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Brexit and future tech

With a close eye trained on Brexit and contemporary Britain’s place in a fast-changing world, Science Co-Editor Luke Richards makes clear his opinion on how our nation should be hoping to stay relevant. Luke posits some undeniably interesting suggestions as to the nature of the world we’ll very soon be living in…

The most disappointing thing about Brexit so far has been the complete lack of original thought to guide it, meaning the entirety of the country’s political expenditure is being spent on our standing still while the rest of the world whizzes on by.

This is why I’d much prefer to see a Minister for Exiting Earth, rather than the current Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

During Theresa May’s Florence speech outlining her Brexit strategy she told those assembled that “this is an exciting time, full of promise”- and it is. From artificial intelligence to space exploration, the near future could be remarkably different from the world we currently know.

While Britain deals with its sovereign insecurities, the rest of the world seems to have somewhat more impressive plans.

If we take the conservative estimate that Brexit, and its subsequent disruption, will be done and dusted by 2030, then we could witness some of the following developments: robots performing 30% of British jobs;  Elon Musk on his way to colonising Mars; our brains hooked up to high speed 6G data networks, and Luxembourg mining asteroids. Humanity seems on the precipice of achieving nearly unimaginable things – which is exactly why the monomaniacal focus on the past by some of those around us must be thoroughly challenged.

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has said Brexit will be more difficult than the moon landing- a poor metaphor, since this is something Britain would outright fail to achieve on its own.

As an idealistic 20 something, I believe the time spent on Brexit would be far better utilised by building a large intergalactic arc. Such a device could be used in the event of an emergency, such as the widespread collapse of human society caused by global warming, to ferry us off to pastures new.

My suggestion is that we turn Lands End, essentially just a benign clump of rocks at the end of the Cornish coast, into a large electromagnetic ramp like space elevator we’re able to launch this space-arc from.

This should wean the Cornish folk from the EU’s teat and give a relatively backwards part of the country gainful and future-proof employment.

Plus, we can Brexit all we like to try and keep foreigners out, but migration is going to hit hard once whole nations start collapsing under the stress of a warmer planet. Perhaps the only way to preserve the last vestiges of British culture is indeed by colonising space, though none of the Brexit squad seem to have so far shown this level of foresight.

Britain should not latch itself to baseless rhetoric around a global, outward-looking, free-trading nation – because that’s not how it became the dominant force of its day. A country truly fit for the future will again be an empire on which the sun never sets: the most dominant hegemonic force in the galaxy. Her Majesty’s Naval Service should grasp the spirit of its past and immediately launch a space fleet into this arena.

And so rests the case for creating the role of Minister for Exiting Earth.

Yet, our leaders are failing to lead. The country drifts with no real aim. The Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci spoke on the crisis of weak authority, stating that “the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

While the country’s populace struggles with the world moving too fast for them, the state has chosen to grasp furiously at the foundations of its statehood and flap aimlessly as the tide of modernity ceaselessly moves it along.

Brexit is its morbid symptom. It looks to a past that doesn’t exist to grapple with an unknown future. The void created by such an interregnum has become filled with delusional fantasies read from a script written in a world that has simply moved on.

This comes as no surprise. There’s a certain faction of Brexit diehards leading the country towards this miasmic political and economic maelstrom that run purely on an antiquated notion of what Britain is.

They’ve bred themselves silly through institutionalised greatness. From school to high political office they’ve been bred to lead, and to lead the world. To the rest of us they throw bones and scraps.

During the process so far not once have they offered the country anything that would inspire anyone with an eye on the future.

Let us speculate on that future for one second. If, as some predict, 30% of British jobs are taken by AI, and they’re not rapidly replaced, the need for the state to protect and provide for those who are made redundant would greatly increase. You could call it a welfare state of sorts.

This would directly challenge the neoliberal orthodoxy of the swivel-eyed sect of the Tory right, led by the repugnant Jacob Rees Mogg: those who harbour desires for post-Brexit Britain to become Europe’s premier laissez-faire-gig-economy-like-regulation-free tax haven.

The future needs more, not less, collective action. The world around us is becoming ever more complex, which sees problems and their solutions becoming resoundingly global in nature. Large chunks of the planet are coalescing into regional blocks so that people can try to successfully mitigate against some of the issues that keep getting dumped on them.

Britain instead chooses to go it alone. Such short-term thinking is exactly why we’ll have no space fleet, because we do not possess the European sized industrial base needed for it to flourish.

It’s why we’ll install 6G internet aeons after everyone else, for austerity’s sake. It’s why every modicum of AI led automation will see the country pushed into Dickensian-esque levels of social being, as if Dickens had written Oliver Twist after mainlining humanity’s collective sci-fi oeuvre.

Our Minister for Leaving Earth should be busy making Star Wars look like humanity’s past. I want to deal with Brave New World levels of dystopia- I don’t want Britain’s whole political expenditure directed by some Nigel Farage bloke whose only notion of self seems to be based on irrational conservatism and nicotine stained photo opportunities promoting booze and fags.

Fuck that, I want to take my booze in pills and jack myself up by jacking straight into my brain. I want to watch C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

Sure, Europe is far from perfect, but it’s nearing Brexit’s time to die, and we should herrald its death with a focus on change far beyond that which is currently being offered. We shouldn’t be standing still trying best to replicate all we currently have but in a slightly more British manner, just to placate old people.

The world will change whether or not we want it to, and one nation alone is not going to stop it- to quote Philip K. Dick, ‘reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away’.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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