The United States of the World
Silicon Valley has a fun dinner party question that’s gone around over the years, and it goes something like this: “What is something you believe that no one around you believes?”
It’s an interesting thought exercise to see if you only keep beliefs kept by those around you (or if you have any original beliefs of your own).
My friend, Martin, and I were talking about this around 2014 — and my answer to the question three years ago was that I did not think we would have 50 “United” States over the next 25 years forming one union, and that states and regions of the country would begin breaking off from the US within that time period. But my reason for believing this is not because of the reasons you might think.
I think this outcome will come about because of increased cooperation, trust, and harmony — not because of conflict, discord, or media-manufactured hate.
Like a child growing up and moving out of the house, in a move of maturity, I think the continued trend of actually understanding our interdependence (while recognizing the decreasing need to officially band together) will breed a world of increased efficiency, increased cooperation, and decreased nationalism — to the point of not needing large, empirical imaginary lines that keep us in lock-step together.
I realize the media-fueled national discourse is anything but a positive backdrop to this post, but mainstream media has a century-long history of missing key trends as they’re happening and focusing on the negative.
So why will the US split over time?
Well, power in numbers sounds good in theory, especially when everyone wants the same thing, but it ends up being more like a potato-sack race in practice (where your speed and efficiency is compromised by how slow your partner is, or in this case your 49 partners).
Add to the equation that different communities and populations want different things with different modes of achieving those things (eg, prosperity through equal outcome or prosperity through free-market policy)… and you have a potato sack race where partners are going in different directions.
I don’t know what the culturally and financially “interdependent” collective will look like. The EU, as an experiment, even when you consider the potential for Brexit, has exceeded most prognostications — and like the early United States confederation, it will be tested seriously each decade, but I think it’s foundation will become stronger in those tests (like the US did) versus become weaker with each event.
I also do not know the exact technological and cultural trends that will speed this up (though I have a feeling the increased connectedness that makes “leaving home” easier and easier for the new college student won’t be that dissimilar for the newly annexed, grown up states of the US).
But I do believe this idea, and a peaceful plan for it, will go from “crazy” to “polarizing” to “conceivable” to “understandable” to “rationale” to “logical optimum” in a relatively short period of time (25 years isn’t very long). Especially when we understand that the lines that bind us together are made up, and the bonds between us have so much more to them than fictional lines on a map.
And in a world where basic human needs are increasingly met each day through cross-global relationships that have nothing to do with national borders (again, despite what the media-fueled narratives might seem like in a Trump-led era), and a world where prosperity is increasingly understood to be maximized through cooperation rather than attempts at domination, it’s conceivable that we will wake up in 15, 20, or 25 years and realize that you can get to the finish line (or your own individual finish line) together much faster running independent of each other — versus running a race with your feet tied together.
[Like a few of my other essays, I timed myself to finish this in under 30 minutes as the answer to the cocktail conversation in the first paragraph — I will try to come back and flesh out the global and cultural trend lines that I think will inevitably lead to this new world in a future writing session.]