“Rubicon moment” is a strange name for a column and without explanation, it won’t mean much to readers. I feel that the significance of the topics covered in the column will be understated if the naming of the column is not properly understood.

Historically the Rubicon was a river that separated Italy from the northern provinces of the Roman Republic. During the time of the Republic (509 BC – 27BC) Roman civilisation saw a massive expansion which brought the entire Mediterranean region come under the rule of Rome. In order to facilitate the task of governing such a large area, provinces were formed whose governance would be the responsibility of a general in the Roman army.  Each general assigned govern a province held imperium – the right to rule each province and command ones armies as seen fit. However under the Roman law only elected magistrates in Rome held the Imperium in Italy proper and therefore any general returning to this region had to disband their armies before crossing over the border. The breaking of this law was punishable by death, and any general and any soldier within his army to break this law automatically became outlaws in the eyes of Roman society.

Photo Credit History Channel

The later decades of the Republic were characterised as a time of bitter political infighting and social upheaval. Military leaders in the provinces were always politically active, and disputes between them and the central Roman government always had the potential to blow up into full military conflict. This happened on 10th January 49BC, when general and governor of Cisalpine Gaul (today northern Italy) Julius Caesar led a Legion of troops southwards across the Rubicon river in order to take power in Rome from his former political ally Pompey, thus breaking the rules of imperium and triggering the civil war that would ultimately condemn the Republic and see Caesar become dictator and lay the foundations for what became the Roman Empire.

At that moment on the banks of the Rubicon that a decision was made that would radically alter the course of history and have a profound impact on the political and cultural development of the Mediterranean region for centuries to come. By crossing the river, Caesar knew that there would be no going back (as his army was proceeding through the river, Caesar famously uttered the phrase “alea iacta est” or “the die is cast”) and that the challenge ahead of him would have to be overcome, otherwise it would overcome him.

Fast forward 2000 years and the world of today is not so different from the one in which Julius Caesar lived. Our present times are marked by challenges that will trial our resolve and make us confront difficult questions about the future. Our politics, our identity, our environment and our progress as a human race in a rapidly developing and globalised world are all things that present a great test to our leaders as well as to ourselves as individuals. But as Caesar was in 49BC, in this moment we are stood on the banks of our Rubicon, making decisions and following paths that will determine how we face these challenges.

The aim of this column is to present the reader with an overview of some of the most pressing issues and decisions we face and analyse them both for how we can overcome them or, if we’re not careful, how they will overcome us. It’s not all doom and gloom – I also will cover the positive aspects of the modern world and how they are serving to inform our decisions and take us forward into the years to come. Hope you enjoyed my first instalment on the robot revolution.