A few years ago we were looking for a relatively small amount of money to invest in Pachube. EU VC said: there is no busines case. That may well be still, but the message we got is there is no EU mentality, responsability or ‘style’. There is no attempt to keep EU startups European. The idea that Europeanness might be a set of values worth fighting for does not have a strong voice in an elite.
The notion of what constitutes an elite can change as does its nature. It has acquired a kind of negative connotation associated as it has become with the idea of quality and exclusion. As if it takes heritage, money or a set of fixed qualities. I would like to argue that this superficial analysis was always problematic as elites historically have been very diverse, in flux and organized around a particular intelligence or sensibility if you will- that was able to read the sign of the times.
It has always been the task of elites to be a bridge between old sclerotic systems and sclerotic people clinging to solutions tuned to past situations and the breakdown and bloody revolutions pregnant in the rising contexts rearing threir heads and getting worked up as they see no productive and joyous way into the contexts as they appear to them.
Rarely have elites aspired to rule themselves and when they did it was always fatal as for better or worse its members make lousy dictators, lousy democrats, lousy revolutionaries, lousy whatevers as the Nr. 1 position that is implied in all these former actualizations does not suit them. In those days of strategy and tactics, time operating on the side of the young and ‘new’, space on the side of old and invested powers of place and resources, all was clear and in the open (even if it was hidden).
We see the remnants and pathetic outro’s of this particularly stupid way of looking at reality (in Ortega Y Gasset’s assertion that time and space are the absolutely stupid aspects of the universe) by the security and military sclerotic forms of ‘intelligence’ as their sad and futile attempts to guard an item level security in the days of lilypads running on t-shirts, leads them to believe that ‘security’ can be found in harvesting every item and bit of data on the planet. No real intelligent elite can even contemplate to work for such deep misunderstanding of what life, living and feeling secure is about. Hence Assange, Chelsea Manning, Snowden, Jeremy and mamy more to come and respect to them. Creativity and intelligence is leaving or not even entering, inevitably leading to obsessive compulsiveness and paranoia as those who stay were never the most open and bright in the first place.
Feeling secure entails the human capacity for dealing with adversity and unforeseen circumstances. Create an environment in which nothing ‘bad’ can happen and you create a generation without resilience, creative impulses and need to innovate. Feeling safe has nothing to do with feeling safe.
Rarely have elites been timely and decisive. The German Kreisau Circle has laid some theoretical foundations it can be argued for the current paradigm of local and peer to peer, as it focused on an extremely decentralized Germany in an equally decentralized but still united Europe, building on a horizontal scaling of local communities that would share infrastructure and resources. This mix of Christian inspired philosphers, Army officers weary with SS brutality (but a large part of them did not condone the Blitzkrieg), and German nobility adhering to a certain syle and strong values of service, was not very well organized but was the logical context for the von Stauffenberg attentat and subsequent brilliant conception (but lousy execution) of hiding a revolution within an existing official plan for countering a revolution.
The Russian Beseda Circle loosely organized itself some fifteen years before the 1905 Winterpalace massacre that turned the popular tide fully against Tzar Nicholas II. It consisted of a wide range of extremely conservative nobles, socialist and liberal gentry as well as the oldest families in the Russian Empire united in their common belief that withour real reform and real changes in the decision making structures of the country it would lead inevitably to bloodshed and breakdown. These were no Kropotkins or Tolstois, they had no anarcho-communist vision at heart and were largely motivated by self interest. Yet they made the same analysis as the anarchists, Lenin and the communist revolutionaries. There was no more common sense nor balance in the systemic architecture of their time that could be supported by a convincing structural belief system from which an everyday ethos for practical living could be derived and sensible business models could be deducted from. The story had dried up, the protagonists were no longer believable to the audience nor the critics, the actors nor the author and even the props started to complain.
The Beseda Circle was not able to organize a space where all parties could feel comfortable for a while. Although not persecuted by Nicolas (the members were too close to him) the Circle was banned and would never be productive. For the anarchists and communists it was nearly impossible at that time, without data, without an internet, without social networks, without cheap hardware, software, data space storage and analytics, to see that there was a deep common interest between the Black Hand and the Beseda Circle. And as a new ontological space was born, it was filled with blood and violence and petty minds.
Let’s learn from these examples.
Last year I was invited to the GFF Forum in Rome by the US State Department and the Italian Intelligence Community to talk about Internet of Things. The outcomes of the breakout sessions of the somewhat 150 intelligence and security professionals describing the 5 major current threats were one military, two DIY biology and twice the total breakdown of society because of the inability of the state to deal with the digital was the key scenario. Among the most important threats in terms of individuals and groups a new figure had arrived on the scene: the superempowered individual who because of cheap investments of time and the cost of an url or twitter profile could build up a presence in the world in a pervasive way; omnipresence at the cost of a fistful of dollars.
Rarely have elites behaved so extremely responsibly, as they do now. These superempowered individuals are not only growing in number day by day, they are also organizing as they deeply favour cooperation over competition, sharing over isolating data, simple pleasures over expensive luxurious showoff, and the best and brightest among them have allowed their egos to be broken and their wings clipped lest they keep stumbling like Baudelaire’s albatross through scene after scene century after century. They are deeply unweary of monitoring every step they take as this will just show that they work hard, live simply and try to do the ‘right thing’ within the grey zones of their individual agency in every practical setting. We pick litter from your streets! I don’t see them calling for revolution. I don’t hear them advocating stop paying taxes or dues to this dying and deeply rotten capitalist system. No, they start up open hardware everyday appliances on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, no longer believing in macho one size fits all ideologies. They crave a different kind of buzz in deed.
In fact there is a new Beseda and Kreisau Circle forming and that is the Internet of Things itself. It is an operation of the scale and scope of fire, wheel and book as it operates in the liminality of all types of activity; it is connectivity itself. It is therefore not unusual to have usecases on health, predictive maintenance, smart dust, IpV6, smart home and city, RFID slaughtering, OneCard pilots (shop, park, home…) co-existing in a single day of an IoT Conference. IoT is itself the new Circle, drawing everything in an equal data reality. Biased? Sure. Potentially better then what we have now? Personally I say yes. I do not have to convince you. You either see it or you don’t. See you when you get there!