Angry Robot

the benevolent cabal

The Global Business Network, a research consultancy. Devoted to “scenario planning,” a type of nonlinear and heretical prognostication. GBN (and its predecessor, the Royal Dutch/Shell’s Group Planning) successfully predicted the end of the cold war, the 70s energy crisis, the changes in South Africa. Members include Brian Eno, Bill Joy, John Perry Barlow, Walter Parkes. For a good backgrounder, see this Wired article from ’94; for a glance at the breadth of their thinking and some opinions on the short-term future of the world, read that.

Schwartz bemoans the sorry state of broadband – “When was the last time your TV crashed?” He argues that the VC field is healthier than ever. He considers the world to be on the cusp of massive scientific breakthroughs. He raises concerns about the US becoming a “rogue superpower,” the Microsoft of governments. The reemergence of the state after market dominance in the 90s: “the model around the world is increasingly Singapore, not the United States.” The difference between dictatorships and the new criminal states (Burma, Columbia, Sudan, etc). And on changes in intelligence:

What is interesting to me is to see the degree to which we are having an influence over places like the CIA, in how they think, how they approach thinking about the future .. Because we are at a moment where the global rules of security are changing in a very big way … It’s a privilege to be an active participant in the process of rethinking the future of national security and global security.

Amongst other things, the lack of political bias is refreshing. Schwartz speaks harshly about Bush’s actions on the international stage, yet elsewhere argues for the deployment of ground troops in Afghanistan. Too often we assume that if we agree with someone on one point, we should agree with their other points as well, and if we hate one action, we should hate all others produced by that person. Whereas things are rarely that simple.

And, uh… “check out the big brain on Schwartz.”

2 comments on "the benevolent cabal"

  1. Jen says:

    This makes me think both of futurists and certain science fiction authors–different ways of seeing what might happen. But this is playing with ideas and projections in a way that can more readily push them into happening.

    Who is it again that is running the world?

  2. D says:

    Yeah, they’re definitely a powerful bunch – if they have the CIA’s ear and can convince them that something is going to happen, or show them how they should approach a problem – well, they could very easily influence a lot of world events (given that other clients include DARPA, Joint Chiefs, and a hell of a lot of giant multinationals).

    But yet they also seem to be such a friendly set of folks. That’s what I like about them, they’re not your average shadowy organization. In fact they’re not shadowy at all.

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