Predictions for the new millennium
By Agner Fog, january 2000
In my book i have claimed that my theory of cultural selection is useful for making predictions. Since people have challenged me to do so, and since the start of a new millennium is a perfect time for making predictions, i will here show that cultural selection theory is a better tool for making predictions than a crystal ball.
Major regal and kalyptic factors
As described elsewhere, a regal factor is a force that makes society more authoritarian and bellicose, while a kalyptic factor is a force that makes the culture more tolerant. The analysis must start with an identification of the most important selective factors:
- International war will be rare in the future because of the intervention of the
international community and because the cost in terms of interrupting
economic and technological connections between countries will be too high.
Civil wars will still be common for more than half a century as part of the
process of disintegrating regal blocks in the Arabian countries, China, and
several other regions.
- Immigration from poor and regal regions is a major regalizing factor in
Europe today, and will continue to be so for many decades to come.
- media panic
- Fierce economic competition forces mass media to focus on dangers,
horrors, and other bad news. This is an important regalizing factor in the
USA today, and this factor will gain increasing strength in Europe and
everywhere else as economic liberalism generates a global market for news media
based on free economic market forces. Eventually, the need for independent
funding of news media will become so obvious that intervention and
regulations have to be implemented. But until the major news media become
effectively independent of irrelevant commercial interests, media
competition will continue to be a very strong factor shaping the political
and social climate.
- Terrorism and hostage taking is connected to media panic. The intense
media focus on the suffering of hostages may force decision makers to give
in to the demands of hijackers and terrorists, and thereby encouraging new
terrorist acts. Media attention is increasingly being recognized as a
precious and limited resource, and terrorism remains a very effective way of
gaining publicity, though certainly not sympathy. Consequently, terrorism
and hostage taking will be rampant until international conventions be
implemented to restrict the media attention or new weapons be invented to
effectively stop terrorists.
- economic crisis
- The economic system in the industrialized countries is based on growth.
There is a limit to growth, and when this limit is reached we are likely to
see a major economic crisis with a significant regalizing effect. Since
there is plenty of room for growth in the developing countries as well as
advances in information technology and biotechnology, it will
probably last several centuries before we hit the roof.
- ecological crisis
- A complete exhaustion of World resources is so far ahead that there is
time for implementing effective means of recycling resources of all kinds.
But another hazard is more threatening: Genetically engineered organisms may
spread in the wild and disrupt ecological balance. Such a disaster is very likely
to happen sooner or later, but it is impossible to predict when. Mass media
may exaggerate or depreciate the problem, but it is likely to have some
regalizing effect anyway.
Kalypticism culminated in the Western countries in the 1970'es thanks to the absence of war and the end of colonialism and imperialism. These countries will remain fairly kalyptic but with some regal tendencies due to the abovementioned factors.
The Arabian countries, which have been very regal, are undergoing a fast kalyptization thanks to international forces preventing war, and thanks to the general modernization. This will lead to serious riots and witch hunts in these countries during the next several decades, but eventually these countries will adapt to a modern lifestyle. The same will happen in several other regions, though in most places it will be less violent. India will be among the latest empires to disintegrate, because the arms race with Pakistan will keep it moderately regal for a couple of decades more.
China will undergo a development of 'glasnost' similar to the recent history of the Soviet Union. Parts of China will revolt and become independent states, as it usually happens with old empires. The economy of China will be much better than in the former Soviet Union, because China has had economic reforms before political and social reforms. For this reason, China and some of the seceded states will become an economic superpower.
All in all, the World will be more peaceful in the new millennium. The many international wars that have plagued the millennium of the one thousands, will almost disappear in the two thousands. There will be no third world war. But intranational wars - riots and civil wars - will still be common for most of this century. And so will international terrorism. The World will become more homogeneous due to improved communication, and r/k differences as well as other cultural differences will be leveled out. The rate of population growth will go down due to kalyptization and less poverty, and before the year 2100 the World population will be decreasing and will continue to do so.
Religion will be less strict everywhere in the World because of kalyptization. The successes of science are making the religious world view less important. Religion will increasingly become a matter of personal taste, where people pick different ideas from different religions and put them together to make their own personal belief. The main function of religion will be as psychotherapy, and the boundaries between creed, alternative medicine, healing, astrology, and psychotherapy will be blurred.
Mass media and the public agenda
The mass media will soon become the most important power governing the World. In the situation of competition on a free market, the media will focus more and more on pushing the most sensitive 'buttons' that appeal psychologically to the audience: food, sex, danger, and children. Media stories will focus on persons rather than abstract principles. Everybody will compete for exposure in the media, and politicians as well as everybody else with a message will do crazy stunts in order to attract media attention.
The senselessness of this situation will only be understood by a minority of the population. Non-commercial internet sites and a few non-commercial TV-stations run by idealists will provide an alternative and more serious source of news to a small intellectual elite, while the majority try to relax in front of the commercial TV-stations that bombard them with sense impressions at a breathtaking speed, where the boundaries between advertisements, political propaganda, entertainment, news, and information become increasingly blurred. There will be a movement for making news media independent of commercial interests and this idea will cause major conflicts.
The media profit from exposing new dangers and dramatizing the emotions of sufferers of all kinds. This tendency will soon escalate into absurdity due to the fierce economic competition between media. Highest on the social agenda will range all kinds of dangers, diseases, food poisoning, injustice, poverty, famine, natural disasters, and all kinds of crime, including sex crimes, corruption, random violence, child abuse, elder abuse, organized crime, and terrorism.
In the face of a highly emotional media campaign against any kind of evil, the politicians have no choice but to grant more money to the cause in question and propose new legislation. Prioritizing public budgets simply doesn't fit into this emotional agenda. The result will be more prisons, bigger hospitals, more spending on traffic safety and all other kinds of safety, more restrictions and control of food quality, more policemen, psychologists, physicians, lawyers, etc. etc. - And of course this will inevitably lead to ever higher taxes.
Stricter safety measures will be seen everywhere in society: Dangerous sports will be banned and replaced by simulations; there will be severe restrictions on tobacco and alcohol; transportation will be automatic and independent of human drivers; and there will be synthetic foods because the quality of natural foods is difficult to control and because the natural production of food may cause animal suffering.
The fast kalypticizing of the more regal countries of the World is likely to lead to counter reactions in the form of witch hunts and moral panics. Possible scapegoats are, as usual, ethnic, religious, political, and sexual deviants. However, human rights rhetoric and exposing the suffering of the scapegoats will give witch hunters a hard time finding a scapegoat that everybody can agree to hate. Consequently, new imaginary or non-human boogeys will be invented, possibly science-fiction inspired such as aliens, genetically engineered monsters, or robots with artificial intelligence.