Escape Velocity (Book Cover)

Mark Dery replies:

I fervently hope so. The question is whether or not the bugs in the American experiment -- the longstanding disjuncture between democracy's keystone belief in equality and inalienable rights and capitalism's historical tendency to redistribute wealth upward and pursue the bottom line with little concern for social responsibility and other moral trifles, at disastrous human and environmental cost -- will finally cause it to crash.

Moreover, in what one writer has called our "winner-take-all society," the economic divide between the tiny tier of Michael Eisner-ian digerati where wealth and power are concentrated and the minimum-wage, service-sector masses is widening, not closing; what was once a philosophical hairline flaw (between democracy and free-market capitalism) has turned into a yawning chasm.

Democracy only has a ghost of a chance if we snap out of our collective trance and realize that the "end of politics" breathlessly anticipated by the corporate futurologists lionized in Wired is merely a blind for the final triumph of a radically deregulated market over the democratic process. A quote from Stewart Brand in Paul Keegan's New York Times Magazine feature on Wired is highly instructive: "As Brand told The Los Angeles Times not long ago, expressing an idea Wired roundly endorses: 'I think elites basically drive civilization.'"

The democratic ideal, at its heart, is unreservedly egalitarian, and I find this creepily elitist Dictatorship of the Nerdoisie thoroughly repellent. All of its flaws notwithstanding, the democratic nation-state is the last, flimsy, frayed firewall between individual rights and utterly unregulated corporate power, answerable to no one. I, for one, would rather a constitutional democracy joystick my future than the "out-of-control" cybercapitalism so dear to the New Age technocratic elite.

Brainstorms Tomorrow Mind to Mind