A podcast discussion of this book is also available here:
Table of Contents:
1. Work: The World of Work in the New Global Economy
- a. An Introduction to the Global Economy
- b. Outsourcing
- c. Robosourcing
- d. Automation in the Financial Industry
- e. The Redistribution of Wealth
2. Power: The Shifting of Power from Nation-States to Multinational Corporations
- a. The Rising Power of Multinational Corporations
- b. The Declining Power of the United States
3. The Internet: The Global Mind
- a. The Rise of the Internet
- b. The Internet of Things, and ‘Big Data’
- c. Global Democracy
i. Overthrowing Dictatorial Regimes
ii. Reforming Established Democracies
- d. The Dangers of the Internet
- a. Biotechnology in Food Production: GMOs
- b. Biotechnology in Medicine
5. Demographics and Natural Resource Depletion
- a. Population Increase
- b. Displacement of Peoples: Xenophobia and Urban Stress
- c. Environmental Stress
- d. Techno-Optimism
- e. Techno-Pessimism
- f. The Solution: Reforming GDP
6. Climate Change
- a. The Problem
- b. The Effects: The Threat to Food and Freshwater Sources, and the Displacement of Peoples
- c. The Solution
Our world is becoming increasingly integrated and complex, and changing faster and faster. Out of the morass of elements involved here, Al Gore identifies 6 themes or factors that are emerging as the major drivers of change. The factors are 1) Work: the movement of labor from West to East (outsourcing); and, at the same time, a shift towards much more automation (robosourcing); 2) Power: the shifting of power from West to East; and, at the same time, the shifting of power from national governments to smaller players, such as businesses and corporations, but also rogue players, such as guerrilla and terror organizations; 3) Communications: the rise of the internet that has led to a wild proliferation of information, and the ability of the world’s population to instantly connect with one another for a host of purposes–and the increasing reach of the internet from the developed to the developing world; 4) Biotechnology: the manipulation of DNA to produce not only new organisms with novel features, but new materials and fuels as well; 5) Demographics: the enormous increase in the world’s population, and the movement of peoples both within and across national borders (as the result of numerous factors); and 6) Climate Change: the increase in world temperatures caused by the continuing build-up of CO2, as well as the numerous other climate effects that this entails.
While several of these drivers of change have the potential to bring great benefits to the world’s people, all are fraught with potential dangers, and it is this that is Gore’s focus in his new book The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. In addition to the dangers, Gore also reveals his own advice regarding how best to deal with the potential dangers.
When it comes to work, Gore argues the principal danger is that the increasing robosourcing of labor (and even services) threatens to eventually deprive a large portion of the world’s population of gainful employment. The principal solution, he believes, is to increasingly redistribute wealth from the few who earn the bulk of it to public services provided by government.
In terms of power, the principal danger is that the private interests of groups that are gaining power (especially multi-national corporations) will increasingly run up against the interests and values of private citizens. The principal solution is to reform our democracies to ensure that the interests of corporations do not continue to outbalance the interests of citizens.
When it comes to communications, the principal threat is the vulnerability of people’s personal information (and organizations’ operational information) of being collected (or stolen) by numerous players (including corporations, governments and criminal organizations) and used for nefarious purposes. The principal solution is to introduce new measures to ensure that information is protected, and people’s privacy preserved.
Regarding biotechnology, the principal danger is that the discoveries and innovations that are being made here are being introduced faster than we are able to consider their ethical implications and potential negative consequences. The principal solution is to ensure that we subject these innovations to full inquiry and public debate, in order that we may decide deliberately just what we want to allow, and what we do not.
When it comes to demographics, the principal danger is that the continuing rise in the world’s population will place an overbearing amount of stress on the world’s natural resources, and that this will ultimately lead to the depletion of said resources. The principal solution is to continue efforts to curb global population, and introduce measures to reduce consumption to sustainable levels.
With respect to climate change, the principal danger is that the world will experience irreversible climate effects, and that these effects will compromise the world’s arable land and water sources to the point where we will not be able to meet our needs. The principal solution is for the governments of the world to take action now to reduce CO2 emissions, by way of such measures as taxing CO2, and introducing a cap and trade system, as well as introducing subsidies for renewable energy sources (and cancelling those currently given to fossil fuel corporations).
Here is Al Gore introducing his new book on PBS’s News Hour:
What follows is a full executive summary of The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change by Al Gore.
1. Work: The World of Work in the New Global Economy
Gore begins his book with a look at the global economy, and specifically how the new global economy is impacting the world of work.
a. An Introduction to the Global Economy
The world’s economies have become increasingly integrated over the past 500 years; however, the last 30 years has witnessed an unprecedented quickening in this process. As an indication of this, consider that “International trade flows have increased tenfold over the last thirty years—from $3 trillion annually to $30 trillion annually—and are continuing to grow at a rate half again faster than global production” (loc. 695). Without a doubt, Gore concludes, “the world as a whole has now emerged as a single economic entity that is moving quickly toward full integration” (loc. 435).
Gore identifies 4 factors behind the quickening integration of the global economy. These factors include the collapse of the USSR, which has opened up many formerly communist countries to commercialization and trade (loc. 689); the rise and opening up of China (loc. 689); staggering advances in the areas of transportation, communications and information technology (loc. 690); and a significant increase in free trade, beginning with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that was instituted following WWII (loc. 693).
The rise of the global economy has resulted in major changes in the world of work. Two factors in particular have been especially impactful. These include the shifting of labor from the developed world to the developing world (outsourcing); as well as a trend towards the automation of work (robocourcing) (loc. 423-27).
When it comes to outsourcing, the opening up of the world’s labor sources, and the lower cost of labor in highly populated, developing countries (as well as improvements in shipping) has led multi-national corporations to move their operations from the developed to the developing world (loc. 423). The change has certainly benefited the economies of the developing world. Indeed, as Gore points out, “the technology-enhanced integration of the global economy is lifting the relative economic strength of developing and emerging countries. This year (2013) the GDP of this group of countries (as measured by their purchasing power) will surpass the combined GDP of advanced economies for the first time in the modern era” (loc. 563).
As a result of this shift, the middle class in the developing world is growing dramatically. As Gore explains, “a recent report from the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) calculates that the global middle class will double in the next twelve years from two billion to four billion people, and will reach five billion people by 2030” (loc. 2775). As we might expect, though, virtually all of this growth in the global middle class is occurring in the developing world. For the phenomenon is a direct result of the fact that middle class jobs are migrating there.
