Dystopian oligarchy sounds like a cool band name.
Either way. There are various forms of ‘capital’. Financial capital, political capital, social capital, etc which can be used for acquisition, protection and influence. And people tend to want to accumulate and keep whatever capital they have. Rich people like staying rich, powerful people like staying powerful, influential people like staying influential.
Naturally, capital tends to accumulate among a small sector, who try to find ways to keep that capital to themselves (plutocracy, oligarchy, etc). So wealthy corporations try to get wealthier. Politicians try to stop competition from other politicians (in democracies via elections, in autocracies via human rights abuses). Brands find ways to identify with base emotions (the way Linux and/or Macs uses the innate drive for human freedom as a tool to sell software and computers). The point is individuals with power and influence want to keep that power and influence, stop competition and build more power and influence.
Fields like psychology and neuroscience are growing exponentially. We are learning more and more about what makes humans click all the time. And it seems that the oligarchy (the political leaders all over the world, the wealthy individuals, powerful corporations, powerful individuals) who want to maintain their capital can tap into these exponential trends in how the mind works to keep the masses subjugated and placated.
As an obvious example, consider the estate tax. Wealthy individuals don’t like paying it so they hired Frank Luntz to use psychology tactics to figure out how to make people who will never be rich enough to pay an estate tax dislike it too. He eventually found after working on the subject renaming it the ‘death tax’ made people who had nothing to personally gain or lose by an issue end up siding with the wealthy and powerful.
That is a very basic (and not extremely effective) method. But this is just the beginning because it is a very basic example of how the wealthy and powerful can tap into psychology to control the masses and make them willing ‘slaves’. What happens after another 50 years of exponential growth in neuroscience and psychology combined with a world with an ever growing Gini coefficient? The Luntz example is clumsy and imperfect, and modern advertising is imperfect, but what will 2050 look like?
Are we looking at a future where in 50 years most people will not only be subjugated and exploited by a small oligarchy, but happy (or at the very least, terrified of the alternative) to be subjugated?
Military dictators used to just use fear and force to control people. But doing so causes other emotions to fester and boil (vengeance, the desire for freedom). However if you can use advances in neuroscience and psychology to make people enjoy their slavery and fear freedom, then you can exploit and control them.
Oxytocin or vasopressin (chemicals found in the human body) can build trust if taken nasally as examples. What is to stop dictators in the future from using advanced biotechnology combined with advanced psychology to make the masses love and trust the leader? Even now, you can argue we have the technology to do this. Put a bunch of people in a theater, dump airborne oxytocin through the ventilation system and show a movie about ‘dear leader’.
Then come back the next day and find ways to use biotechnology to manipulate the neurobiology of hatred and disgust while showing a film about political opponents of ‘dear leader’.
These aren’t perfect examples, but they are real examples of what could probably be done with 2010 technology. And the technology of social control will keep getting better.
It has been found that various nutritional deficiences can lead to aggression. Lack of omega 3s, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, etc.
What is to stop Kim Jong Il from mandating diets high in these nutrients while also dumping low doses of chemicals into the water supply to manipulate people’s hormones (testosterone, estrogen, etc) to make them more passive? The end result is a nation of people who are less aggressive and by proxy easier to control.
On the subject of people rebelling against dictatorship, you can argue they do it due to innate desires for freedom and fairness. Humans are hard wired to respond negatively to unfairness. So ‘altruistic punishment’ is a powerful motive in bringing down powerful dictatorships.
However the dorsal striatum seems to play a role in altruistic punishment. What is to stop a dictator in 2055 from somehow disabling this part of people’s brains w/o them knowing? Then they won’t give a damn if their fellow citizens are being tortured and beaten in the streets. Right now abuses of their fellow citizens are partly what are motivating Iranians to march in the street. What happens when neuroscience is advanced enough that wealthy, powerful people can shut that part of people’s brains off?
The neuroscience and psychology tools necessary to make people enjoy (or at the very least passively support) exploitation, or fear the alternative to exploitation more than the exploitation itself are arguably growing all the time.
The incentive system is there (individuals and organizations that have capital want to maintain and build that capital), and the tools are growing all the time for humanity to have a very dystopian future as willing slaves to powerful oligarchs.
Our will our basically decent nature (I tend to think humans are generally decent most of the time) somehow cushion and protect us?
The reality is that since capital tends to accumulate, you’d assume that a resistance movement may not be realistic since an insurgency will never have the organizational tools, influence or capital of oligarchs. Then again, advances in technology do undergo rapid depreciation. As an example, TV used to be a means of social control, but advances have made the internet an insurgency tool of sorts.
Advances in military hardware have decentralized military might. now insurgents connected with cell phones and $20 bombs can hold off the US or USSR military in Afghanistan.
So are we headed to a dystopian future, will human nature save us, or will technology naturally lead to decentralization which will empower individuals rather than disempower them?