My piece on the railways made the obvious point that as trains were an unstoppable technology transforming society, so for us are computers. We have seen from recruiting jihadis and social media exchanges, which was one thing that stoked up the Yes vote in the indyref, how the internet is changing politics.
This article by Kevin Maney makes a similar parallel in the context of the American election. The development of the railways, as well as the telegraph and industrialism in general exacerbated the differences between the North and South of the USA and ushered in the American Civil War (the first modern, much photographed war).
Like today, the technological revolution in the mid-1800s ushered in a disruptive new era of connectivity, and transportation technology was key…
Amazingly, none of the presidential candidates talk much about technology, yet our software-eats-the-world whirlwind drives everything that’s cleaving the country and throwing its politics into chaos. The parallels to the dynamics of the 1850s are a little scary. After all, the Whigs’ self-destruction was a prelude to the Civil War.
In 1850, New England was essentially Silicon Valley, and the Northern states created and embraced new technology while the Southern states held tight to agriculture and a way of life that also happened to include the moral outrage of holding slaves. ..
Look today at red states vs. blue, or even Trump supporters vs. “establishment” Republicans. Those divisions broadly define where digital-cloud-mobile technology and the modern economy work in favor of the population vs. where they work against them. Trump says “make America great again,” which, to his supporters, means “make America what it used to be.” To people whose livelihoods have suffered because of economic shifts ushered in by technology, moving backward looks better than moving forward—not just in economic issues but in social mores as well.
Kevin Maney doesn’t really press the parallel along to a civil war. I suppose if an industrial revolution of steam and metal produced weaponry on the battlefields, in a digital revolution most of the actual fighting between the anachronisms and the moderns will remain on line. I have to steal this quote from a FB friend:- I’ve come to the conclusion that Trump is what would happen if the comments section became a human and ran for President. “