While it is certainly hopeful that a large portion of the world’s people are being lifted out of poverty, the corresponding loss of middle-class jobs in the developed world is beginning to take its toll. The unemployment problem has been particularly bad since the economic crisis of 2008, as the recession caused significant job losses that have largely not returned (loc. 581). As Gore explains, “the sudden disruption in credit markets that began in 2008, and the global recession it triggered, resulted in the loss of 27 million jobs worldwide. When the period of weak recovery began one year later, global output started to increase again but the number of jobs restored—particularly in industrial countries—lagged far behind” (loc. 581).
Outsourcing, however, is not the only factor that has led to the hemorrhaging of jobs in the developed world. The second factor mentioned above (robosourcing) is also at play here. Indeed, while jobs in the developed world are increasingly being moved over-seas, those that have remained are increasingly being taken over by the latest in machines, computers and robots (loc. 584).
It is true that some new jobs are being created in the process, as some new workers are needed to design, manage and maintain the new technologies (loc. 476), but the overall effect has been a net loss of jobs (loc. 480, 519, 580). As Gore explains, “we are beginning to climb the steep part of this technology curve, and the aggregate impact of this same process occurring in multiple businesses and industries simultaneously produces a large decline in employment” (loc. 480).
Now, new technologies have disrupted work patterns before. Indeed, both the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution resulted in major changes in the world of work, as the introduction of the plow (in the former case) and the steam engine (in the latter) completely upset previous arrangements (loc. 973-77). In both of these cases, the short-term disruptions that were caused were eventually superseded by long-term improvements across the board. As Gore explains, “in both revolutions, new technologies opened up new opportunities for reorganizing the human enterprise into a new dominant pattern that was in each case disruptive and, for many, disorienting—but produced massive increases in productivity, large increases in the number of jobs, higher average incomes, less poverty, and historic improvements in the quality of life for most people” (loc. 986).
Many economists have argued that the same process of large-scale creative destruction that occurred during the revolutions mentioned above will also occur as the world progresses through its current major shift (loc. 1011). However, Gore argues that there is reason to believe that a net increase in jobs will not in fact materialize this time around. This proves to be the case because, on all previous occasions, the jobs that were lost were replaced (and then some) by jobs that required workers to build, operate and maintain the new technologies that were created. As the author explains, “new technologically enhanced capacities had to be operated or used by people who could think clearly enough to be trained to use them effectively and safely” (loc. 1029). This time around, though, our machines are becoming so sophisticated that they are capable of performing the bulk of these tasks on their own. In other words, there is a qualitative change in the new technologies that we are seeing, in that they are increasingly becoming capable of replacing the unique human ability to think (loc. 1031).
A tell-tale sign of this is the fact that machines are now not only replacing labor jobs, but service jobs as well: jobs that previously required human intelligence. We have already seen machines replace tellers and clerks of all kinds (in banks, grocery stores, airlines, delivery services etc.) (loc. 768-74). And there is every reason to believe that this process will only continue, and even accelerate (especially as artificial intelligence technology continues to advance [loc. 774]). Indeed, machines are now showing themselves capable of churning out legal research documents (which is having an impact on employment in the legal profession [loc. 760]); driving (which may eliminate the need for professional drivers [loc. 765]); and even writing journalistic pieces, and other articles (which promises to further erode employment in the media industry [loc. 486]).
d. Automation in the Financial Industry
Of course, the push towards automation is producing a net increase of jobs in some industries (at least in the short-term) (loc. 484). A good case in point here is the financial industry. As an indication of this, consider that, “the share of the American economy now devoted to the financial sector has doubled from around 4 percent in 1980 to more than 8 percent at present” (loc. 620).
A significant driver behind this change has been the massive proliferation of financial derivatives constructed by new computer programs and algorithms (loc. 625) (as well as government policies that have allowed these derivatives to be traded with little, if any, regulation [loc. 626, 641]). As Gore explains, “these so-called derivatives are now traded every day in volumes forty times larger than all of the daily trades in all of the stock markets put together. Indeed, even when the larger market in bonds is added to the market in stocks, the estimated value of derivatives is now thirteen times larger than the combined value of every stock and every bond on earth” (loc. 589).
In addition to the creation of financial derivatives, computers and their algorithms now largely dominate the world of financial trading. As the author explains, “high-speed, high-frequency trades made by supercomputers in the United States… represented more than 60 percent of all trades in 2009. By 2012, in Europe as well as the U.S., it represented more than 60 percent of all trades” (loc. 593).
The need for speed in this new world of computer trading (and the amount of industry it is spawning) is truly astonishing. To take just one example, a multi-billion dollar project to “build a straight-as-an-arrow fiber optic cable from Chicago’s trading center in the inner Loop to the New York Stock Exchange’s trading center in Mahwah, New Jersey” was recently completed (loc. 609). The cable’s sole purpose was to increase the speed of a trade between the two cities “from 16.3 to 13.3 miliseconds” (loc. 611). The value of the increase in speed (3 miliseconds) has made the cable well worth the investment, and additional lengths of it are now being sold to other projects at premium prices (loc. 614).
Unfortunately, the digitization of the financial industry is also unleashing a whole new set of problems. For one, a system built on computerized trades (which is itself based on complex algorithms) is capable of yielding anomalous interactions that can lead to wild volatility in the markets (loc. 649). This type of phenomenon has in fact already occurred. For example, “on may 6, 2010, the value of the New York Stock Exchange fell a thousand points and rebounded almost as much—all in the time span of sixteen minutes—for no apparent reason” (loc. 653). It was later discovered that an anomalous interaction in the system caused a run-away effect that led to the Flash Crash (loc. 658). While this event did not lead to a complete disaster, there is no guaranteeing that we may be so lucky in the future.
