of ‘earning’ a living for people will have to arise.

Then again, why worry? If leading thinkers, such as Professor Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates  are to be believed, and I tend to, then humanity will live to regret ceding overriding power and control to machines which one day, maybe before we even realize, could become sentient and view us as the problem.

What’s most frightening, AI will understand our micro-habits, know and predict what we will do, think and say before we are conscious of it. Outwitted, we could become the problem hunted.

Let’s face it though, maybe as a collective, we are the problem. Only we aren’t either. That’s the paradox or maybe not, for wealth, power and control lies in the hands of the ‘few.’

Social media and moral panic

Its widespread use enables the crowd to express and mobilize discontent, to demand change. However, it has also become the playground of trolls and of rampant lynch-mob mentality exposing the ugly side of humanity.

Change, aided and abetted by use of social media has been massing on the borders of the established world order since the fated Arab Spring. Only since then, the people of those countries have largely squandered or been forced to abandon their power and instead have been divided and, in many tragic places fragmented, fighting one another for… wealth, power and control.

Whilst the Middle East and Asia fractures, region and global military powers fight proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and I hope never, in the South China Seas, social media is what we turn to, to voice our thoughts… our fears and our dreams of what might be.

Some march, others rally or petition governments.

The Fall of Empires - opinion of Philip Oldfield - Author of novels with strong female protagonists.

​​​Don't stop reading. I need you to understand what they have done!