Watching a video of Kurzgesagt on digitally uploading our minds in the future (a very distant future of course) made me think of what the implications of such a scientific breakthrough would be for the future of politics. The video touches upon the political realm by weighing how some people will take advantage of this digital environment through various nefarious means. They could seek to maximize their power (via hacking), intentionally corrupting or deleting memories, or hoarding the resources essential to maintaining the digital universe of memories to the detriment of others. It is also important to question who will be in control of that universe and what might happen with the memories of people that have died and only live digitally. They face greater risks. However, extensively imagining such a distant future is useless; just as this concept of digitally uploading one’s mind was once unheard of, many developments will drastically shape politics which we cannot yet know. In short, the changes would be massive, requiring us to completely rethink the world as we know it, including the domestic and international political systems of today. I am confident that certain breakthroughs related to space exploration could have the same restructuring effect.

Thus, it feels appropriate to discuss contemporary political or economical, social and geopolitical developments that will be of growing relevance well into the near future, and how they may reshape politics. The reason for this is that many of the political conflicts nowadays can have far-reaching influences on the type of future we will be experiencing, from party politics to foreign policy to the dynamics of international cooperation. In such a case, it is much easier to envision political decisions that paint a bleaker future before we can talk about colonizing other planets or pursuing a digital existence. In this article, I review current political events that, although not yet a source of a major crisis, have the potential to become so if certain decisions are made

India’s “love jihad” laws

“Love jihad” is a baseless conspiracy that Muslim men forcefully convert Hindu women through marriage. Such claims are directed against interfaith marriages, and which have resulted in arrests under a new anti-conversion law in the region of Uttar Pradesh. Four other regions led by the Hindu nationalist party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), which has been the ruling political party of India since 2014, are considering such laws. It is important to mention that anti-conversion laws are already present in eight states, but these new laws specifically target “love jihad”. Even when the spouses express that they willingly entered the marriage when being questioned by authorities, they are still kept in arbitrary arrest. Such laws come against the backdrop of increasing tensions in India. These tensions stem from the outrage towards the show “A Suitable Boy” for portraying a Hindu-Muslim romance, from the continued repression in Kashmir and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act which excludes Muslims from being fast-tracked for citizenship. Hence it is pretty clear that if such repression of inter-faith relationships continues the prospect of human rights of this minority will be worsening and the tensions will be reaching a tipping point.

Australia-China tensions

With the imposition of tariffs of up to 212% on Australian wine, a ban on beef imports from certain abattoirs and several other threats, relations between Australia and China seem to have taken a turn for the worse. China has also released a dossier of fourteen disputes and grievances which must be addressed for a normalization of relations to occur. These grievances include: recently passed foreign interference laws, speaking out on the human rights abuses in Xinjiang and aggressive military posturing in the South China Sea, calls for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, and the ban on Huawei from the 5G rollout due to security concerns. Given the sensitive nature of these issues, it is highly unlikely that the Australian government will comply with the demands in the dossier. The current tensions are a case study for what might happen if a country with strong ties to China takes action or makes statements which contradict Beijing’s strategic objectives. It is clear that China is entrenching its geopolitical claims and is not holding back from potentially using its economic leverage on other countries too.

The “rule of the law” compromise in the EU budget

In the aftermath of Poland and Hungary using their veto powers to oppose the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 and the NextGenerationEU (the temporary instrument designed to boost recovery from the pandemic), EU leaders have scrambled to reach a compromise to avoid having to resort to a nuclear option in approving the budget. Such an option could take the form of an intergovernmental arrangement between all EU states except Poland and Hungary which would affect the degree of oversight of the European Parliament. This means that the budget would not be subject to the approval of the European Parliament as is usually the case. The use of the veto by Hungary and Poland comes a few years after the European Parliament voted to institute proceedings on Article 7 Treaty on European Union (TEU) on Hungary. The European Council could not reach unanimity in implementing Article 7 TEU as Poland and the Czech Republic threatened to use their veto powers. The veto for the EU budget was used due to the rule of law mechanism which links EU budget funds to rule of law criteria and can result in the withholding of funds. The concern is whether in reaching this compromise the EU has given too much leverage to the two countries. The rule of law mechanisms might be delayed by at least 2 years which will certainly influence the re-election prospects of prime-minister Viktor Orban and his consolidation of power. The scope is also much more limited and does not cover the attacks on press freedom or fundamental rights. In the end, it seems that one has to question whether this compromise was worth watering down the conditions (mentioned above) in the previously agreed deal. This will become clear in the next two years. On the rule of law note, one must remember that soon the European Prosecutor’s Office will start operating despite Hungary and Poland not taking part in it. The future of accountability for rule of law abuses is so far uncertain but will be substantially influenced by the outcome of this EU versus Poland and Hungary standoff.

Donald Trump’s loss and refusal to concede

It is no surprise that even after the Electoral College has certified President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of this year’s presidential election, outgoing President Donald Trump has not conceded the election. Additionally, Trump has cast doubts on mail-in ballots even before the election, calling them illegal and rife with fraud. He has led a significant campaign in courts trying to overturn the results of the election based on claims of rampant voter fraud and voting machines changing votes. In total, at least sixty legal challenges have been launched, out of which Trump has only won one with no impact on the result on the election. Two cases reached the Supreme Court (with three judges appointed by Trump and a 6-3 conservative majority) which also rejected his claims, a major blow to his efforts. Why this campaign of delegitimizing the election should concern us is that there are already impacts that can be seen in the dynamics of party politics, particularly the Republican Party: over 70 per cent of Republicans believe the election was not fair, up from 35 per cent before the election, 125 House Republicans and 17 state attorney generals supported the Texas lawsuit at the Supreme Court that sought to invalidate the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin (states won by Biden), and only 27 Republicans in Congress acknowledged Biden’s win. Even more shockingly, Trump has sought to overrule the popular vote and have the Republican legislatures in certain states appoint the electors to the Electoral College. The popular vote could easily be disregarded in favour of electors appointed by Republicans which also have redistricting powers. In the future, it can become more difficult to elect a Democrat even if he wins the popular vote.

Besides such short-term effects, one has to ask what the impact will be on voting rights. For instance, they poured 20 million dollars and 50.000 people into efforts to restrict voting. In Texas, Gov. Abbott limited drop-off boxes for mail ballots to just one per county, disproportionately impacting Democratic countries. In Georgia, due to the limited number of voting locations, people have faced long queues (predominantly in areas with large minorities). Such false claims could easily lead to voting rights being further restricted which will make it more difficult for minorities to vote (with a majority of them leaning Democratic). And with Republicans in control of state legislatures, it is possible that mail-in voting will be the first to be affected.

These are just a few of the developments that we need to pay attention to in the future. Before we reach the point of digitally uploading our minds, we have to pay very close attention to what is happening now as the future is worrisome.

Image by NASA on Unsplash