The threat that these types of events pose has led some to recommend restrictions on the speed of trading (for instance, the economist Joseph Stiglitz suggested “a new rule to require that offers to buy or sell must remain open for one second. [loc. 663]). However, opposition by the financial industry has helped ensure that no such measures have as yet been introduced (loc. 666). Given that the financial industry is becoming ever-more dominated by computers and their algorithms (with little prospect of new regulation), Gore warns that we can expect many more such threatening events in the future (loc. 641-47).
e. The Redistribution of Wealth
In any event, the main point here is to show that automation has led to an increase in employment in at least some industries. What’s more, these new jobs often require a high level of education and/or skill; and therefore, they often pay better than the jobs that are becoming obsolete (loc. 477, 485). Positive though these developments may be, however, the fact remains that the overall effect of the current wave of automation has led to a net loss in jobs (loc. 480, 519, 580). In other words, the extra wealth that is being created at the top is not trickling down to those underneath (loc. 517-19, 923). Thus there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor, and an overall decline in the middle-class in the developed world (loc. 516-29).
One effect of this is that the overall demand for goods is beginning to decrease, and this is having a negative impact on the economy as whole (loc. 778, 1043). As Gore explains, “the overall reduction in income for middle-income wage earners is beginning to have a noticeable impact on aggregate demand—particularly in consumer-oriented societies” (loc. 778). The problem is becoming so eggregiou, Gore argues, that it “is now nearing a threshold beyond which so many jobs are lost that the level of consumer demand falls below the level necessary to sustain healthy economic growth” (loc. 1045).
For Gore, the solution is clear: the extra wealth that is being concentrated at the top (at the expense of the middle class) must be redistributed into public services. Here’s Gore to explain: “new jobs can and must be created, and the obvious targets for new employment is provision of public goods in order to replace the income lost by those whose employment is being robosourced and outsourced” (loc. 1048).
Of course, the wealthy elite are not terribly impressed by the prospect of their riches being redistributed; and, for Gore, this is the major force standing in the way of the implementation of such policies. As the author explains, “elites who have benefited from the emergence of Earth Inc. have thus far effectively used their accumulated wealth and political influence to block any shift of jobs to the public sector” (loc. 1050).
Incidentally, Gore believes that the redistribution solution will also eventually be necessary in the developing world; for though the middle-class is expected to grow there in the foreseeable future, Gore maintains that the advance of robosourcing will ultimately threaten middle-class employment there as well (loc. 570).
2. Power: The Shifting of Power from Nation-States to Multinational Corporations
a. The Rising Power of Multinational Corporations
While the middle-class is being threatened, the rise of the global economy has allowed corporations to become increasingly wealthy. As an indication of this, consider that “more than half (53) of the 100 largest economies on Earth are now corporations” (loc. 2315). To take just one example, “ExxonMobil, one of the largest corporations in the world, measured by revenue and profits, has a larger economic impact than the nation of Norway” (loc. 2315). With this increase in wealth, the world’s corporations have also become increasingly powerful.
To begin with, because multinational corporations are able to locate their factories almost anywhere in the world, they’re able to play governments off of one another and manipulate their policies. As Gore explains, “with the emergence of Earth Inc., multinational corporations have… acquired the ability to play nation-states off against one another, locating facilities in jurisdictions with lower wages and less onerous restrictions on their freedom to operate as they wish” (loc. 2328).
Compounding the issue is that in many Western democracies (and particularly the United States) corporations are able to gain a significant amount of influence due to the fact that politicians there depend on the donations of these corporations to fund their political campaigns (loc. 1437, 2306-09). In the U.S., for example, political elections are often won or lost on the basis of who spends the most on television advertising, which is itself very expensive (loc. 1420, 1427-34). As Gore explains, “the average candidate for Congress spends 80 percent of his or her campaign money on thirty-second television advertising” (loc. 1423). Because candidates are dependent on corporate funding to be able to afford these costs, they become beholden to the particular interests of the corporations that are funding them (loc. 1472, 1952). As the author explains, “candidates… are under constant pressure from wealthy and powerful donors to adopt the donors’ political agendas” (loc. 1472).
In addition to this, corporations largely own the media (including the most influential medium, television) (loc. 1429), and are able to spend vast amounts of money on ad campaigns to sway public opinion in a distorted way (loc. 1429-38, 1468)—all of which adds to their power and influence.
For Gore, the end result is that the interests of private citizens are increasingly being overwhelmed by the particular interests of corporations. As the author explains, “the struggle within the United States over policies that promote the higher values reflected in the U.S. Constitution—individual rights, for example—has often been lost to the interests of business and calculations of realpolitik” (loc. 2063). Elsewhere, Gore writes that “what is most troubling to advocates of American democracy is that the radically elevated role of money in politics has given forces representing wealth and corporate power sufficient strength to advance their agenda even when a sizable majority of the American people oppose it” (loc. 2486). To take just one example, the vast majority of Americans (90% in fact [loc. 4984]) would like to see GM food products labeled, but the agribusiness lobby has successfully kept this from happening (loc. 4986).
b. The Declining Power of the United States
Now, in the recent past, America has occupied a very important role on the world stage. Indeed, Gore argues that “it remains ‘the indispensible nation’ in reducing conflict—keeping the sea lanes open, monitoring and countering terrorist groups, and playing a balancing role in tense regions like the Middle East and East Asia, and in regions (like Europe) that could face new tensions without strong U.S. leadership. Among its many other roles, the United States has also exercised responsibility for maintaining relative stability in the world’s international monetary system and has organized responses to periodic market crises” (loc. 1960; see also 1946).
However, with the American government increasingly influenced by corporate interests, it is beginning to pull away from its important role on the world stage (loc. 1968-70, 1974); what’s more, this same corporate influence is causing America’s moral standing on the world to stage to be compromised, thus causing its voice to be ignored more and more (loc. 1978). This at a time when the world can ill afford to lose its most important leader. Indeed, Gore argues that “this is the real fulcrum in the world’s balance of power today—and it is badly in need of repair. In the absence of strong U.S. leadership, the community of nations is apparently no longer able to coalesce in support of international coordination and agreements that establish the cooperative governance arrangements necessary for the solution of global problems” (loc. 1964).
At the same time as the U.S. is beginning to pull back from its important role on the world stage (and losing its clout thereon), the shifting of economic power from West to East, and from the developed world to the developing world, is threatening to usher in a new global power dynamic that further reduces America’s role. The biggest threat here, of course, comes from China, which is expected to surpass the United States as the largest economy in the world this decade (loc. 1949). As Gore notes, “the significant loss of confidence in U.S. leadership, especially since the economic crisis of 2007-08, has accelerated the shift in the equilibrium of the power in the world. Some experts predict the emergence of a new equilibrium with both the United States and China sharing power at its center; some have already pre-emptively labeled it the ‘G2.’” (loc. 1987).
