Robert, you are the originator of the concept of a Smart Nation, with your article in 1996 published in the Government Information Quarterly, entitled “Creating a Smart Nation: Strategy, Policy, Intelligence, and Information.” Quebec is a nation, recognized by Canada, with a distinct culture, a distinct geography, and perhaps a distinct future.
What is a Smart Nation to you?
For me a Smart Nation is one that achieves intelligence with integrity at every level from the street corner to the office of the Prime Minister. To achieve understanding and wisdom at every level the entire society must be educated in a manner that is not now offered. Everyone must know how to think holistically, which is to say they must understand all of the threats, all of the policies, all of the demographic and natural pressures on any given decision. Everyone must appreciate true cost economics – this means the amount of water, fuel, toxins, child labor, and tax avoidance that is inherent in every product. A McDonald’s hamburger, for example, actually costs USD 250 if you add up all of the costs that are externalized to the taxpayer and future generations. A Smart Nation integrates education, intelligence as open-source decision-support, and research so that corruption and waste are eliminated, and the society achieves peace and prosperity for everybody, with no exceptions.
Why Must Quebec Become a Smart Nation?
Absentee governments, like absentee landlords, lose touch with reality on the ground. However good their intentions might be, the fact is that national governments today are both incompetent, and very expensive – they make huge mistakes, particularly in areas such as energy and health where massive corporate forces conspire to conceal the truth and influence weak politicians. At a minimum, Quebec must become a Smart Nation in order to keep the Government of Canada honest. In New York State recently the Governor has banned fracking. What the media has failed to report is that this ban is based on a single married couple, both lawyers, going village to village educating local councils that then banned fracking. Wisdom and truth are bottom-up matters. Canada cannot be trusted to get it right on big issues with local consequences. The beauty of being a Smart Nation is that transparency and truth are legal open concepts – they create trust. I like to say that the truth at any cost lowers all other costs. This is not a concept any national government appreciates today.
How Could Quebec Become a Smart Nation?
Quebec is already a nation and Quebec is already smart. What it needs to do now is conceptualize and then implement three basic approaches through three institutional platforms. The three approaches are holistic analytics – below I offer a list of threats, policies, and communities that must be brought together – along with true cost economics and open source everything engineering.
Threats to Quebec
Core Quebec Policies
Eight Communities of Quebec
|01 Poverty02 Disease
|06 Genocide07 Atrocities
|01 Agriculture02 Diplomacy
|07 Health08 Immigration
|01 Academia02 Civil Society
|05 Law Enforcement06 Media
08 Non-Gov & Non-Profit
True cost economics is something that must be taught in every school and especially every business school. Eventually there should be an application on every cell phone such as I illustrate below, such that Quebec will stop buying anything with an excessive true cost.
Please notice the importance of the cellular device as an educational tool and mobilization tool. I envision the day when every citizen receives a cell phone at birth, free, with free access to the Internet and to a Quebec network of computers and communications services – including a national centre for education, intelligence, and research (more on that below).
Open source everything engineering is a major advance on current thinking. While IBM and others talk about creating smart cities by connecting existing devices, they are completely ignoring the reality that all those devices were created during an Industrial Era without regard for true costs. Melissa Sterry, a European futurist, likes to ask “what would a city look like if it were designed by nature?” How we build cities and roads today is insane – too much material, badly located, creating a toxic atmosphere, not self-supporting. Beginning with the information technology arena – and especially telecommunications and media broadcasting and how we share information among citizens and businesses, we need to move toward open source everything.
There are three institutional platforms that I believe would not only make Quebec the first Smart Nation in the world, but also make it the center for French civilization in the Americas and eventually across Africa and perhaps into Europe and Indochina.
The first is a Quebec Decision-Support Centre at the national level but with a very strong focus on support to local governments and small businesses. Think of this as the national brain center whose job it is to provide a truthful documented answer to any question from any council or enterprise so that they can make good decisions in the public interest.
The second is a School of Future-Oriented Hybrid Governance, also at the national level, also with a strong focus on helping local governments and small businesses. This would be the first school in the history of the modern world to bring together students and practitioners from each of the eight communities listed above, at the entry level, mid-career level, and senior-executive level. Their focus would be on documented true costs of every product, policy, service, and behavior; and on devising new means of sharing information across all boundaries – sans frontiers.
The third is a World Brain Institute with four elements that I illustrate below:
Notice how the two bottom elements create financial wealth to support the two public elements at the top. In my view, telecommunications and the Internet are the future foundations for civilization, not political parties and national governments. Neighborhoods using information tools will be the political force – and the economic and social force – of the future.
These are inspiring ideas. If Quebec does as you suggest, what are the implications for the future of Quebec in relation to the Arctic, Canada, the USA, and the rest of the world?
This is a magnificently complex question. As you know I have reviewed over 2,000 non-fiction books at Amazon. I have many organized lists, including one on self-determination and secession.
Let me start with the artificiality of national and provincial boundaries. Culture and nature should define boundaries, not military force or political dictat. Creating a Smart Nation is one way to deepen, protect, and project one’s culture. There is no question in my mind, particularly in light of the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, but that Quebec is a virtual independent nation today. Now it is a matter of deepening its prosperity and reducing its vulnerability to unwise decisions made by outsiders lacking accurate information. Stopping insane proposals having to do with tar sands and using clean water to flush tar sands from Alberta should be among Quebec’s highest priorities as a Smart Nation.
Now let’s move to the middle or the “center” of the matter. The future of Quebec depends on how well it educates its youth and how well it manages all of its policies including immigration. The downfall of any nation is the combination of unemployed youth, concentrated wealth, and a loss of faith in the government. It is absolutely essential that Quebec be a Smart Nation able to address every threat, create thoughtful sustainable policies about everything, and ultimately assure every Quebec citizen of a very satisfying life of peace and prosperity. Today we do that with intelligence (decision-support) instead of a military. Quebec does not need its own military – the police and gendarme, together with citizens who are armed and trained to mobilize, along with a very competent counterintelligence function, will more than suffice.
Finally, there is the matter of global influence. In my view, Canada will break up one day, with Alaska and British Columbia and perhaps the Yukon and Northwest Territory becoming their own nation, while eastern Canada joins with Vermont and New Hampshire – or not. The Hudson Bay area, shared by Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and Nunavut, is a future frontier. How that frontier develops will in my view be largely determined by whether Quebec chooses to become a Smart Nation and by whether Quebec chooses to extend the benefits of a Smart Nation – to include free cell phones, free access to the Internet, free education on the go (“one cell call at a time”), and free decision-support – to these neighbors. Imagine if all this were free but only in French….the possibilities are moving.