“Geography is the stage and history the play.” — Tim Ball.
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The Third Sovereign Form
At the level of polity-organization-and-development there have only ever been two prominent and durable civilizational models: tellurocracies (land powers), qua Karl E. Haushofer, and thalassocracies (sea powers), qua Sir Halford J. Mackinder. Traditional conceptions of geopolitics fails to account, however, for the new and as-yet untempered form of polity formation and sovereign governance, which I term synnefocracy (cloud power), wherein the principal organizing, culture-making and governance occurs and develops (though not exclusively) at the level of the cloud. Like lampreys, they exploit apertures in political geographies, both concrete and digital, metallic and pixelated, machinic and vegetal to stack, scalar, over existing sovereign sums in spectral machinic linkage. Vines, silent creeping between the mortar of some aged manse.
This parsing of forms is important as even though all of the technologically sophisticated governments of the world utilize web-infrastructure for communication, storage, surveillance and a variety of other ancillary factors, none of them develop and govern through the cloud, which is to say, none of them (ostensibly) see digital geographies or cloud polities as real in the same way as the polities of physical geography. The distinction between the two, however, grows increasingly thin with every step towards ubiquitous computing, what Adam Greenfield describes in Everyware as, “Information processing dissolving in behavior.”
The private sector and numerous online communities operate, however, in a markedly different fashion, as not just the cultural and commercial, but the political ‘fibers’ of polity life are drawn together through the amalgamation of thriving communal-nodes which act as the principal mediator for the polity (which in the biospace include markets, cafes, libraries, sites of worship, homes, landmarks, roads, etc—and in cyberspace include websites and subsite venues, such as forums, comment sections and private, secured chat rooms—all of which are increasingly interwoven and thus, formally interdependent to the mediating subject).
Land-based powers, especially those culturally enmeshed within a manichean historiographic framework, are simply not culturally attuned to the maintained fluidity of such an enterprise; they guard against the incorporation of the technical into the cultural in so far as it is felt or, less commonly, explicitly determined, to be in disalignment with the geo-historical “arc” (movement along the path of the ideal) of the civilization, and, as such, ancillary, unless circumstance forces it to the fore.
In contradistinction, thalassocracies are far more inclined towards the protean and it may well be this very inclination which allowed the first proto-synnefocracies to arise from thalassocracies (namely, but not exclusively, the USA). The existence of these new forms are not simply speculative but objectively observable. ICBC, HSBC Holdings, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole Group, New Corporation (FOX, Times of London, Barrons), ViaCom (Comedy Central, VH1, Spike, Nickelodeon, BET, Paramount Pictures) are all extremely powerful organizations, yet they are not polity containers but cultural and economic mediators. In contradistinction, Alphabet Inc (Google), Facebook, Amazon, The Club of Davos, Open Society Foundations, the Omidyar Network, and other similar organizations are all, effectively, fiefdoms or semi-sovereign platforms which maintain their autonomy both through indispensability (or the guise thereof) to a pre-existing government and the appearance of relative harmlessness (Inc./NGOism, “we are just company”/”we’re just a charity” yet so rarely only just]).
Burgeoning ventures like the blockchain-based, decentralized Skycoin Platform, which seeks to create “internet 3.0” is another good example of a proto-synnefocratic organization. When one considers the pace of automation, the 70% of people, globally, who work remotely at least one day per week, centralizing potential of big data through AI and the potential applications of VR and AR (especially when paired with tangible holograms), a certain pattern of interconnective fluidity begins to form.
Distance from distance itself.
It may occur to some readers to conflate synnefocracy with a vague sort of cosmopolitan diaspora or vacationism, however, this would be a grave confusion. Diasporic populations, no matter how well organized, are, by-and-large, reliant upon the generosity and productivity of their host population(s) and as a consequence, diasporic populations are (generally) not sovereign (with certain exceptions, such as the Naxalites of India, who, in a understanding of the massive costs required to oust them from the jungles in the heart of the country, are allowed free reign therein) nor can they even entertain the possibility of sole (earthly) territorial authority (without revolution or integration into the corridors of power which risks assimilation into the host polity). Further differentiation can be found in the grounded dimension of a cloud power, as it wouldn’t be in any meanful sense “rootless” (a term which is often deployed in describing transitory peoples) but rather more rooted then potentially any other kind of civilization, as the infrastructure (and thus the land) necessary to accomadate it, would be extensive (allotments must be made for industrial infrastructure, servers, grids, power sources, homes, etc), yet they would be rooted in a different way than a traditional nation-state, which digs one hole very deeply and cordones off that space exclusively for its own purposes, whereas a cloud civilization would be able to modulate itself around and between exclusion zones, whether on, or in, land, sea or sky, that is to say, it would have numerous roots in numerous areas; more mycelial-sprawl than carrot-concentration.
- Meredith Whittaker. (2018) AI Now Report 2018. AI Now Institute.
- Radu P. Iovita et al. (2004) Reconstructing The Origins & Migrations Of Diasporic Populations: The Case Of The European Gypsies. American Anthropologist.
- Ryan Browne. (2018) 70% Of People Globally Work Remotely At Least Once A Week. CNBC: Make It.
- Stephen Johnson. (2018) The Employees At This $610 Million Company Work On A Virtual Reality Island. WEF.