Sunday, May 18, 2008

To be or not to be... Machiavellian

After succumbing to a friend's exhortations to read the very thick Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, I came away not only of an understanding of the birth of the digital age but also with the supposition that wars are merely chess games paid for with human lives. After the declassification of Bletchley Park's cracking of the Nazi Enigma codes and revelations that the Allied forces had already cracked the Nipponese encryption even before the Pearl Harbor attack, I wonder how long World War II was allowed to continue and even wondering if it has really ever ceased to exist throughout our Cold War era and into our current War on Terror. I guess my basic question is how long humanity will allow this Machiavellian existence.

Another friend of mine argues that Machiavellian human nature is as fundamental and unchangeable as Newtonian laws of motion. It might have been interesting to discuss that his laws don't apply to quantum mechanics, but the more interesting take-away is that we can never be so sure about the tenets we hold, whether physical or spiritual, and its absolutism.

What was behind the anti-Communist fury that has been propagandized in the USA for at the last fifty years? It was revealed by the AP today, that conservatively 100,000 Korean men, women and children were executed in 1950 in South Korea by their own government simply for being considered leftists. Right-Wing president Syngmun Rhee under the supervision of the US General Douglas MacArthur carried out this atrocity against his political enemies. This story has been suppressed for over 50 years. Did the US really go in to Korea to liberate it from Communists? Or, is it possible that we actually incited the Communist invasion in order to advance other interests that have nothing to do with improving the plight of Korean people. There is a valid debate on the ends justifying the means considering that I, myself, have enjoyed an excellent life here as an American citizen thanks to the quixotic trip of my parents and many others like them. But, clearly my parent's generation knew first-hand the plight of untold victims caught as pawns in this global chess game and chose their path. Where are you on the board? Can you make a move without knowing where your opponent's pieces are?

I've been looking at my own position on the global chess game for a while. Planning a technology start-up and unleashing a technology that moves us closer to an Orwellian future. Recently, I have been noticing that many futurists are very accepting of a world where you can google your shoes. Personally, I'd love to reclaim the countless hours lost looking for matching kicks for my boys just to get out the door. However, the ramifications of such a networked world is chilling when viewed through the lens of the 20th Century. How will Total Information Awareness be managed by the powerful? Having counter-culture thoughts and a cynical belief system has kept me underground. But, a new light shines where there was once, only darkness. Human history has given us many tools to understand ourselves even if we discover there is much more that is unknowable. What do I care if blogging or social network graphs etch my identity on the bathroom wall of human knowledge going forward? What I know now is that we all have the power or as the Romans called it, the potesta to change the world. I'm not afraid to make my move even if I can't yet see the whole board. Maybe it's worth investigating that "faith" thing people have been talking about for quite some time. I'm becoming a believer.