Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wiki Leaks and the Future of Meritocracy

I have a held personal posit about the U.S. educational system for a while, namely, that many smart people were abandoning the hard sciences in the United States because of its close association with militarism. Coming from a family of mathematicians, one point was well drilled into me at an early age - to get the fat contracts and big pay be prepared to get money from the Department of 'Defense' (War, as it used to be called).

It's interesting that Julian Assange had a similar experience in Australia, and wrote an essay on it called "On the Take and Loving It' documenting the infiltration of militarism within the academic hard sciences. To paraphrase an interview I read, - he boxed himself into a corner - and Wikileaks was all he could come up with.

Whatever the future of WikiLeaks, and I suspect in a few years it will viewed as conservative and outdated, it possibly demonstrates that the U.S. government is losing the ability to recruit many of its best minds. (yes, Assange is an Aussie, but many WikiLeaks volunteers are American, and it's part of the same continuem.) A substantial percentage of very smart people do not want to work for an empire based on perpetual war, a government that cannot and will not provide employment for its population. Significant sections of the potential meritocracy are finding other things to do; it turns out many hackers are in that 'rebel' class, enough so that they have effectively humiliated the Pentagon and its trillion dollar budget by simply outsmarting them. It's not so hard to do when the opponent is increasingly discredited not matter how much they threaten.

All this presents a problem for the future of U.S. imperial dominance. By law, and for self-imposed security reasons, they can't import hard scientists the way a private company can. The increasing alienation from the population , the increasing though unspoken credibility crisis between Washington and the people could very well manifest itself in a lack of willing and available technical expertise.

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