The increasing inequality in power

It seems to me that us poor and average people are missing on a very important aspect of social divides. The power in wealth is multiplied by the society’s technological prowess.

What do I mean by this? Here are three examples:

  • that robotic dog and the human shaped robots we build today are the police of tomorrow
  • the rejuvenating gene therapies of today are the few mathusalemic lives of tomorrow
  • our numbness to manipulation and corruption is the consequence-free life a few will enjoy tomorrow

I’m not gonna tell you another save your children story. I’m gonna tell you to be a time traveler who will fix the future now.

We’ll soon pass the age when being rich meant having more of the same. We’ll enter the age when being rich means having some of what cannot be had otherwise.

Technology and its skyrocketing advances enables this transition. If we still want to have a chance at class equality we have less and less time to enact our hopes.

We humans are a technological species. All we do eventually leads to civilisation leaps based on technological advances. The only times we manage to skip this cycles is when we bar access to information and hence limit our natural creativity in the process.

But, left to our own devices, we progress! And our progress always leads to civilisation leaps.

To understand this better, let’s look at what power is.

Power is an action.

The amount of power weilded is the effect of the resulting action. You cannot “have power”, you can only exercise it. There is no power at play in stationary systems. Power appears when systems have gains or losses. Power is one of the types of action that tries to nudge the systemic effects of the gains or losses towards meeting closed interests.

We must thus differentiate between:

  • power
  • the means of exercising power
  • actions in dynamic systems which are not about exercising power.

There are at least five means of exercising power:

  • authority
  • leverage
  • influence
  • wealth
  • information.

All these are not power in themselves. They do however give a good glimpse at the potency of their possessors. Potency is the potential of the power, what we expect the size of the exercised power to be. So a person can have potency. But none of the means of exercising power are describing an individual. One cannot be powerful nor can they be potent, except in the physiological senses of the words.

Power is a product of its means.

An influent person gains less power from technological advances. A high reputation person gains less power from technological advances.

The wealthy gain the most. This happens because technological advance is quickly plataued by distributed innovation. All advances are afterwards directly dependent on research funding and efficient resource costs.

For example, the power given by wealth is multiplied by influence. A person that wins the lottery weilds very little power compared to a CEO with a comparable wealth. Another example, the power given by infomation is multiplied by leverage. An inventor weilds a lot more power if their invention enables cold fusion. They’re having therefore the leverage of the value of all the world’s means of energy production. A worker has more power if the market is short on his skills. Wealthy politicians, which have the authority of holding office, are more powerful than less wealthy ones. And so on and so forth.

With this in our minds let’s think of what technology brings to the powerful. It is in itself a multiplier of all the means of exercising power. The reason for this is not that technology is having a property that makes it so, the reason is because we are a technological species. What we exist for is to create technology. It’s a bet of evolution that technological creativity can withstand time’s arrow and we’re made on the blueprint of this bet. That is why, indifferent of our wars, loves, losses and wins, we have plowed ahead into improving via technological advancements our chances to keep on existing. This is why we, the people of 2020, root for a billionaire’s Mars reaching dreams.

In this context imagine a world where we keep advancing technology and keep the same social order of today. Fascism isn’t even close to describing it. Fascism is small by comparison because it only had propaganda as means to keep masses in check. Techno-neo-liberalism will have behavioral claws so deep into classes’ psychologies, and so little use for social mobility to clean their existence and operate their order that our seemingly dystopian fantasies will be within arm’s reach.

How come we trust people to handle such power?

Are we mad?