The western world is run as a very complex procedural matrix, where money is the driving force. But money does not actually exist, it’s a series of promises that we each have to hold to be true. We must want money in exchange for our work, and we have to believe that others will want our money in exchange for their work. It used to be that governments created money, but now it is banks that create the vast majority of money.
We used to use precious metals as the underlying currency, “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of one dollar (or pound, or frank, or mark, of peseta) in gold”, was how it worked, and then we decided that was not enough, so we made debt the underlying value of currency. Now when you go to a bank to borrow money for a house, they write in their ledger that they gave you $1M and you get a $1M of monetary house value in exchange. They know that you will most likely pay them back over the next 30 years at a level that means your $1M will be about $3M to them. So now they (the bank) are worth $3M more over the next 30 years (minus the risk that you default). Based on this increased valuation they can now lend out even more money, the more they lend, the more they can lend. This is how money is now created.
Every time you spend on a credit card, borrow money for a car, buy a house or anything else, you are increasing the valuation of the banks involved. If you ever wondered why car dealers prefer you to buy a car with credit rather than cash, it is because they get paid more if you do. Debt is now the underlying valuation of money. For the economy of the world to continue to grow we need to continue to buy more stuff than we have the money to buy it.
Our governments are now based on this cycle of increasing debt. Politicians are paid for by businesses to ensure that this model is maintained. This is not some strange conspiracy theory, but a powerful model that really is driving the world in ever greater things.
And this is an incredibly fragile system, it is quite easy for it to be disrupted. With a relatively small amount of effort the system can be broken. Look what has happened in the USA, by turning one of the major political parties into a cult of personality following a failed businessman who reinvented himself as a minor reality TV meme, the fragile balance of global systems was dramatically corrupted. And this is not to cast aspersions on the character of this particular president, but to show how quickly perspectives can change.
The concept of isolationism sounds positive, if you are a farmer living in the middle of the country. Why do you care about children in Africa or South America? They are not your problem. But that is not how it works any more.
The world is made up of many places that we cannot trust, so we have to invest in mechanisms to ensure we have some control over critical systems in all these places for a global economy to work. One of these investments was to have scientists working for the US government testing for new viruses in all the places where we cannot trust the local governments. We had CDC workers in China, Russia and many other places checking continuously for new diseases. These scientists were seen as an unacceptable cost on the newly isolationist US government under the new reality TV president. So he killed the program, fired all the expensive scientists, and expected the global systems to take up the slack. And they would have over an extended period (decades), but this left a gap in intelligence, just when a new virus first appeared in China. Because the Chinese government never shares bad news, and no one was in place to see it happening, a new virus was allowed to progress to global pandemic levels. Millions of people around the world, including over 600,000 in the USA and hundreds of thousands more in the countries of Europe will have died because of this lack of intelligence. It will take decades for historians to fully agree on the path of this disease and its origins, and how this story will be told will likely be influenced by who writes it (as is the way with history). But the lesson must be to recognize how important it is to protect the global economy with global investments that are needed to protect us all against the actions of every government, irrespective of our political views.
It feels good to believe that power comes from strength, and by having the largest military in the world you are the most powerful force. But with the fragility of the global economy it is the smallest of systems that create the biggest vulnerabilities. The internet was not designed to be a secure or private system, it was actually designed to be a method of universities sharing knowledge. Privacy, Security and even the transfer of payments were all after thoughts. And today we see this for the mistake to was, and while a whole series of new industries have grown up to counter treats in these areas, the underlying architecture is going to continue to offer significant risk. Every child learns how to defeat the parental controls used to stop them doing things every teenager wants to do. And these skills transfer easily to defeat all the protections any business can consider.
Now from the comfort of a chair within radio range of a WiFi hotspot anywhere in the world, anyone can spend the time to work out how to break into any system anywhere else in the world. And since most laws have territorial borders, you can do this with impunity. It’s relatively easy to mask your true identity, hide your location, find anonymized secret websites that offer the services you need to build targeted attacks on people and businesses. And the further you are from the countries you attack the safer you are. We have created the system that protects us within the borders of our own countries from our own people but offers almost no protection from those outside our borders. We have created the motivation for the poorest people to steal from the richest people, and in effect allow them to do it.
Eastern Europe and Asia now target the USA and Europe. This is a massive industry of motivated and well-trained people who make a living stealing, with near impunity. Next time you get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft alerting you of an infection on your computer or a voicemail claiming to be from the social security administration or an email claiming to be from a senior manager of your company asking for your immediate help because they are in a meeting with customers, know it’s most likely coming from a small business park in a small country you have never even heard of, and you are just one of millions of people receiving similar communications today. The people calling you are working in a business with all the costs of a business, and their product is designed to steal from you, and the person you are talking to, may not even know they are a thief!
Who would have thought this would become the largest business sector in the world?
And these new businesses are motivated to protect their futures, which they can do with a small investment in advertising on social media, and relatively small investments in corrupting the political balance in democratic countries.
In the past we knew who our enemies were, they lived in specific places, wore specific uniforms, spoke a specific language and carried flags. We could meet them at a specific place and kick the living shit out of them with sharpened sticks.
Now the enemy has a building in a business park, they come to work dressed smartly, they have a cafeteria, collect a salary and the protection of being in a place outside of the legal jurisdiction where they are attacking people. This is what the new enemy looks like, and while we can meet them on them virtual battlefield, we also need to meet them in the physical world. This is the next type of war, and if will make us all feel bad. Blowing up an office building in a poor country, filled with educated, well dressed people will not feel like a battlefield did in the past.
But our global economy needs a global infrastructure, with power, water, sewage, transport, healthcare, financial institutions, education, telecommunications, policing, military, power, food and more. All of these systems need to be protected from attack, both physically and through the virtual world. The virtual and physical worlds are now entirely entwined, and an attack on one is an attack on the other, they are now the same.
War will never be the same again.