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Money, Corporations & Information: Rise of the Hive Mind and 21st Century Global Nation States

07/11/2013 12:34 pm ET | Updated Sep 10, 2013
  • Robbie Gennet Writer of words and music, rider of waves, author, educator and world traveler.

When you view a map of the world, each country is defined by its physical borders, which basically subdivide the entire planet into independent states that coexist with one another in a variety of relationships, from peaceful to aggressively hostile. But the 21st century brings into focus the power and reach of different independent entities that don't adhere to our traditional ideas of what constitutes a nation state. Just like the traditional enemies of 20th-century wars morphed into an amorphous terror movement, the new global nation states are seemingly liquid entities that operate everywhere and pledge true allegiance nowhere. Their geopolitics applies to the whole planet, not one section of it, and their cultural ethnicity is the "currency" by which they exist in the first place. The world is their state and their charter is their nationhood. Three examples which represent this in its most base form are Money, Corporations and Information.

The global ebb and flow of money has undulated for eons. It is only in the past few hundred years that we have been able to move money not just faster around the globe but, with the advent of digital money transferring, instantaneously. Corporations as we know them might have their roots in 17th-century mercantilism and 19th0century holding companies but the modern age has afforded them masterful levels of influence spreading as well as depth of reach. Indeed, most transnational corporations have successfully spread and accounted themselves into vast and sprawling entities that no longer remain loyal to just one country and it's tax situation. But the last example -- Information -- has undergone the most radical revolution that, while mirroring aspects of the others rise to global reach, is undergoing a transformation that is undeniably unique. It is also the one most likely to upset the balance of power and control on this planet in what Julian Assange calls "The Coming Age of Involuntary Transparency," which is mostly already here.

Move past the stone tablets, Guttenberg's press and the Pony Express. Past the telegraph, the telephone, the television, the fax, all that. Just thirty years ago did the inkling of the Internet as we know it come into being and it was the '90s before it really started to take hold and spread. Think back to the last time you mailed a letter to a friend versus the last times you texted, emailed, Facebooked, Tweeted and Skyped. Information has mimicked the digital instantaneousness of money and become a global commodity. As ideas and data are shared, they are accessible at that moment by anyone online. And knowledge, unlike commodities, makes a fairly permanent impact on whomever receives it, even by chance. A thought once absorbed even briefly is near impossible to forget or un-know. This data revolution has accelerated as computers and connections have become more proficient, leveling the playing field for knowledge acquisition unlike any previous time. And by fostering mass connection in the analog world, our digital nervous system helps us in putting that knowledge to work to change the world.

The revolutions we've seen in Egypt, Brazil and elsewhere are being experienced in real time with millions of people worldwide, soon to be billions as more connect to what is becoming the planet's digital brain. We are all neurons in this brain and we are all increasing in power and numbers while our synapses (digital connections) also improve in speed and capacity. And as we build in this fashion, we begin to respond in tandem, communicating, reacting, witnessing, voicing, contributing and disseminating not just information, but the experience and reaction that goes along with it. As we experience this, we begin acting like a hive mind connected by empathy from feeling the similarity of the human experience with millions of others. And it is perhaps empathy and compassion that is undergoing the most monumental shift in connectivity and spurring collective action amongst our species. Don't underestimate the power of love.

Do you recall three years ago during the Iranian Green Revolution when a woman named Neda was shot and killed on camera? Millions of us watched that video of her dying and at that moment when her last gaze met the camera lens, we all gazed back. This intimate and tragic connection was one of the biggest moments in our collective experience at the time. But the sheer amount of connectivity to people and information that we now face is literally unprecedented in all of humankind in both breadth of available information and the speed and ability to access it in real time. As we move from the Age of Information into the Age of Data Aggregation/Parsing, we will (with help from millions of apps, programs, algorithms and interfaces) be able to instantaneously utilize that data better than ever before at speeds that mimic our own brains. Barring a complete shutdown of the global internet (and despite the digital surveillance going on) the information genie has shattered the bottle. What we do with all this information may decide the course of history; right now, people are awakening on all sides of the world. Those rising up are wise to the game and they are demanding justice and freedom from those who have long sought to subjugate their fellow humans. The 1 percent may have most of the money but the 99p percent have the sheer physical numbers. And while the people literally riot in the streets, the bankers and traders sit behind their proverbial fortress walls conducting business as usual with little incentive to self-regulate or change. Such is the power and allure of money at the speed of light.

With money, we've seen global connectivity go into overdrive with High-Frequency Trading, which has taken the human element out of the markets and in its place put hyper-fast automated algorithms which are trading so quick and in such small increments that it is almost impossible to see what is really going on. (This video takes almost six minutes to portray one HALF-SECOND of high frequency trading one just one stock.) We see flash crashes happen as algorithms go haywire and entire markets rise or fall while investors turn from long-term growth and stability to short-term volatility and statistical arbitrage. And many of our brightest mathematical minds have gone to Wall Street to help them fine-tune this mad machine. It is beyond gambling; it's just a sick vacuum sucking trillions of actual value out of the economy a sliver of a cent at a time. Money has changed drastically from its original physical form and value. Capital used to mean silver and gold; now it's credit. Digital currency has a potential for manipulation and fraud that paper bills and coins never could. And no counterfeiter could make a fraction as much as a hedge fund operator or Wall Street CEO. Not even close.

Coupled with the rise of the new currency came the rise of corporate power and its sway on the worlds governments, who have become increasingly unwilling to prosecute and regulate it. Corporations unprecedented abilities to use their power and wealth to shape laws to their favor and influence policy and politics can only be tamed by effective government regulation and/or free market pressure. This can only happen from the bottom up with a loud, clear message from an informed and active populace who not only petitions their government for change and votes for better leaders, but also uses their consumer purchasing power to give or deny companies their business. So far in the U.S., we've seen a dangerously misinformed and active segment of our Caucasian populace rise up under the Tea Party banner, plus a promising (and more broadly-based) Occupy movement that seemingly fizzled out without changing much of the status quo at all. But what we haven't seen is the kind of mass uprisings we see on all other sides of the world. Yet. And while the bigger picture seems to elude the masses in America, tides can and do turn, sometimes as quickly as a match striking dry kindling. The rest of the world may show us the way and lead by example.

There are so many ways which we can unite via our common causes, purposes and most importantly, our future, chief among them our damaged environment and the lack of will of our governments to act quickly to stop harming it. We must stop from killing our only home. But the forces that divide us depend on the majority of the populace remaining unaware of the forces that could unite us. In every action we take to connect and unify, there is a great chipping away at our divisions and a movement towards a better country and world. For those growing up in a digitally connected world, the planet feels less like a collection of disparate peoples and more like a single home for the human race. The birth (or rebirth) of global humanism and our digitally-enhanced collective consciousness will spur the greatest mass movements for human/civil rights ever seen. And though the mass media may try to take our focus off these events, reality will eventually come to a boil. The question is not if, but when.

I'd like to leave you with a short list of a few more things that constitute global power without borders: wind, sun, love and truth. As Mahatma Gandhi so elegantly remarked: "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it -- always."

"When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can't eat money." -- Native American saying

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