Saturday, July 11, 2015

the open conspiracy


physorg |  With memories of World War I still very much on his mind, in 1935 HG Wells wrote The Open Conspiracy, which advanced a new approach to the perennial problems of human aggression, national conflict and political inertia.

This , as envisaged by Wells, would be a revolutionary movement that reflected the new spirit of the times. "Never before" he stated in the opening paragraph, "have the conditions of life changed so swiftly and enormously as they have changed for mankind in the last fifty years."

Reading Wells today one might be forgiven for experiencing a sense of déjà vu. The changes he identified were, as are those we face today, largely the result of technological and scientific advances. The telegraph and increased communication had shrunk the world, just as the internet and digitisation has done so for us today. Yet while science forged ahead, politics and morality lagged behind. The Open Conspiracy filled the ideas vacuum left by the failures of parliamentary democracy and socialism.

Conspiracy in the open
Wells suggested that, unlike conspiracies of old, this would be a visible conspiracy grown from below rather than led from above by an elite. His conspirators were "the most sane and energetic people" – anti-militarist in orientation, actively subversive of government and traditional institutions that perpetuated the folly of tradition. They would be drawn from different disciplines: banking, finance, and the sciences – and dedicated to spreading scientific knowledge worldwide.

Wells described his conspirators as awakening from an illusion, made possible by the almost instant exchange of information and a new method of organisation that would map the activities of the whole community. At the centre of the Open Conspiracy was "the brain of the modern community, a great encyclopedic organisation, kept constantly up-to-date and giving approximate estimates and directions for all the material activities of mankind" – which rather sounds like a view of "big data" as seen from the 1930s