One of the big shifts was from the medieval system of “mostly super-well-trained professional warriors ie knights matter in projecting military force” to “any warm body with a gun matters”. That gave the common people a new level of power and probably led to democracy and the democratic virtues of equality and freedom.
Slate Star Codex made an interesting point I've read elsewhere and have increasingly been thinking about: what if the gun is behind democracy? Small arms amplified the power of the people and shifted the balance of power away from those with capital. Knights, and training knights, was always an expensive endeavour. And if you think the Kalishnokov is not a politically relevant weapon then you simply haven't been paying attention to the news. Small arms make insurgencies possible, and insurgencies continue to bleed even the American hegemon dry of blood and treasure. Uprooting ISIS isn't going to happen without human casualties, no matter how much money and current technology is poured into that conflict.
Thing is: because of technology, we're ready for another tectonic shift: what happens when autonomous drones become comparable to human soldiers and police officers?
What happens when you have humanoid robots that could easily crush even the most dogged and deeply rooted insurgency? What happens when you deploy these machines into ghettoes and slums full of poor people? For riot control? Against protesters?
Rich people become Gods again.
He with the most robots wins. Robots come from money. Therefore he with the most money wins. What happens when a robot patrols the ghetto? If it kills too many people, you just change its programming and proclivity toward violence. If you think this technology won't be turned inward, against one's own people, then you're wrong. We've seen from the Iraq war that military technology inevitably becomes co-opted by domestic police forces.
Occupy Wall Street, the Viet Cong, the Taliban, ISIS, Black Lives Matter: all powerless against a combination of the 1% and killer robots.
If you think this is science fiction, you haven't been paying attention:
I saw someone else die today.
By the tenth or so time, it's no longer traumatic, if not quite routine. And when someone old dies of natural causes, it does takes away from the tragedy. Death is a part of nature, and we have a tendency to accept all natural things as being good, even if that's not really the case.
In the West, we've secluded death into sanitized, hidden crevices where we can avoid looking at it. With the exception of traffic accidents or the evening news, we've made the collective decision to ignore the terminal endpoint that is approaching all of us - admittedly, for understandable reasons.
And yet there are certain benefits to seeing death - which for me, is still an overwhelmingly surreal experience, fundamentally unreal in the sensorium of the moment.
Death is the great focuser of our lives: it forces us to concentrate on what's most important, and it forces us to remember the value of time. Time is something that's so easy to take for granted, and yet time is the very essence of life itself. What is life, other than a series of present moments?
I remembered today what's really important to me. I remembered the value of the people I love and the things I love doing, and I was grateful for that. I was grateful for the fall colours of the leaves I saw through the window of my gym, for my own strength and vitality, and for my own relative youth, even if it is quickly fading.
It's not a form of nihilism to meditate on your own impending annihilation. If anything, it is an offering, a realization of the miracle that is conscious experience, and an appreciation for the time that we have already had.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis