Jay Graber Profile picture
13 Sep, 14 tweets, 2 min read
“How a great power falls apart: Decline is invisible from the inside” This article covers the work of Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik, who, uniquely among his peers, recognized the system was headed for self-destruction. 🧵
Countries decay only in retrospect. The “comfort cult” is seductive. As a result, when a terminal crisis comes, it is likely to be unexpected, confusing, and catastrophic, with the causes so seemingly trivial... that no one can quite believe it has come to this.
A blueprint for analytic alienation: start with the most unlikely outcome you can fathom and then work backward from the what-if to the here’s-why. The point is to jolt oneself out of the assumption of linear change.
He was concerned with how a great power handles multiple internal crises - the faltering of the institutions of domestic order, the craftiness of unmoored and venal politicians, the first tremors of systemic illegitimacy.
A way to think about political cleavages - observe which portions of society are most threatened by change and which seek to hasten it, and then imagine how states might manage the differences between the two.
Society was becoming more complicated, more riven with difference, more demanding of the state but less convinced that the state could deliver. What was left was a political system far weaker than anyone was able to recognize.
No one ever thinks their society is on the precipice. “Everybody is angered by the great inequalities in wealth, the low wages, the austere housing conditions, the lack of essential consumer goods.”
Great powers set themselves apart from the world, and imagine themselves immune to the ills affecting other places and systems. “This isolation has created for all… an almost surrealistic picture of the world and of their place in it.”
“Yet the longer this state of affairs helps to perpetuate the status quo, the more rapid and decisive will be its collapse when confrontation with reality becomes inevitable.”
Amalrik identified four drivers of this process in the Soviet Union: 1. Moral weariness from interventionist, never-ending warfare. 2. Economic hardship a prolonged military conflict might produce, 3. A government increasingly intolerant of public discontent...
and 4. An elite that calculated that it could best guarantee its own future by jettisoning its relationship with the capital.
“Soviet rockets have reached Venus,” Amalrik wrote toward the end of his 1970 essay, “while in the village where I live potatoes are still dug by hand.”
In working systematically through the potential causes of the worst outcome imaginable, one might get smarter about the difficult, power-altering choices that need to be made now - those that will make politics more responsive to social change.
In life, as in politics, the antidote to hopelessness isn’t hope. It’s planning.

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More from @arcalinea

27 Sep
It's Saturday night. There's nowhere to go. So my partner and I went looking for interesting things on the web. Thread of interesting sites:
You can track sharks and see what they're up to. Here's a shark named David hanging out near New Caledonia
What the heck is this site and what is it about? Idk, there's fairies. Enter to find out. campoallecomete.it/#!/en
Read 9 tweets
24 Sep
Consensus reality has fractured into hypernarratives. Narratives told through networks, narrative databases in which many threads can be followed, all spinning a strand of a worldview which may never be clearly articulated, but envelops its participants in a dense web of meaning.
This sense of reality fracturing into polarized, competing factions, generating self-reinforcing echo chambers of belief, is the experience of intersubjective truth splintering as social media becomes the primary media.
Broadcast media produced grand narratives. Hypertext media produces hypernarratives. They are produced by many narrators, and the details may shift and change as the story grows. What holds them together are shared motivations and a sense of shared identity among participants.
Read 10 tweets
14 Sep
This new era should be named the Heliocene, instead of the Anthropocene, for when we first directly tapped the energy of the sun. - cover story of @NautilusMag by @S_Praetorius Image
We should reconsider the name we give our future - how it may subtly steer its trajectory. The Holocene is determined to have ended around 1950. The radioactive spike associated with nuclear testing is both global and unambiguous in the events it represents.
But around the same window of time, humans also reinvented a way to directly capture energy from the sun - previously the singular achievement of photosynthetic organisms. In 1954 Bell Labs unveiled the first silicon photovoltaics, the prototype for solar cells today.
Read 4 tweets
12 Sep
I want a widely adopted decentralized identity standard to push user identities down the stack to make room for innovation on top. Thread:
Social networking evolved as an emergent property of the web — Web 2.0. It allowed people to create and consume content easily without building and maintaining their own websites.
Now, the social graph has become so fundamental to our relationship with information that it has begun to subsume the rest. A lot of people explore the web and get news primarily through social apps - they’re a sense-making infrastructure.
Read 13 tweets
11 Sep
Purple garden: purple potatoes, purple carrots, purple beans. Image
Pretty purple carrots. Image
Purple potatoes and beets. It looks like eating a chunk of amythest. Image
Read 4 tweets
9 Sep
Trying out @_slate, a new decentralized filesharing interface. Runs on @Filecoin and @textileio. Very pretty.
The best Dweb products won’t put decentralization front-and-center. They’ll Just Work, and the p2p aspects will fade to the background, like early Skype. With the current design direction I could see this evolving beyond filesharing into its own category.
@wwwjim is this going to be something like are.na with a p2p backend? Because that would be really cool
Read 4 tweets

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