Of course, it is still too early to tell whether the recent surge in China’s economic prospects is sustainable, and whether this will translate into real political power (loc. 2109-28); however, the threat is real and cannot be ignored (loc. 2130-34).
The good news, according to Gore, is that virtually all of the negative effects discussed above can be mitigated, if not reversed entirely, if the democratic governments of the world (and especially the United States) only had the fortitude to put corporations in their place, and limit their ability to influence public policies and operations. For Gore, this fortitude will only come if the world’s citizens demand it (loc. 2786); and therefore, the author is calling upon us to do so (loc. 2794).
Fortunately, the rise of the internet is providing a forum wherein reform movements can begin and flourish; and Gore is therefore very hopeful that the Internet will prove to be a great force for positive change (loc. 2778-84). Nevertheless, while the Internet is loaded with positive potential, it is also fraught with potential dangers. It is to the potential of the Internet (both positive and perilous) that we will turn to next.
3. The Internet: The Global Mind
a. The Rise of the Internet
The rise of the internet has led to a massive shift in how we live our lives. In addition to making possible the global economy mentioned above, the Internet has also given us access to an exponentially expanding universe of information, as well as the ability to connect to virtually anyone on the planet at any moment. As Gore puts it, “we are connecting to vast global data networks—and to one another—through email, text messaging, social networks, multiplayer games and other digital forms of communication at an unprecedented pace” (loc. 1061).
While the majority of people in the world are still without access to the Internet, this is changing, and fast. As Gore explains, “the number of people worldwide connected to the internet doubled between 2005 and 2010 and in 2012 reached 2.4 billion users globally” (loc. 1225). With Internet connectivity quickly spreading to every corner of the planet, and new computers and smart phones cropping up that are cheaper than ever, it is but a short matter of time before virtually everyone in the world will be connected (loc. 1234-36).
b. The Internet of Things, and ‘Big Data’
And this connectedness does not end with human actors. Indeed, our man-made systems (such as our industrial systems, economic systems, and infrastructural systems etc.) are increasingly being hooked up to the Internet, and depositing information there as well (loc .1257-73). This information is then being analyzed by computer algorithms to glean insights about the world around us, and how to make this world a better, safer, more efficient place (loc. 1266, 1269). As Gore explains, “virtually all human endeavors that routinely produce large amounts of data will soon be profoundly affected by the use of Big Data techniques” (loc. 1274).
Even Internet communications can be analyzed to unearth important information and trends (loc. 1276-77). For example, “the U.S. Geological Survey has established a Twitter Earthquake Detector to gather information on the impact and location of shaking events more quickly, particularly in populated areas with few seismic instruments. And in 2009, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched the Global Pulse program to analyze digital communications in order to detect and understand economic and social shocks more quickly. The pattern with which people add money to their mobile phone accounts is an early warning of job loss. Online food prices can be surveyed to help predict price spikes and food shortages. Searches for terms like ‘flu’ and ‘cholera’ can give warnings of disease outbreaks” (loc. 1281).
c. Global Democracy
As impressive as all this may be, Gore’s real hope for the Internet (as mentioned above) is that it will provide a much needed forum to promote both democracy, and healthy democratic debate.
i. Overthrowing Dictatorial Regimes
In many ways, Gore draws a connection between the rise of the Internet and the Print Revolution that occurred in Europe in the 15th century (loc. 1207). The Print Revolution allowed for a massive proliferation of new ideas, which vastly expanded people’s intellectual horizons, and ultimately led to a questioning of hierarchical power (both political and religious) that resulted in the rise of democracy as we know it now (loc. 1168-1207). As Gore explains, “the mass distribution of knowledge about the world of the present began to shake the foundations of the feudal order… Challenges to the primacy of the medieval church and the feudal lords became challenges to the absolute rule of monarchs. Merchants and farmers began to ask why they could not exercise some form of self-determination based on the knowledge now available to them… The possibility of self-governance within a framework of representative democracy was itself an outgrowth of this new public square created within the information ecosystem of the printing press” (loc. 1183-91-97).
Unfortunately, many parts of the world were kept largely insulated from the effects of the Print Revolution, and it is mainly these parts of the world that have remained under autocratic governments to this day (loc. 1387-92). With the current global rise of the Internet, however, the Internet Revolution has the potential to do for rest of the world what the Print Revolution did for Europe and the rest of the West back in the 15th century.
And indeed, we needn’t look very far to find confirmation that the Internet is in fact a potentially potent spur and facilitator of change. As Gore reminds us, “already, revolutionary political movements—from the Tahrir Square protesters in Cairo to Los Indignados in Spain to Occupy Wall Street to the surprisingly massive crowds of election protesters in Moscow—are predominantly shaped by the Internet” (loc. 1299).
Still, as many have observed, the recent Internet-enabled resistance movements have largely been unsuccessful (at least to this point). As Gore explains, “reformist and revolutionary movements that have begun on the Internet have mostly followed the same pattern: enervation and excitement followed by disappointment and stasis” (loc. 1304). Nevertheless, there is hope that these movements may yet be reenergized, and triumph in the end (loc. 1306).
Of course, one reason why at least some of these movements have failed is because the governments that they are challenging have shut down the Internet, and/or managed to use it against the resisters. For example, during Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009, the government not only successfully shut down many of the websites that the revolutionaries were using, but also managed to use it to quell the uprising (loc. 1319-27). As Gore explains, “Iranian security forces gave the world a demonstration of what a malignant authoritarian government can do to its citizens by using the knowledge it gains from their Internet connections and social graphs to identify and track down dissenters, read their private communications, and effectively stifle any effective resistance to the dictatorship’s authority” (loc. 1327). Examples such as these are a stark reminder than any new technology—no matter how much potential it has for instigating change—can be used for both good and ill (loc. 1328, 1396) (we shall return to this topic below).
ii. Reforming Established Democracies
Aside from helping to overthrow dictatorial governments, Gore is also hopeful that the Internet may help reform democracy in countries where it is already firmly established. Indeed, as mentioned above, Gore believes that the democracies of many Western countries (and especially the United States) have been compromised recently (‘hacked’ is the word that he uses [loc. 2149]) by the growing influence of corporations over government policy.
