The best tool for understanding the intersection of technology, society and politics taking place now and in the near future is good science fiction set more or less in the present. Kim Stanley Robinson's "Science in the Capital" trilogy, and Little Brother, being notable examples.
Both are fairly optimistic books in terms of the possibility of political change. The election of a progressive insurgent President is a central thread in Robinson's trilogy. Doctorow has state government stymieing federal excesses and ends looking hopefully toward an upcoming presidential election.
Here's what happened in real life: the Democrats have nominated a young, African-American community organizer and constitutional scholar, primarily powered by small donations from citizens over the internet. And... he supports expanding surveillance of US citizens and is unwilling to block amnesty for corporations who illegally invaded your privacy at the request of the Bush administration. That is not how this storyline is supposed to go. If this is the best we can do through the electoral process, then what?
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