The New Conquistadors: A Technological Divide Threatens Our Survival

May 3, 2013 (LocalOrg) - The Conquistadors were soldiers and explorers who conquered foreign lands and their people on behalf of the Spanish Empire between the 15th and 17th centuries. Highly organized, with the resources of an entire empire behind them and armed with superior technology, they easily swept aside entire civilizations, including the Aztec and Incan Empires.

There was an immense technological disparity between the Conquistadors and the empires they toppled. Paralyzing fear of these foreigners and their technology caused many to either flee or even side with their new overlords.

While the Conquistadors were far from the gods many may have perceived them to be, the ignorance of the natives coupled with their technological inferiority created conditions not unlike a god descending upon a world to devour it. Today, these natives still exist in many countries as second-rate citizens to the descendents of the Conquistadors, so many centuries later.

A similar scenario played out in North America with the coming of French and British colonialists. Both a technological disadvantage and infighting amongst native tribes allowed Europeans to swallow up an entire continent. Like their counterparts in South America, North American natives to this day exist in a state of perpetual subjugation.

With globalization, many believe such disparities are increasingly rare, and then, only in cases of Western nations leveraging their vast resources and technological advances against third world nations on the modern battlefields of imperial conquest.  This perception is held by people who only understand the world in terms of borders and nation-states, and fail to see the deep states that have existed and are indeed expanding within their midst.

Within the nations of the West, there exists a technocratic deep state, one that is not confined to the borders of any particular Western nation, but pervades the geopolitical boundaries of them all. It is driven by corporate-financier special interests, augmented with nearly inexhaustible resources, and operates under a number of dual pretenses to justify its activities if and when they attract public attention.

The technological, financial and tactical disparity that is growing between this deep state and the rest of humanity could be analogous to a native fisherman catching a glimpse of Spanish masts over the horizon. If left unchecked, these new "Conquistadors" will proverbially come ashore. If we are not properly prepared before that happens, we are lent by history a sobering warning of what's to come.

The Technocratic Deep State

The technocratic deep state doesn't have a president, an embassy or borders. It has neither a unified steering committee, nor a charter by which it is guided. It is an abstract boundary around corporate and government research, development, and implementation that includes many different interests, some of which are complimentary, others competitive, and still others compartmentalized. And because it is a deep state - or a state within a state - undeclared and undefined in conventional terms, it is very difficult to sort out who is who.

What is clear, is that certain parties, such as the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), treat this deep state as a compartmentalized operation - manipulating and steering various aspects of it to suit its needs in ways that are not entirely understood by all involved. For example, DARPA is actively involved in genetics and synthetic biological research. Wired reported in its Pentagon-friendly "Danger Room," in an article titled, "Pentagon’s New Factory: Your DNA":
Darpa is sick and tired of waiting around for Mother Nature. Instead, it wants to take the life-making business into its own hands — and manufacture new biological forms in a factory of mix-and-match bio-bits.
A recent call for research by the Pentagon’s mad science agency proposes a new program called “Living Foundries.” The idea is to use biology as a manufacturing platform to “enable on-demand production of new and high-value materials, devices and capabilities.”

In other words, let’s engineer life to make stuff we want.

The fields of bioengineering and synthetic biology have already produced some useful, scary and flat-out bizarre entities. Besides renewable petroleum or steel strong spider silk, there are all sorts of potential therapeutic, industrial and agricultural purposes for reorganized DNA.
Wired continues (emphasis added): 
To jumpstart the process, Darpa wants to open the playing field to people from outside the biological sciences, recruiting designers, engineers, manufacturers, computer scientists, academics and anyone else who has an idea. By democratizing the biological design and manufacturing process, they hope to speed up the development of a reliable factory for all sorts of kind-of-living things.
One of the specifics they’re looking for? Modular genetic parts. Kind of like Legos for biology, a standardized system of bio-units capable of being assembled in any which way would explode the possibilities for producing new materials and systems.
While Wired offers readers only the most benign possibilities DARPA might use these "modular genetic parts" for, the very corporate-financier interests steering US policy and therefore DARPA's research, have penned strategy papers indicating interest in the creation of genotype-specific biological weapons - weapons that could, for example, wipe out only the Chinese, Eastern Europeans, or people with genetic predispositions the ruling elite find unfavorable.