In the United States, much of this is the result of the fact that political candidates rely on corporations to fund their uber-expensive electoral campaigns, and then end up becoming beholden to these corporations and their interests (loc. 1433-35). As Gore points out, though, much of the expense of these political campaigns is driven by the high price of advertising on television, which remains the dominant form of media (loc. 1435). By contrast, it is far less expensive to reach people over the internet. As the Internet comes to replace television as the main form of media, then, it will become far easier for political candidates to reach people without the exorbitant expenses now required. This should shift some of the power away from corporations, for it will no longer be necessary for political candidates to solicit their funds in order to reach the people.
In addition to this, it is also the case that journalism is increasingly moving online (as it struggles to find a winning business model) (loc. 1459). For Gore, this should eventually lead to far more investigative reporting of the kind that challenges the powers that be (loc. 1463). And this, too, should help shift the balance of power away from corporations.
Finally, the Internet is also just an ideal place for citizens to get together and discuss their views and concerns, and to try to come to some agreement. In other words, the Internet lends itself very well to democratic debate and deliberation. And in fact, many people are already beginning to use the Internet in this way. As Gore explains, “reformers and advocates of the public interest are connecting with one another in ever larger numbers over the Internet and are searching with ever greater intensity for ways to break through the quasi-hypnotic spell cast over the mass television audience” (loc. 1467; see also 1404-08).
Gore’s hope is that this trend will continue and strengthen. Nevertheless, the author is cautiously optimistic here; for while he recognizes that the Internet has the potential to fire this trend, he also acknowledges that it has more than enough fluff and entertainment to distract the citizens of the world from more important political issues (loc. 6903-07). And this is not the only danger posed by the Internet…
d. The Dangers of the Internet
To begin with, while it is certainly convenient to have access to, and to be able to share, a world of information, it is also the case that this information can be lifted off of the Internet, and used for questionable if not outright criminal purposes. For starters, many of us don’t realize just how much of the informational fingerprint that we leave on the Internet is being recorded, collected and used. As Gore explains, information such as “websites visited, items within each website perused, geographic location day by day and minute by minute, recordings of questions users ask, pictures of the individuals wherever and whenever they may appear on websites, purchases and credit card activity, social media posts, and voluminous archival data in accessible government databases—when combined, can constitute an encyclopedic narrative of a person’s life, including details and patterns that most would not want to be compiled” (loc. 1756). But like it or not, this type of information is already being collected, sold, and used for the purposes of marketing, as well as targeting advertisements to specific users (loc. 1532, 1692-96).
And over and above this, hacking of personal accounts—which has now become widespread (loc. 1535)—can unearth much more information that can be used either by criminal operations or shady businesses for any number of underhanded purposes. In addition, business accounts can be hacked to allow for the theft of both money and information (loc. 1621-38). As Gore explains, “cyberthieves have launched attacks against Sony, Citigroup, American Express, Discover Financial, Global Payments, Stratfor, AT&T, and Fidelity Investments, all of which have reported large losses as a result of cybercrime. (Sony lost $171 million.)… security company, Norton, calculated that the annual cost of cybercrime on a global basis is $388 billion” (loc. 1767).
Also, it was mentioned above how our man-made systems are increasingly being hooked up to the Internet. The potential benefits of this arrangement are huge; but so are the potential dangers. Indeed, if any of these systems were hacked (which is a distinct possibility) the results could be catastrophic (loc. 1646-54). Governments, too, are using the Internet, and their information is in just as much danger of being hacked as more private parties (loc. 1593-96, 1623, 1636). And once again, the right information in the wrong hands could lead to catastrophic results. In recognition of this threat, “in 2010, U.S. secretary of defense Robert Gates labeled cyberspace as the ‘fifth domain’ for potential military conflict—alongside land, sea, air, and space” (loc. 1599).
And while governments may use the Internet to attack other countries, they may also use it to attack their own citizens. Indeed, we have already seen above how authoritarian governments are able to use the Internet to disrupt and even quell attempts at reform. But this threat doesn’t end here, for these governments can also use the Internet to head-off attempts at reform before they even begin. To be sure, the Internet makes it much easier for autocratic governments both to influence their citizens, and to keep close tabs on their ideas, movements and communications.
And this is not a danger that can be ignored in established democracies either. Indeed, in light of the increasing number of security threats that now confront Western democracies, many of these democracies (including the United States) have used these threats to justify increasing the power that they have to surveil, and in some cases detain, their citizens (loc. 1535, 1795-1808). It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where this power is abused. Gore goes even further: “if knowledge is indeed a potent source of power, and if the executive and administrative centers of political power in governments have massive troves of information about every citizen’s thoughts, movements, and activities, then the survival of liberty may well be at risk” (loc. 1789)
With all of the potential dangers that the Internet poses, Gore argues that it is imperative that we enact new laws to ensure that information is protected, and people’s privacy preserved (loc. 1528, 6977).
Another arena that has both enormous potential benefits as well as huge potential dangers is the emerging field of biotechnology. Biotechnology is rapidly coming to have a major impact on virtually every aspect of our lives, and particularly in the areas of healthcare, food production, and materials and fuels.
a. Biotechnology in Food Production: GMOs
We are probably most familiar with biotechnology in terms of its role in food production—and specifically when it comes to the splicing and manipulation of the DNA of agricultural food products. Scientists have used this technology to engender novel traits in everyday food products such as tomatoes, corn, soy and wheat (loc. 5006, 5028-30, 5054). The practice has become very widespread. In fact, as Gore reports, “almost 11 percent of all the world’s farmland was planted in GM crops in 2011, according to an international organization that promotes GMOs, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. Over the last seven years, the number of acres planted in GM crops has increased almost 100-fold, and the almost 400 million acres planted in 2011 represented an increase of 8 percent from one year earlier” (loc. 5022).
For Gore, the great danger with the GMO industry is that certain corporations have come to dominate it and manipulate it in their favor—at the expense of the greater good. Monsanto is the big culprit here, simply by virtue of its enormous size and control over the market. As the author explains, “one biotechnology company—Monsanto—now controls patents on the vast majority of all seeds planted in the world” (loc. 4034).
