1. A rocket is preparing to take off. Only a very few people will manage to get aboard it.
2. Those who do manage to get aboard, will become the new lords of the world.
3. They will enjoy a level of prominence and supremacy over the rest of humanity of which even the billionaires and statesmen of today are but precursors and foreshadowings.
4. It’s not a literal rocket, although SpaceX, BlueOrigin and Virgin Galactic—all pet projects of billionaires, not coincidentally—are surely advance echoes of the idea.
5. For these enterprises, strangely impractical in themselves, show that there is already an urgency among the elites to leave this world behind.
6. Their urgency comes not because the barrenness of space, of meteor-strewn wastelands, truly allures them; rather, it is because they see the cracks and tremors beginning on the earth.
7. The earth has grown old even as the elites have strained to pronounce it new: the frontiers have been shut, there are no virgin continents to explore and exploit.
8. The animal spirits of the economy, having been reared on dreams of infinity, find themselves circling inside the surly bounds of geography, trapped within a world-sized cage, growing ever more restless and perhaps desperate.
9. They yearn for other worlds because they sense their ambitions can no longer be met here; they tire of contriving fictions of wealth out of fountains of numbers.
10. And so, when this world begins to fall apart more and more obviously, when the old becomes too obvious to ignore under the veneer of the new, a strange fear will grip them and there will be a rush to find a place aboard the rocket.
11. Most of humanity either will have no knowledge of the rocket, or will accept helplessly that they have no chance of getting aboard, or will exhaust themselves in revolts against false enemies in the vague hope of getting aboard.
12. Many of the professionals and the semi-rich, however, will know of the rocket, first because their education will allow them to see it taking shape, and second because the elites will have required their help to build it.
13. Gradually, it will become apparent to most of the professionals and the semi-rich that the plan is for nearly all of them to be left behind, and so they too will revolt.
14. There will be a grave struggle as the professionals and the semi-rich gather round the rocket and scramble for a place on board.
15. A very few of the professionals and the semi-rich will in fact make it aboard; a very few of the elites, in turn, will be cast out (or even, in a quixotic form of sainthood, give up their seats).
16. The rocket will fire up and may, or may not, lift off. If it does, it will most likely be carrying fewer than it was intended to.
17. Those who remain behind will be scorched by the liftoff, or become peasants living short harsh lives, vying over what remains as the earth grows strange and inhospitable.
18. There will be stillness upon the earth, punctuated by chaos. There will be the quiet warmth of the peasantry, days passed in a shocking humbleness, days without structure, wealth or rule, in short days without hope–punctuated by an occasional access of passion or plunder between rival bands.
19. Eventually the elites will return to the world. On landing, they will find the world quieted and the peasants in disarray—ripe for domination. Some of the peasants will see them as god-like; others will remember them as people from an earlier time yet still awe-inspiring.
20. Using riches and technologies from the past world that were cached aboard the rocket, the elites will go forth and carve out slices of the new world, win over peasants to their side by bribery and force, and establish their own realms, fiefs, and so on.
21. At that moment, they will no longer be “elites”, simply because other names will fit them far better: lords, emperors, sultans, kings.
22. The world of old will resume in the midst of the new: masters over mastered, few over many, ruthless over meek; stasis and war, cruelty and fate. The game of thrones will be far more than an escapist’s fiction.
23. Technology will exist, but it will signify the old world more than the new. Many will forget how to use it, or see it as inhuman or indistinguishable from magic. Small amounts of it will be kept by the elites and their new professionals, who will maintain the skills needed to sustain the technology and thus reinforce their rule.
24. Like the moon, gods will ascend and watch it all with strange unmoving gaze—until the time again comes for yet another world to begin.