This interest in genotype-specific weapons was mentioned in the Neo-Conservative Project for a New American Century's (PNAC) 2000 report titled, "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (.pdf) which stated:
The proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles and long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will make it much easier to project military power around the globe.  Munitions themselves will become increasingly accurate, while new methods of attack – electronic, “non-lethal,” biological – will be more widely available. (p.71 of .pdf)

Although it may take several decades for the process of transformation to unfold, in time, the art of warfare on air, land, and sea will be vastly different than it is today, and  “combat” likely will take place in new dimensions: in space, “cyber-space,” and perhaps the world of microbes.  (p.72 of .pdf)

And advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool. (p.72 of .pdf)
Clearly then, the Pentagon is mostly likely not using this collection of  "modular genetic parts" for new bullet-proof materials, but for the modern-day equivalent of small-pox infected blankets that can wipe out entire civilizations.

Other possibilities are even more startling - biological immortality.

In Wired's article titled, "Pentagon Looks to Breed Immortal ‘Synthetic Organisms,’ Molecular Kill-Switch Included," it states:
The Pentagon’s mad science arm may have come up with its most radical project yet. Darpa is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military’s advantage, creating “synthetic organisms” that can live forever — or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch.
Wired continued by reporting: 
The project comes as Darpa also plans to throw $20 million into a new synthetic biology program, and $7.5 million into “increasing by several decades the speed with which we sequence, analyze and functionally edit cellular genomes.”
Wired never directly answers the question as to what exactly the Pentagon wants with "immortal organisms," or what "organisms" these would even be, but mention is made of a revolutionary experiment with rats involving gene therapy and the successful extension of their life-span, suggesting the possibility that human biological immortality might be on the table. The mention of "increasing by several decades the speed with which we sequence, analyze and functionally edit cellular genomes" would be the exact area of focus necessary for achieving human biological immortality.

DARPA isn't the only technocratic deep state "ministry" interested in biological immortality. On the front of a recent Wired issue, is Ray Kurzweil, representing "Singularity University." Under his picture is the title, "Live Forever! And Save the World." Kurzweil is a proponent of what he refers to as the coming "singularity," a transhumanist merging between man and machine resulting in unprecedented intellectual abilities and biological immortality. The nature of Kurzweil's interests and work all depends on whether he and his colleagues plan on sharing the benefits of singularity with the rest of humanity, or moving on without us, and at our cost.

Kurzweil and his Singularity University, like DARPA, is deeply entwined with the largest corporate-financier interests on Earth. Should a megalomaniac seek immortality to compliment the vast wealth and influence they have accumulated (as all megalomaniacs have attempted to do throughout human history), Singularity University would seem like a good first stop along the way.

History's Take on Facing "Conquistadors" 

The true goals of Singularity University, those promoting singularity itself, and DARPA can be debated. What cannot be debated is that currently, the development of super-science is still monopolized by special interests. Even if advances and breakthroughs being made within this technocratic deep state were done mostly by benevolent servants of humanity - if there is capacity for abuse, it most certainly will take place.

In the case of the atom bomb, those seeking to employ it geopolitically held vastly different mindsets than the people who actually created it. The amount of abuse or balance new technologies will exhibit across human civilization depends entirely on how many hands those said technologies find themselves in. In the case of the atom bomb, when America monopolized it, they immediately employed it against another nation ... twice.

It was only when other nations began developing and deploying nuclear weapons as a credible deterrence that the US shifted its strategic doctrine. Likewise, should the Pentagon today develop and monopolize genotype-specific weapons, they will most likely be used, even if in the most subtle manner. It will only be when other nations, and indeed, the people themselves, begin understanding and leveraging genetics, that a balance will be struck and both the likelihood of the weapons being used and their effectiveness will be diminished.

Imagine if a native fisherman, instead of spotting Spanish ships coming over the horizon only days away from the conquering of his land and his people, found himself in Spain, witnessing the fleet that would conquer him being assembled while plans of conquest were being drafted. Could he warn his people years in advance, and ensure that when the Spanish landed, they were confronted with a proportional threat that would shift their conquest instead into diplomacy and compromise? History suggests, yes.

