Here's something useful to those of thinking about the future of conflict and society. Hopefully, this gets you thinking. I had fun with it.
"It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass
The Red Queen hypothesis (the name was taken from Carroll's book) is a simple concept from evolutionary biology that describes the evolutionary arms race between competitive species -- predator/prey and parasite/host. It was found by the evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen via extensive analysis of marine biological record. In short, it posits that the probability of extinction isn't a function of how long the species exists. It doesn't get easier or harder as time goes on. It's random. Which implies:
- Constant evolution is necessary just to stay competitive.
- If your rate of evolution falls behind your competitors: You die (become extinct).
- Your evolution must be relative to the evolution of your competitor. If they zig, you must zag (if not, you die).
The US, Globalization and the Red Queen
Since the treaties of Westphalia nearly 400 years ago, competition between nation-states was the primary driver of social evolution. The method or model of competition was between predator and prey and between predators, made stable through creeping global expansion (new competition) and a wide diversity of competitive models. That competition narrowed during WW2 and again through the cold war down to two keystone competitors, each with a different model/ecosystem. The US and the USSR. With the elimination of USSR as a competitor, the US social and economic ecosystem became dominant and now blankets the world through globalization.
However, as a result of this victory, the US lost it's drive/imperative to evolve. It has became increasingly stagnant as a social and economic system, and it is now merely a participant in the much larger global capitalist system.
The flaw in this set-up is that evolutionary competition NEVER stops. It just changes its form. In this case, since the global social system is now a singular entity -- capitalist -- evolutionary competition changed into a model of parasite and host (conflicts, reflecting traditional state vs. state predator vs. prey competitions, like those with Iran and N. Korea are a sideshow joke). Worse, the global system is becoming increasingly homogenous -- it expands via cloning itself and improves itself merely through incremental innovation and not evolution. In short, it has become a homogenous static target for parasites (the most vulnerable type of target).
So, what are the parasites to this homogenous global system? Networks. They range from financial/corporate networks (per the recent financial crash) to terrorist networks (al Qaeda, etc.) to criminal networks (narco-gangs, MEND, etc.). All of these parasites are post-modern in that they don't adhere to any meaningful ideology that can replace the state (even al Qaeda envisions a decentralized feudal Caliphate as an end game). They all are in the process of co-opting global system functions (host functions) to achieve operational space for the advancing their evolutionary advantage. Unfortunately, per the Red Queen hypothesis, a rapidly evolving parasite's competition against a static, non evolving, homogenous host likely results in extinction of the host.
The only likely process of evolutionary competition against globally systemic parasites is to decentralize core functions of the global system (resilience through scale invariance). The process of decentralization, one model being resilient communities, manufactures geographic and social heterogeneity. Heterogeneity makes it possible for the host to develop solutions to parasitic predation (be it financial, criminal, biological, technological, or purely violent disruption). In this way, any potential extinction event visited on the global system would be met by solutions emerging out of systems hidden in a socially/economically heterogenous geography. It's only in this way that a stable relationship between parasite and host can develop.
PS: This post is due to a lots of cross fertilization with my online friend Daniel Suarez, author of Daemon. IF you are interested in reading a fantastic near future sci-fi book that applies global guerrilla concepts, read Daemon (it's been optioned for a movie).