One result of the corporate influence over agriculture is that crops are coming to be dominated by a very small number of genetic strains, and this poses a danger in its own right. As Gore explains, “in many countries, including the United States, all of the major commodity crops—corn, soybeans, cotton, and wheat—are grown from a handful of genetic varieties. As a result, in most fields, virtually all of the plants are genetically identical. Some experts have long expressed concern that the reliance on monocultures makes agriculture highly vulnerable to pests and plant diseases that have too many opportunities to develop mutations that enable them to become more efficient at attacking the particular genetic variety that is planted in such abundance” (loc. 5128).
Perhaps a bigger issue, though, is that new risks are introduced every time an organism is genetically modified (or interfered with in other ways, such as with antibiotics [loc. 4302-21, 5248-67), and it is very difficult to tell just what the long-term effects will be (loc. 5175, 5193, 5214). However, because corporations have such influence over government, there is the ever-present danger that the application will be allowed anyway (loc. 4299, 4347-53). For Gore, this is a very dangerous situation indeed (loc. 4299).
And the danger is only becoming more acute as we expand from genetically modified crops to genetically modified livestock animals. As the author mentions, “scientists in the U.S. applied for regulatory approval in 2012 to introduce the first genetically engineered animal for direct consumption by human beings—a salmon modified with an extra growth hormone gene and a genetic switch that triggers the making of growth hormone” (loc. 5173). And other GM animals meant for consumption are not far behind (loc. 5181).
b. Biotechnology in Medicine
While biotechnology is promising a revolution in food production, an even bigger revolution is looming in the field of medicine. Indeed, the list of new and upcoming technologies being applied to healthcare is truly astonishing.
To begin with, our ability to read and interpret the genomes of individuals is quickly inaugurating an age of individualized medicine wherein doctors will be able to diagnose and prescribe treatments based on each patient’s particular genetic blueprint. As Gore explains, “ ‘Personalized medicine,’ or, as some now refer to it, ‘precision medicine,’ is based on digital and molecular models of an individual’s genes, proteins, microbial communities, and other sources of medically relevant information. Most experts believe it will almost certainly become the model for medical care” (loc. 3937).
Beyond this, scientists are beginning to grow tissue and organs from scratch, and may soon be able to manufacture these with 3D printers as well (loc. 4080, 4611-19, 4629). Even our brains have the potential of being modified and enhanced by biotech innovations (loc. 3962-79, 4644-66). As Gore notes, “the new abilities scientists have gained to see study, map, modify, and manipulate cells in living systems are also being applied to the human brain. These techniques have already been used to give amputees the ability to control advanced prosthetic arms and legs with their brains [see video below]… In addition, these breakthroughs offer the possibility of curing some brain diseases” (loc. 3962).
Most impressive of all, our ability to interpret and manipulate DNA will soon allow us to cut off several diseases even before they begin (or have the opportunity of beginning). As Gore explains, “the prospect of eliminating cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and other deadly and fearsome diseases ensures these new capabilities will proceed at an ever accelerating rate” (loc. 3987).
However, the potential applications of manipulating our DNA do not end with disease prevention. Indeed, the prospect of enhancing our intelligence (loc. 4012, 4671), or physique (loc. 3988, 4702-16), or weeding out certain behavioral characteristics (such as violent tendencies [loc. 4791-93]), will also be on the table. And all of these potential uses bring up serious ethical issues about just what should and what should not be allowed.
For Gore, these issues warrant deep and considerate deliberation, but the problem is that this deliberation is now largely not occurring: “these incredibly powerful changes are overwhelming the present human capacity of humankind for deliberative collective decision making. The atrophy of American democracy and the consequent absence of leadership in the global community have created a power vacuum at the very time when human civilization should be shaping the imperatives of this revolution in ways that protect human values” (loc. 3997).
Once again, then, the solution here, for Gore, comes down to wresting power back in favor of democratic debate and deliberation.
(For more information on the latest in biotechnology you may be interested in my Summary of Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves by George Church).
5. Demographics and Natural Resource Depletion
a. Population Increase
One issue that we will have no choice but to confront moving forward is the incredible increase in the world’s population that is expected to occur over the next half century. The global population has already increased enormously over the past 100 years. As Gore explains, “during the last century alone, we quadrupled the human population. By way of perspective, it took 200,000 years for our species to reach the one billion mark, yet we have added that many people in just the first thirteen years of this century” (loc. 2973).
The global population currently sits at 7 billion people, and this number is expected to grow quickly: “in the next thirteen years, we will add another billion, and yet another billion fourteen years after that” (loc. 2975). Fortunately, the world’s population is not expected to grow indefinitely. Indeed, as Gore notes, our numbers are expected to “stabilize near the end of this century at a total of what is now difficult to predict but is estimated at between 10 and 15 billion… the vast majority of experts assume that the most likely range is slightly above 10 billion” (loc. 3246).
The main reason behind why the world’s population increase is slowing and is expected to stabilize is because fertility rates naturally tend to decrease as child mortality decreases (loc. 3285), and child mortality rates have begun levelling off and decreasing everywhere on the planet. As Gore explains, “in countries with high rates of infant mortality, the natural tendency of parents is to have more children in order to ensure that at least some of them will survive to take care of their parents in old age and to carry on the family name and tradition. In practice, when child death rates fall dramatically, birth rates generally decline a half generation later” (loc. 3313).
Now, the decrease in child mortality rates has lagged behind in developing nations (which is where the vast majority of population increase continues to occur [loc. 2976]); however, even here, progress has been made, and is expected to continue (loc. 3264).
b. Displacement of Peoples: Xenophobia and Urban Stress
The bad news, though, is that the current population is already beginning to cause serious problems, and these problems will only worsen as the population continues to grow. To begin with, the overwhelming majority of population growth is occurring in developing countries (loc. 2976), whereas the predominant pattern of immigration is from developing countries to developed ones (loc. 3435). The significant social changes that this causes has already led to a resurgence in xenophobic and racist attitudes and behavior in the developed nations that are accepting these immigrants (loc. 3443-50, 3464, 3517).
