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After the Death of Utopia

A decade ago, people spoke of the end of history, meaning the ultimate triumph of a liberal capitalist political order. Nowadays, many scoff at that notion as too simplistic. Nonetheless, we are at both the end and beginning of something remarkable.

In the wake of the death of the utopian - and often bloody - certainties of the 19th and 20th centuries (Communism's collapse was but the latest spectacular example), and with fading belief in the liberal welfare state, traditional views about work, retirement, education, the Church, solidarity, and other social institutions are changing rapidly. The central driver of all this is today's enormous acceleration in the underlying pace of technological and economic change. Call it fast-forward modernization.

Of course, the worldwide crash of high-tech stocks in 2000 chilled the hype about a "new economy" that seemed to be emerging at the "end of history." But falling share prices should not blind us to the fact that on top of the ongoing information revolution, three fresh waves of revolutionary technology are poised to hit: bio-technology (including new medical technologies and genetic engineering, such as the creation of human embryos through cloning), nanotechnology, and robotics. Each is its own industrial revolution, and will profoundly alter our lives and ways of thinking.

Indeed, the revolution is already upon us. For the first time in history, a global techno-market order is transforming the world of finance, business, politics and, indeed, physiology, beyond recognition. This new techno-market system is shaped and characterized by a belief in the increasing importance of knowledge, new ideas, innovations and new technologies, and a higher pace of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter famously called "creative destruction."