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Internet Autocracy

Article at The Conversation on the internet as a centralized form of media that can be exploited by authoritarian regimes, particularly among citizens using it primarily for entertainment.

My comment:

I believe that the jury is still out on this one. One of the factors that fueled international respect for authoritarian regimes was external propaganda. Leaders of developing nations were beguiled by the perception that state-run economies and militaries were equally effective as those managed by decentralized cultures. The internet completely skewers that façade.

Most authoritarian regimes are sustained by revenues obtained through labor and resource exploitation by the developed world. As the consumer nations shift to automated and sustainable alternatives (respectively), those revenues will dry up. The old Roman dictum “bread and circuses” fails when there is no bread. When there is no bread, people will be forced to organize in a decentralized fashion to obtain basic goods. The internet will be the mechanism that facilitates that organization.

And there is still the lesson of the Cold War: if the international community can avoid creating external conflicts to justify the fear-mongering, the investment in lies eventually divorces the leadership from reality. The internet only provides the appearance of greater efficacy. The people learn to go about their business independently by pushing responsibility upwards. The retort is always “I’ll do it, boss, if you show me exactly how.” It’s like that scene in Life of Brian where the two prison guards stutter and garble words until the interrogator leaves, then start speaking coherently.

In the meanwhile, liberal societies will rocket ahead using the benefits of network effects (the value of a communications network goes up as the factorial of the number of participants). In the era of rapid change driven by global climate stress, that facility will be essential to survival.

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