At bottom, we’re aware of just how little agency we’re exercising. The intimate details of our lives are being colonized by the state and the market alike. And as cool as we might seem for a minute in pretending our overlords don’t faze us, the secret is already out. Real cool is creating your own game, not adapting to edge others out at somebody else’s. The invasion of intimate life is the biggest game in town. But it isn’t ours, and it never will be. No matter how much we can access its benefits, we can’t lay claim to them more than it lays claim to us.
The root of the problem is that, for whatever reason, the visions of war and peace that captured our imaginations most over the past several decade led us radically inward. Now that we’ve glimpsed the scary idea of an end to novelty on the internet — an exhaustion of surprise and delight amid infinite commensurable choices — we have an opportunity to turn outward again. And few among us are more uniquely qualified to make that turn than our military guardians and our technological innovators.
It’s time to rediscover how freedom and strength can go hand in hand in real life, with flesh-and-blood humans in clear command. We need to do better and dream bigger than a future where bots and algos do all the work, from curating our gifs to slaughtering our enemies. Instead of fueling a competitive arms race toward marginal advantages in the crowded fields of war and peace, we need to be focusing on moon shots — areas where we can make extraordinary advances in the absence of tight tech and security competition.