Billionaire warlords: Why the future is medieval

The world's next superpower might just resurrect the Middle Ages.

  • Russia? China? No. The rising world superpower is the billionaire class. Our problem, says Sean McFate, is that we're still thinking in nation states.
  • Nation states have only existed for the last 300-400 years. Before that, wealthy groups – tribes, empires, aristocracies, etc – employed mercenaries to wage private wars.
  • As wealth inequality reaches combustion point, we could land back in the status quo ante of the Middle Ages. Who will our overlords be? Any or all of the 26 ultra-rich billionaires who own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest. What about Fortune 500, which is more powerful than most of the states in the world? Random billionaires, multinational corporations, and the extractive industry may buy armies and wage war on their own terms.
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Top 5 KGB operations on U.S. soil

Russia's famed intelligence agency was often successful in getting American secrets.

KGB logo and NYC in 1970. Credit: Getty Images
  • The KGB recruited spies and carried out numerous operations in the United States.
  • The spies compromised U.S. intelligence and military.
  • Some practices of the KGB continue in modern intelligence.
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Magnetic north isn’t even close to where it used to be

You won't notice much of a difference unless you're north of the 55th parallel, though.

(Kirk Geisler/hobbit/Shutterstock/Big Think)
  • Magnetic north has recently been moving north from Canada to Russia in a cold hurry.
  • It's moving about 33 miles a year instead of the usual 7 miles.
  • World navigation models had to updated ahead of schedule to catch up with it.
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The mystery material that can survive 75 nuclear blasts

Recipe for awe: Coat one egg with Starlite. Blast it with a ridiculous amount of heat until charred black. Crack it open.

(Miodownik/BBC Reel)
  • A professional hairdresser and amateur chemist invented an unbelievably heat-resistant coating called Starlite.
  • Military applications brought governments running, but the inventor's odd negotiating style ruined discussions.
  • Was Starlite lost when he died, or had it already been stolen?
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How President Woodrow Wilson tried to end all wars once and for all

Following World War I, President Woodrow Wilson nearly died trying to ensure world peace.

Getty Images
  • President Wilson proposed "Fourteen Points" at the end of World War I.
  • He wanted an organization created – the League of Nations – to settle international disputes.
  • The League was a precursor to the United Nations, but the U.S. never actually joined it.
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