In addition, virtually all of the population increase that is occurring is happening in cities (either because people are being born there, or because they are moving their in droves [loc. 2978-98]). And this massive increase in urbanization places an enormous amount of stress on cities’ ability to accommodate the new arrivals. As Gore explains, “one of the challenges posed by this hyper-urbanization is to the ability of municipal governments to provide adequate housing, freshwater, sanitation, and other essential needs. More than a billion people in the world live in slums today, roughly one out of every three inhabitants of cities. Without significant changes in policy and governance, the number of slum dwellers is projected to double to two billion people within the next seventeen years” (loc. 3001).
c. Environmental Stress
For Gore, though, by far the most significant problem posed by population growth is that the world’s population is already using up the world’s resources at an unsustainable rate, and this problem will only get worse as the population continues to increase. As Gore explains, “the rapid growth of human civilization—in the number of people, the power of technology, and the size of the global economy—is colliding with approaching limits to the supply of key natural resources on which billions of lives depend, including topsoil and freshwater” (loc. 2806).
Topsoil and freshwater are singled out here because of their importance in meeting our most basic needs; however, as Gore points out, limits on virtually all of the natural resources that we use are becoming apparent. As an indication of this, consider that “the prices of almost all commodities in the world economy have surged simultaneously in the last eleven years… among the commodities with the fastest price increases are iron ore, copper, coal, corn, silver, sorghum, palladium, rubber, flaxseed, palm oil, soybeans, coconut oil, and nickel” (loc. 2866). And other commodities aren’t far behind (loc. 2868). It isn’t difficult to see where this is heading. One observer, “influential investor Jeremy Grantham, warns that the growth in demand for commodities creates the danger that we may soon reach ‘peak everything’” (loc. 2868).
Now, this is not the first time it has dawned on observers that the natural resources we are using may run up against limits. Indeed, this concern has cropped up several times over the past couple hundred years (loc. 2848-50). In the past we have always been fortunate enough to evade these concerns because, as Gore puts it, “new technologies have so frequently enabled us to become far more efficient in producing more with less and to substitute a new resource for one in short supply” (loc. 2854).
And indeed, there is reason to believe that some of this may occur this time around as well. Part of the hope here comes from the emerging field of materials science. As Gore explains, “the new field of advanced materials science involves the study, manipulation, and fabrication of solid matter with highly sophisticated tools, almost on an atom by atom basis. It involves many interdisciplinary fields, including engineering, physics, chemistry, and biology” (loc. 779).
Materials science is allowing engineers to create new materials with significant advantages over previous ones. As the author explains, “the new technologies of molecular manipulation have led to revolutionary advances in the materials sciences and brand-new hybrid materials that possess a combination of physical attributes far exceeding those of any materials developed through the much older technologies of metallurgy and ceramics” (loc. 795).
What’s more, materials science is allowing engineers to manufacture these new materials much more efficiently, and using far less resources, than was the case with previous materials. A big part of this is the result of a new technology called 3D printing, or additive manufacturing (loc. 855). As Gore explains, “this new process builds objects from a three-dimensional digital file by laying down an ultrathin layer of whatever material or materials the object is to be made of, and then adds each additional ultrathin layer—one by one—until the object is formed in three-dimensional space. More than one different kind of material can be used” (loc. 857). When it comes to efficiency, “enthusiasts… contend that 3D printing often requires only 10 percent of the raw material that is used in the mass production process, not to mention a small fraction of the energy costs” (loc. 872).
A further advantage of 3D printing is that the operation needn’t be centralized, but can instead be set up anywhere the final product is needed (loc. 877). In the words of industry insider Neil Hopkins (of the Additive Manufacturing Research Group at Loughborough), “‘It could make offshore manufacturing half way round the world far less cost effective than doing it at home” (loc. 880), thus effectively reversing the current trend towards outsourcing (loc. 880-901).
Returning to the topic of ‘dematerialization,’ though, biotechnology is also expected to play a role here, as scientists are already beginning to learn how to use DNA to mass produce all sorts of new materials, chemicals and fuels with significant advantages over previous ones (loc. 4072-80, 4187).
Nevertheless, all of this good news has not dissuaded Gore from the idea that our current rate of consumption is ultimately unsustainable. According to the author, the problem is particularly acute when it comes to the resources of topsoil and freshwater; for these resources have no substitutes, and are currently being depleted far faster than they are able to regenerate (loc. 2854).
Now, it is the case that new techniques in agriculture (including hydroponics and vertical farming [loc. 3864]), and freshwater extraction (including sea-water desalination [loc. 3849) do hold the promise of extricating us from our topsoil and freshwater woes. However, Gore argues that these processes currently require more energy than is necessary to make them cost-effective at a large scale, and therefore, they cannot be relied upon (loc. 3856, 3864).
It is true that major advances in energy efficiency are thought to be just over the horizon (literally—for solar power is expected to be a major player here [loc. 3858]); but again, Gore has little faith in these technological advances to save us from the plight of unsustainable consumption (loc. 3858-63). (Other observers are far more optimistic about these technologies. To hear the other side of the argument, you may be interested in my Summary of Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think by Peter Diamandis).
f. The Solution: Reforming GDP
For Gore, the main problem here is that our principle measure of economic success, gross domestic product (GDP), assigns no penalty to the use and depletion of natural resources (loc. 2811). In effect, then, natural resources are treated as infinite and inexhaustible, when in fact they are nothing of the kind. This encourages us to use natural resources in an unsustainable way, which is exactly what we are doing.
Now, for Gore, this is not the only problem with the GDP. Indeed, the author argues that GDP fails to take into account a whole range of goods which ensures that they are completely overlooked. As Gore explains, “our primary way of measuring economic growth—gross domestic product, or GDP—is based on absurd calculations that completely exclude any consideration of the distribution of income, the relentless depletion of essential resources and the reckless spewing of prodigious quantities of harmful waste into the atmosphere, oceans, rivers, soil, and biosphere” (loc. 2811)).
The result of this one-dimensional method of accounting is that we are finding ourselves with far less goods (and more evils) than we otherwise would. As the author explains, “in the twenty-first century, especially since the emergence of Earth Inc., policies aimed at maximizing GDP have been driving the world toward more concentrated wealth and power, more inequality of incomes, higher long-term unemployment, more public and private debt, more social and geopolitical instability, greater market volatility, more pollution, and what biologists refer to as the Sixth Great Extinction” (loc. 2819).
