We need new leaders – a better elite, a better ruling class.
So says Patrick Deneen, a Harvard social scientist, in a discussion of his book, Why Liberalism Failed. While we would disagree with him (we don’t need any leaders, nor an elite, nor a ruling class) it is nonetheless instructive that the elite is calling for its own abolition. This can only be a good thing.
Coincidental with Deneen’s call for an assisted suicide of the ruling class, we noted two significant recent examples of the new wave of the elite questioning itself, one in politics and one in technology.
An “Exotic” Nationalist Questions Radical Centralization.
Ryszard Legutko is a university professor who represents Poland’s conservative governing party at the European Parliament. That’s about as elite as it gets in Europe.
But Professor Legutko questions the status quo, and uses some challenging language in doing so. For example, he states that “the European Union reflects the order and the spirit of liberal democracy in its most degenerate version.” As a result, “the EU doesn’t merely have individual dissidents in its midst, but dissident states”. (Just like the USA has California.)
Poland is one such dissident state. It is currently involved in a dispute with the EU central body because Poland wants to reform its legal system (80% of the Polish people support the reforms, according to Prof Legutko) to get rid of Supreme Court judges who “faithfully and shamelessly served the communist regime”. Legutko sees the reform as surgery to remove this dead tissue from the rotten corpus of the judiciary. The EU disagrees because, Legutko says, it is liberalism incarnate. “A liberal is someone who will tell you, I will organize your life for you. The Poles refuse to have their liberty organized for them, and are therefore branded by the elite as stupid, dangerous or both”.
Legutko’s term for Poland is that it is an”exotic” country in Europe. The term is one of opprobrium, hurled at the country that is trying to throw off its communist past to enter the community of Western nations. The Western elites will not welcome the return of a prodigal if it refuses to conform precisely to the norms of the liberal establishment.
Legutko doesn’t think it’s because of what Poland does “wrong” that the country is so criticized and so ostracized. It is “because of who we refuse to be”. The feeling that there are different worlds and different cultures, unlike the one the elites live in, “is disappearing because of the homogenization of Western culture”. The elites are very intolerant, which is why Poland is searching for new leadership.
A Technology Prophet Predicts An End For The Delusional Ideas Of Silicon Valley.
We’ve been persuaded to think of Silicon Valley as a pinnacle of innovative technologies and the home of the leaders of the tech revolution. George Gilder thinks they’re delusional and will soon be replaced.
“The Google paradigm of massive data centers and artificial intelligence determinism will be transcended in the next era”, which Gilder believes is starting right now. The advances in machine learning that Google trumpets and preens about really are just advances in the speed of processing. It’s not super-intelligence, it’s just the same intelligence accelerated to terahertz speeds.
According to Gilder, we will leave behind the big tech view that there’s an inexorable Darwinian model that allows the big winners to take all. But the GAFA conglomerates will dissolve, and the clouds of concentrated computing and commerce will disperse. “We’re moving beyond digital and silicon to carbon nanotubes with hybrid chips and sensors and 5G antennas everywhere. Even money is being disaggregated and reinvented. The clouds are dispersing into the skies – sky computing rendered on your laptop and smartphone, spread across blockchains, transparent and transformative.”
There are new leaders for this new architecture. In an interview in Forbes, Gilder mentions several, starting with Vitalik Buterin who created Ethereum, “an amazing new computer platform based on a new blockchain that he…programmed with a new computer language and financed with a new currency….based on a new unit of computational value”. Gilder assesses Buterin as one of the great figures in today’s world economy, leading a global movement, raising money for an array of new inventions, new distributed systems and new architectures.
Austin Russell, founder of Luminar, appraised all the current systems for self-driving cars and realized that none of them could produce a functional vehicle that would survive amidst the myriad conditions a car actually encounters on the world’s roads. He started from scratch to build a 50-fold better system based on new frequencies and new chip technology.
Thomas Sohmers started Rex Computing as a 16-year old, and is completely changing chip architecture. All these leaders and all these advances are coming from outside the normal channels. These entrepreneurs are outliers. They are defying “the Silicon Valley centralization of leviathan companies that chiefly buy up their own rivals and buy up their own stocks with zero-interest money pumped out by central banks”.
The New Leadership Will Come From The Bottom, The Edge, The Outliers, And Wherever The Elites Don’t Expect.
These examples – the political and cultural dissidence of Poland, and the tech dissidence of Ethereum, Luminar and Rex Computing – share the common attribute of anti-elitism. They are attacks on conventional wisdom. The new world never looks like the old one, but the established elites can never realize that fact.
Patrick Deneen wants a new elite. Much more likely is the emergence of a system of no elites, and no ruling class. The change will come from the bottom, not the top. It will come via radical decentralization and radical individual innovation, not from top-down reform. It’s already in motion.