The Information Technology Complex
In 1961 President Eisenhower’s farewell address included a warning about the “Military Industrial Complex.” While most of us are familiar with his warning, it’s important to remember the ramp-up to this part of his speech. Eisenhower starts by praising our military. He points to its necessity in stabilizing the world and protecting the United States.
Eisnehower doesn’t seek to make the military a “boogyman.” Instead, he takes a moment to point out that the military industrial complex is wholly “new in the American experience” and something “we must guard against.” Specifically, Eisnehower says we must be vigilant that the 3.5 million members of the military and the larger apparatus do not have “unwarranted influence”… in the councils of government…. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
The Industrial Age is Over
We no longer live in the industrial era. We are in the information era. And while the military industrial complex persists, what we’ve seen at the end of the Trump presidency is the power of the Information-Technology Complex.
My point in naming the “IT-Complex” isn’t to chastise the decision on January 7th to remove the sitting president of the United States from all major online communication channels. Instead, I want the fact that it happened so smoothly from a power-politics perspective to sink in. There was no IT struggle. The president was banned. He joined Parler, the one social media site willing to host him, and that site was subsequently squashed. The highest seat in our Executive branch didn’t stand a chance.
When we look at this specific instance it’s easy to shuffle along. The justification was there. Moreover, he’s a lame duck president, perhaps making the choice to remove him easier (again, from a power politics perspective). But it’s also important to note that the same tech billionaires we put blame on for various societal ills are the people we’re praising for this decision. This is the Catch-22 of our moment. To praise this move means that the IT Complex moves closer into the halls of government.
This isn’t an isolated move from the IT-Complex either. In addition to the standard fair of being big corporate donors to both parties, tech companies are finding all kinds of ways to “secure senior roles for tech allies in lesser-known but still vital parts of president-elect Joe Biden’s administration.” The revolving door is now AI powered.
Clowns To The Left of Me
We should have many fears. We should fear the rise of militia/terrorist groups. We should fear anyone who poses a threat to the peaceful transfer of power that is a cornerstone of our Democratic Republic. But we should also fear any organization that can take out world leaders.
The Coming Battle Will Be for IT Infrastructure.
The new Mason-Dixon line will not be drawn on physical land. A secondary IT infrastructure will be created from the ground up to host dissident, underground, radical (whatever you want to label them) content creators and social networks.
If we cannot provide a an infrastructure built for a large coalition, then we can expect a kind of internet balkanization. What social site and web host you use will become a political act. Even worse, there won’t be “neutral” parties or acts. If that’s the case — the “war” won’t be fought over inches/miles of land, but minds/hearts. This will be a propaganda war like nothing the United States has ever had to fight.