The Fourth Frontier

In part, the perceived need for an update to previous discussions of the political process was triggered after viewing a number of videos, which this addendum only attempts to add some basic commentary. The first of these videos is entitled ‘The Fourth Frontier’ by Bret Weinstein, which the reader might wish to review for themselves before considering the following comments. However, it is highlighted upfront that this first video is not necessarily about politics, but rather about the implications that the ‘human condition’ may have on any attempt to control developments via the political process.

  •  In an opening statement, it is suggested that humanity has always sought ‘new opportunities’ that helped or improved its survival. One type of opportunity might be described in terms of migration into new geographies, with and without conflict, which then gained access to new resources. Another type of opportunity involves innovative technology that can help maximise these resources, i.e. both people and materials.

  • It is then highlighted that the historical record of these opportunistic events is invariably biased toward the storyline of the ‘winners’ rather than the ‘losers’ of change, such that the wider consequence of human action may not be immediately obvious. As such, reference might be made to earlier discussions entitled ‘Demographic History’ and ‘Human Impact ’ by way of a general historic appraisal of potential consequences of exploiting new opportunities.

Note: The discussion entitled ‘Economic Endgame’ may also provide another appraisal of future ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in terms of economic success, where the issue of growth versus sustainability is also questioned.

  • While Weinstein touches on the issue of ‘technical fragility’ in terms of nuclear power plants, this is considered a poor example, if the ability to mitigate its problems might reasonably be projected into the future – see Energy Developments for more details. However, the idea of some massive solar storm causing large-scale damage to the electrical grid is possibly more of a realistic problem that could seriously disrupt modern society, inclusive of its social, economic and political implications. In this context, the technical fragility might be equated to the adage of ‘four meals from anarchy’ .

  • Weinstein then raises two conceptual questions: 1) Is there somewhere to go, 2) Is there a path to go? However, while Weinstein answers ‘yes’ to the first question, he is uncertain about the second. As such, it might be argued that without a specific answer to the second question, he is simply discussing a ‘wish’ rather than an achievable ‘goal’ – see ‘Which Path to the Future?’ for some more options.

  • Weinstein then goes on to raise the valid point about whether humanity will only endorse radical change when it is too late to implement any viable solution. If we review human needs in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then it is entirely possible that action will not be considered until the basic survival needs of a powerful minority, rather than necessarily the needs of the majority, are put at risk by which time it may be too late to act. See Concluding Comments to the Population & Resources discussion for some wider details associated with the ‘path to go’ option.

In terms of some form of summary on this video, it might be argued that Weinstein is discussing a number of problems from a somewhat academic perspective, which are essentially limited to the present-day polarisation of left-right politics in the US. Equally, Weinstein may also be understandably reluctant to engage in further controversy given the current assault on the ‘freedom-of-speech in many left-wing universities, such that the issue of the population debate and the role of the majority in the face of future AI automation is not addressed. In the final discussion to ‘Brave New Worlds entitled ‘Closing Comments’, the following issue was raised, which it is assumed that many intellectuals involved in public debate might wish to avoid for fear of becoming the focus of ‘social justice warriors’ and ‘internet trolls’, who appear to demand conformance to some ideological notion of ‘political correctness’ , even though some issues urgently need to be debated in open-society in order to help guide future political policy.

“It is assumed that all possible ‘brave new worlds’ will still be defined in some way by the evolution of winners and losers, but where the idea of ‘winning’ may become increasingly dependent on ability and skills, rather than birth-right or simple luck. However, there is a distinct probability that developments in genetics and AI-robotic systems will act as a ‘wild-card’ in the evolutionary process of humanity, which might allow a small minority to function essentially without need of the larger majority of the population. If this proves to be the case, it will be a ‘paradigm shift’ between the past and the future, which will profoundly change the nature of human society. Again, many may be disturbed by the direction of this line of reasoning, and in truth they probably have good reason to be, as it suggests that some portion of the ‘larger majority’ may come to have a diminishing role in the ‘brave new world’ of the future, where an increasing number of functions might be carried out by AI automated systems. Of course, today, many will reject the possibility of this idea, let alone accept its probability, which is not necessarily unreasonable as what has been described is not certainty, but rather just one possible path that might be taken.”

As an evolutionary biologist, Weinstein is not necessarily directing his arguments towards any particular political system, although he might be hinting at the problems in any political system based on human nature and its evolutionary development. In this respect, Weinstein is highlighting an important consideration that does not simply disappear in the assumed sophistication of modern society, such that we might now turn our attention towards recent developments in global politics.