Now, recently, attempts have been made to widen the scope of the GDP to include environmental goods alongside economic ones. For example “the U.N. Statistical Commission in 2012 adopted a ‘system of environmental-economic accounts’ as a step toward integrating environmental externalities. In 2007, the European Union launched its ‘beyond GDP’ initiative, and is due to release an assessment by all member states of their ‘natural capital’ in 2014” (loc. 2582). If the world is to avoid running out of essential resources, Gore argues, these attempts simply must be taken seriously, and must ultimately be adopted wholesale (loc. 3572-74, 6996).
6. Climate Change
a. The Problem
For Gore, another extremely important factor that does not find its way into our calculation of GDP is the heavy price of CO2, and the climate change that it is causing on our planet (loc. 5968). Indeed, Gore maintains that of all the negative effects that are currently being caused by the collision of industry with the earth that “the single most important and threatening of this collision is the climate crisis” (loc. 5312). The climate crisis, plain and simple, is being caused by the build-up of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, the main contributor to which is the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal (loc. 5302).
The fact that CO2 traps heat has been understood since 1859, when the Irish scientist John Tyndall first discovered it (loc. 5881). Not unexpectedly, it was later discovered that a build-up of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere leads to a rise in the planet’s temperatures (this was discovered in 1896, by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius [loc. 5885-87]). Given that the burning of fossil fuels emits CO2 and other gases into the earth’s atmosphere (loc. 5304), and given that we have been doing this to a very impressive degree since the dawn of the industrial revolution (to the point where, today, we spew an additional 90 million tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the environment every single day [loc. 145, 930, 5569, 6123, 6729), it stands to reason that our efforts would be resulting in the increase of the earth’s temperature.
And indeed, the evidence indicates that this is precisely what is happening. For example, as Gore notes, “nine of the ten hottest years ever recorded since accurate measurements began in the 1880s have occurred in the last ten years” (loc. 5401); and “October 2012 was the 332nd month in a row when global temperatures were above the twentieth century average” (loc. 5528).
However, the increase in the earth’s temperature is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to climate change, for this phenomenon causes a series of knock-on effects that are also potentially devastating. These knock-on effects include the intensification of storms (loc. 5403, 5416), and the disruption of numerous weather and weather-related patterns in the environment (including ocean and air currents 5596). The effects of climate change are already beginning to impact the earth’s plants and animals (loc. 5316), and these impacts are only expected to intensify. When it comes to our species, the main impact of climate change is that it threatens our food and freshwater sources, and forces the displacement of peoples.
b. The Effects: The Threat to Food and Freshwater Sources, and the Displacement of Peoples
With respect to our food sources, climate change threatens to eat away at the world’s arable land primarily through desertification, both because of an increase in evaporation from the land (loc. 5425) (and an increase in dust-storms [loc. 3741-44, 3760]), and because of the migration of hot-air downdrafts (loc. 5779-88). However, arable land is also encroached upon by the rising of sea-levels from melting ice which causes the swamping (and salination) of formerly productive lands (loc. 5668). Agricultural food sources are also threatened by climate change through a decrease in productivity under warmer conditions (loc. 5441-64), and an increase of pests such as insects and weeds (loc. 5468-95). Seafood is also threatened—through the warming of oceans, and an increase in ocean acidity (once again caused by CO2) (loc. 5670-89).
Our freshwater sources are also threatened by climate change, mainly through the disruption of the hydrological cycle (loc. 5412). To begin with, global warming causes rainfall to shift from a steadier pattern to one with more infrequent downpours (loc. 5412-23). This increases flooding and run-off (which itself increases soil erosion [loc. 5423]), and decreases the amount of water that is absorbed into the earth to replenish aquifers (loc. 5423). Also, many aquifers stand to be compromised by salination from rising sea-levels (loc. 5668).
In addition to these effects, climate change also forces the displacement of peoples, both because of the rising of sea-levels and the swamping of coastal lands (loc. 3532, 5624-39), and because the depletion of food and water sources forces people away from areas where this has occurred (loc. 3532-47). The displacement of people due to climate change has already begun (loc. 5639), and, as Gore notes, “the number of climate refugees is expected to grow and could potentially involve more than 200 million people in this century” (loc. 5641).
c. The Solution
The good news here, according to Gore, is that it is still possible to reverse these effects. The author insists, though, that we must act swiftly and strongly. Indeed, Gore argues that “solving the climate crisis requires reducing emissions not by a little, but by a lot. We have to begin reducing net additions of greenhouse gases by at least 80 to 90 percent—not 50 percent—in order to ensure that overall concentrations do not exceed a potential tipping point before starting to decline” (loc. 6268).
The most straightforward way to achieve these reductions, Gore argues, is by eliminating our burning of fossil fuels and moving to renewable sources of energy instead. The author outlines a handful of measures that we can implement to ensure this occurs (loc. 6444). To begin with, we can tax the emission of CO2 (loc. 6446) and/or introduce a cap and trade policy that would see polluters incentivized to reduce their emissions (loc. 6510-23). Also, we can cut off the subsidies that we currently award to fossil fuel corporations (loc. 6467-70), and instead grant these subsidies to renewable forms of energy (loc. 6470-74, 6480-86). Renewable forms of energy (particularly solar and wind) have already made great strides in becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels (loc. 6476), and shifting the focus of subsidies from the latter to the former would go a long way towards ensuring that renewables make it over the hump (loc. 6476).
For Gore, the only thing that is standing in the way of these measures is the enormous influence and lobbying power of the world’s fossil fuel corporations. As the author explains, “powerful corporations with an interest in delaying action have lavished money on a cynical and dishonest public campaign to manipulate public opinion by sowing false doubts about the reality of the climate crisis” (loc. 5939). Elsewhere, Gore writes that “the large public multinational fossil fuel companies have an estimated $7 trillion in assets that are at risk if the global scientific consensus is accepted by publics and governments around the world. That is the reason several of them have been misrepresenting to the public—and to investors—the material facts about the grave harm to the future of human civilization that results from the continued burning of their principal assets in such a reckless manner” (loc. 6055). If we are to save civilization from imminent disaster, Gore contends, we must put these corporations in their place, and start now (loc. 5357, 6775, 6787).
To recap, then, several of the six drivers of change that Gore mentions do have the potential to have a very positive impact on the world and its people. However, all of the drivers of change are fraught with potential dangers. The only way that we will be able to steer clear of these dangers is by re-establishing our democratic responsibilities, and ensuring that we debate the issues, and decide consciously and deliberately just what we want to allow and what we do not.
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