We've discussed the theory of Megapolitics before (recently here, a good book here) - a theory that states the technology of violence shapes political and social systems, along with informing the attitudes of those who live in or oppose the societies that employ that technology. If socionomics is the river sweeping us all along, megapolitics describes the types of boats we'll sail in on this river, as well as how the crew interacts with the passenger, so to speak.
I've been carrying in my head the idea that tech trends have been shifting the balance towards defense. Automatic weapons, putting "brains" on missiles (and now even on bullets!) allowing for cheaper "smart bombs," cyberwarfare, etc. A balance towards defense would imply more ability for smaller political and social units to wield violence for their own ends at the expense of larger political or social groups. It also makes empire hard to do and much more expensive.
In the future map I've been trying to build, I've pictured this technological trend receiving deep reinforcement from the expected deep plunge in mass mood. Thus, I am anticipating secessionist movements in portions of the globe that should succeed, along with a significant rise in the power of non-governmental entities to wield violence against run of the mill citizens of nominally sovereign states.
Negative mood swings during megapolitical eras that were tilted in favor of offense might be expected to lead to temporary rebellions easily put down by a central government (the Paulista War of 1932 in Brazil is a prime example). Negative mood swings during megapolitical eras tilted in favor of defense could lead to succesful secessionist movements or long, drawn out wars.
Offense Gets a New Tool?
Then I watched this video, made as part of a research project at UPenn (h/t John Robb):
You may be saying who the heck cares if a bunch of toy helicopters can be programmed to fly in formation.
Well, I think you will care, especially if authoritarian governments, criminal cartels, and corporate persons get out in front of the rest of us in using these technologies to compel obedience, shake down a target for cash, attack their enemies and, in short, conduct Drone Diplomacy.
...It allows truly scalable global coercion: the automation of comply or die.
Call up the target on his/her personal cell (it could even be automated as a robo-call to get real scalability -- wouldn't that suck, to get killed completely through bot based automation).
Ask the person on the other end to do something or to stop doing something.
If they don't do what you ask, they die soon therafter due to drone strike (unless they go into deep hiding and disconnect from the global system).
With drone costs plummeting, we could see this drop to something less than <$1000 a strike in the next half dozen years (particularly if kamikazee drones, like Switchblade, are used to reduce explosive payload requirements)...
Very soon, drones won't just be for "terrorists" any more. They are already coming to U.S. cities. You may be sure those drones over U.S. cities will soon be weaponized, especially if our expectation that mass mood will get very negative very soon pans out.
The 4th Amendment no longer applies to U.S. citizens targeted by drone strikes. Mood will be shifting hard towards some level of acceptance of an Authoritarian state by much of the population. Those folks out there considering bunkering down in a survivalist retreat won't be any more protected than some unaware shmoe in the suburbs.
The one hope that I can see would lie in a balance of terror. Drones can be built cheap. You can buy a kit today to build your own "complete UAV solution." Might be something to get into now. Communities and groups are going to need to be able to retaliate to non-Constitutional uses of force against them (the 2nd Amendment back and better than ever) by corporations or non-Constitutional governing entities, otherwise they risk being on the wrong side of the technological "lag" between the first-adopters and the left-behinds. If you have technological means to do unto others as they might do unto you, one can hope to avoid the fate of American Indian tribes that faced the onslaught of the European migration, or the African tribes that fell to European colonialism. The tools did exist to allow these tribes to resist, but they could not be adopted quickly enough, nor were they advanced enough to stand up to industrialized powers.
It would be a return to an almost Medieval style of thinking - which would fit like a hande in a glove in our era of deeply negative mass mood.
Much of the lag will also be in our heads. As we've discussed before, our mental software is going to have to undergo a significant upgrade in order to deal with the changes barreling down at us.
Keep an eye on the sky. Set up a Google News alert for drones. Buy an Arducopter kit and get good at your new hobby. You may be needed by the Republic in the future.