Xi Jinping’s Choice: Mussolini’s Way or McLuhan’s


By Publius Audax

Controlling the center of The Center of Everything (“China” in English) makes Xi Jinping the most powerful person on Earth and the world leader of the Mussolini Movement. The danger to us all: Xi has lost his nerve. His panic is the biggest geopolitical crisis since WWII.

Xi’s problem is the Information Cost-Velocity Curve. The ICVC has dominated all human organization since we learned to mumble. On the Curve, information cost is always falling and information velocity is always increasing. Anything that fell off the Curve from the Roman Empire to the first-generation PC and smartphone makers, died.

All organizations, political, social or economic have, for all history, been subsets of the Curve. If the Curve moves, as so famously with the Gutenberg Press of 1440, you either move with it, or you go down. The Gutenberg Press shredded every power structure in Europe. Those countries which resisted paid a fearsome price in people and money. The European Union is to this day divided into two: those countries in its north who adapted and those in its south who didn’t.

McLuhan’s Gutenberg lesson for Xi: The Curve can fast outrun any limitations you place on it. Xi now faces his Gutenberg Moment. And he’s choking.

The Curve’s biggest impact is this: the farther we move out on the Curve, the more power is diffused. Our democracies are a direct function of Gutenberg’s putting the printed word in front of people so that they could make up their own minds about things. The telegraph took the next step, the radio the next and so on through the Internet, the Cloud and social media.

Staying out front on the ICVC is the key to growth and prosperity. Why? Because those companies and nations better able to substitute ever-cheaper information for other factor inputs like land, labor and capital gain market share more quickly than those which cannot. That’s how Walmart and Apple did it.

Naturally, every company wants to put as much distance as possible between itself and its competitors on the Curve. All nations—the smart ones anyway—know that Ricardian comparative advantage comes from information-optimization strategies that get them out on the Curve and keep them there.

Over half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan taught us in his two great books, The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media, that, like gravity, the shape and direction of information governs all structures. Structures cannot defy information gravity and dictate the shape and direction of information.

Xi’s problem: how can The Party defy information gravity and limit the massive shape changers like marginal cost computing on the Cloud that determine outcomes.

McLuhan died 40 years ago this week. He did not live to see the PC age, let alone the Internet or the overwhelming power of marginal cost computing on the Cloud. Nonetheless, in Understanding Media, he said that we would live in a world of “electric-all-at-onceness” (the only way he could express it in 1964) and then laid out logically how we would behave in such a space. He described the world of Facebook and Google perfectly…

Mussolini came from southern Europe, the losing side of the Gutenberg revolution. His pre-Gutenberg policy was Party control of the military, information and selected enterprise, leaving the rest to the market. He believed that the Fascist Party could control information gravity, thereby controlling outcomes. Hitler called Mussolini a “political genius” for this kludge: all the control that Stalin got for a fraction of the cost. Mussolini’s system is widely used all over the world today, most notably in The Center and Russia.

McLuhan would have been happy to tell Xi that we are way too far out on the ICVC today for the Mussolini system to hold.

McLuhan would have pointed to a second, massive danger to Xi: the changing nature of time. He would have explained to Xi that time on the ICVC is measured in the half-life of a microprocessor, where a year is about two months. That, he would have told Xi, changes both the nature of your decision-making and the speed with which you must make decisions. “Electric-all-at-onceness” is no joke…

Thanks to Michael McLuhan for supplying this article.

Read the rest here: https://tinyurl.com/yamyavc2

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