Creative destruction

For a civilization to live long and prosper, it needs to continually re-invent itself. This is never easy. It requires deconstruction of the very same accepted truths, structures, and relationships that built and made the civilization prosper in the first place. The incumbents at the top of the existing pecking order will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo and their privileged position in it.

Visionaries who give birth to a new world order are outsiders, outliers. They are often demonized as dilettantes, criminals, or pirates. The struggle is often subtle and complex. Incumbents pretend to embrace the emerging world order in a subterfuge to later subvert the new system, neutralize changes detrimental to their interests, so that the new order ends up with the same power structure as before.

Not all deconstruction is creative and beneficial. Some are a step back rather than forward. Sadly, there is no way to see this in advance. What lies at the end of a revolution is a great unknown. At the end of the day, an idea whose time has come is unstoppable. It takes no hostages and brings underlying and festering conflicts to the fore.

The periods of upheaval and transition are most precarious and precious in a civilization's life. They could lead either to the next golden age or sudden death. These periods, more often than not, are ushered in by disruptions brought by leaps in the advancement of technology.

The same goes for an individual within society. Personal deconstruction is always painful and dangerous but is necessary for us to grow.

Black Swans

Most of the significant events in our personal and collective lives are black swans. Black swans are extremely rare, and unpredictable events that have disproportionately large impact. After they happen, most pundits fall prey to cognitive biases and construct ex post simplistic narratives and act as if these black swan events are predictable—which they were not and are not.

Our lives are largely ruled by non-linear randomness which our minds are unwilling to accept. Instead of embracing the beautiful richness of the unknown, most people would rather suffer being confined in the scarcity of the known. Life throws curve balls at us. Painful as they may be, they force us to break out of this confinement.

Technological realism

Science fiction fall either at the extreme end of an inevitable utopia or dystopia. There is a middle ground of technological realism. This middle ground considers technology not as inevitable but inextricably intertwined with ethics and politics in a contested cosmopolitan community of rights. Decisions on what technologies are to be initiated, funded and developed and how these technologies impact the greater community rest on the aggregated choices of everyone as individual moral agents.

The big questions of technology are ethical and moral. This becomes a challenge in an age of growing moral relativism and weakened moral compass of the people. Decisions today spring more from share prices and opinion poll ratings rather than a carefully considered weighing of competing values.