To further add to the confusion is the effects of advancing technology. In military science, technology is not only a force multiplier for armed forces, but also enables new venues of attack previous generations would consider impossible. Imagine explaining cyberattacks to a World War II tank commander. Asymmetric warfare favors the small groups and even individuals, and their powers only increase over time. Today’s cutting edge research is tomorrow’s niche hobby.
With resource depletion, climate change, and economic collapse, the ruling elites are trying their hardest to hold onto power of vestigial structures. However, their desire and desperation to hold onto power are often the things that destroy the institutions they depend on. Corruption means that more disaffected individuals will arise, regardless of how many riots or uprisings are put down. Lots of broad bans on technologies and fields of research mean amateurs are less likely to hold things, but only a few professionals (who may or may not game the system for their own benefits). Surveillance and arrest of dissidents (including those practicing “legal” methods of dissent) means that change within institutions becomes much more unlikely. Expansive domains shrink as the costs of maintaining them exceed wealth extracted.
On the positive side, though, technologies exist for eliminating poverty and alleviating resource depletion (albeit treating symptoms rather than causes). From cheap desalinization to renewable energy to 3D printing to impressive medicaltechnology, we will need everything we can. Living under a dystopian police state out of a cyberpunk novel is bad enough, but as technologies get cheaper and more widespread, we may at least get a postcyberpunk future instead.