Asia faced a similar conquest by Europeans. The British held Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, while the French held Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. China was equally divided amongst several nations, while the Philippines were first held by the Spanish, then by the Americans. Japan watched this conquest and understood all too well the threat technological disparity posed.

During a period known as the Meiji Restoration, Japan underwent intense modernization in education, industry, infrastructure, and defense. It specifically drew on Western advances to "catch up." The result was an environment entirely unfavorable to Western colonization, and in fact, left Japan poised to oust the West with its own campaign of extraterritorial invasion and subjugation. While Japan's decisions after modernization do not merit emulation, the concept of reducing technological disparity to avoid  Conquistador-syle subjugation most certainly does. Japan didn't just "modernize" by buying and recreating Western armaments. They got organized institutionally as well.

Conversely, Native Americans would eventually end up utilizing much of the technology brought over by European colonialists, however, infighting and disorder amongst their own ranks prevented them from posing the credible deterrence the Meiji Restoration lent Japan. Japan's ability to both modernize in terms of technology and in terms of institutions, allowed it to compete directly with, and put in check European encroachment.

What We Can Do

Today, if we are to head-off modern day Conquistadors emboldened by a vast disparity in technology and organization, we likewise must reform ourselves.
  • Redesign Institutions to be Truly Ours:  We must look at institutions like schools and universities, hospitals, and research organizations, designed to feed special interests while hindering our progress as individuals and communities, and redesign them by leveraging technology at the grassroots to truly empower people to both understand and meaningfully shape the world around them. We must create new local institutions to leverage technology to our advantage. Hackerspaces, FabLabs, and DIYbio labs are just such local "institutions" that enable ordinary people to get hands-on experience with cutting edge technology - both helping them understand shifting paradigms better, and helping them do the "shifting" themselves. Organizing locally is key - as is collaborating globally. Competing institutions that standardize curriculum for open-source education, or test and certify organic produce for voluntary participants could help project the collective interests of scattered local institutions. 
  • Embrace Emerging Technology - Protest Abuses Of It: We must not protest emerging technology, but rather the abuse of it, while studying it and ensuring that it is put in as many hands as possible. Like information technology, regardless of how many nefarious individual or state actors there are, there are many more interested in the Internet working smoothly and will mobilize against any given threat. A similar paradigm will emerge regarding synthetic biology and 3D printing, provided growing numbers of people interested in a functional society understand the technology and are able to modify it to counteract criminals, terrorists, and monopolistic special interests.
  • Divest from Their System While Building Ours: We must divest from the current system, while systematically building up alternatives. Unlike the natives of the Americas, we are not waiting for ships to arrive on our shores. The new Conquistadors are already among us, building up their wealth and influence upon our daily patronage of their system. Imagine the Aztecs or Incans funding Spanish Conquistadors in tons of gold, while simultaneously attempting to fight them. Likewise, any attempt to break free from a system we are still entirely dependent on and fueling on a daily basis would be utterly futile.
More specifically, the areas people should focus on are exactly the areas DARPA and others amongst the technocratic deep state are - namely personal manufacturing, robotics (including drones), synthetic biology/genetics, and information technology. Depending on who is holding the keys when these fields merge, we may see the start of post-scarcity, an elitist transhumanist "singularity," or perhaps some combination of the two. The more people who understand, begin developing, and employ these fields of emerging technology, the greater our chances are that a "singularity" will benefit humanity, rather than a handful of "transhumanists"  at our expense.

These technologies cannot be stopped. If they are possible, people will develop them. Biological immortality is already an evolutionary reality, and is being demonstrably advanced in experiments with species not naturally endowed with this remarkable ability. Likewise, synthetic biology is already yielding new forms of life, created not by nature, but by human scientists. And certainly, if nature can produce intelligence, science will inevitably recreate it as "artificial intelligence."

Pretending these technologies don't exist, aren't possible, or are somehow capable of being stopped is folly. Instead, we must work to democratize and balance the equations of power and technological disparity, or suffer in our ignorance and wishful thinking, another Conquista, Trail of Tears, Nagasaki, or Hiroshima.