Byline: Linden Blue and Herb London, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Thinking about the unthinkable is a phrase attributed to Herman Kahn, founder of the Hudson Institute. In the 1980s, Kahn wrote that it was essential to think seriously about nuclear war - in order to have the best chance of avoiding it. Nuclear war was and is an existential issue brought about by the structural change in our ability to manipulate the atom.
Now structural changes in world economics and technology and the leverage of terror are bringing about new existential challenges. Information is available worldwide at the speed of light. (There are 4.5 billion cell phones in the world today.) Moore's law (the exponential growth in computing power), the prospect of unlimited energy and the unlimited potential of free people to be creative allow dramatic improvements in the human condition.
It is important to think about these possibilities just as we must think about the potential for widespread destruction from unimpeded terror or grinding irrational cultural developments. The structural elements are in place to take us in either direction. How we think about the direction and how decisively we make course corrections will largely determine how the future looks.
Energy is a key to unlimited global wealth. Supersafe advanced fission reactors that use nuclear waste as their fuel are being developed. Fusion energy that will be available in a few decades (creating the energy of the sun and stars on Earth) can combine with advanced fission, plentiful natural gas, wind, solar and conservation to give us virtually unlimited energy and staunch the outflow of our capital resources. This unquestionably can mitigate our structural reliance on imported oil.
Information, disseminated at the speed of light, and Moore's law combine for a dramatic growth of technology. As the price for material things moves asymptotically toward zero, the economics and conflicts of scarcity will tend to disappear.
With the acceleration of ideas, the world has become linked so that an innovation in one place can be duplicated in another quickly and inexpensively. This is good news for the world. Globalism is not a zero-sum game. But the United States also must understand that we are in the middle of an increasingly competitive environment and much of the rest of the world enjoys many of the economic and technical advantages that have propelled U.S. prosperity. Government inhibits competitiveness at our peril. History tells us that free-enterprise societies tend to win and collectivist, authoritarian societies tend to lose. Hayek vs. Keynes: Which operating system, as intelligence expert Herbert E. Meyer would call it, are we going to choose?
Yet free enterprise's positive scenario has sobering challenges as well. The unprecedented transfer of capital to the Middle East is likely to continue in the short term no matter what we do. This can accelerate the spread of radical Islam and the consequent violence this ideology promotes. We are witnessing the decline of Western competitiveness as the social welfare programs promised from cradle to grave devalue currencies and promote lethargy. Even the United States has not been inoculated against this occurrence. …