(Thirty-minute lockdown read )
My previous post asked the question of what skills will be needed to rebuild civilization.
What is visible to all, is that only those countries with an operating government can manage and overcome a crisis like a world pandemic, whether they are democracies or authoritarian is academic, at this point.
To some degree or other, both lacked imagination, in that they were too busy, pursuing profit and exploiting land and labour, whenever and wherever they could exposing the International community for what it is, with all of its world organisations now begging for financial assistance.
The real question now appears to be how many lives is the economy worth?
Which is now ironic as we are learning that the value of money and the markets rely on the health of our citizens.
Without health and a healthy public, economic transactions become meaningless.
It was taken for granted and was not invested in allowing corporations to enjoy services like education and health care they never paid for.
With the massive depletion of the public sector budgets it is now visible for all to see and painfully clear that deregulation penetrates all considerations which benefits the rich and created abyssal inequalities will have to change.
For the Economy to have a meaning, it needs a world.
A free and functioning democracy demands a populace that is able to sustain discomfort, that is able to tolerate dissatisfaction, that is able to be charitable and forgiving of groups whose views stand in contrast to one’s own, and most importantly, that is able to remain unswayed in the face of some pandemic or violent threat.
The 20th century and industrialization made producing shit so cheap and easy that people just started buying stuff for the fun of it, not because they needed it. As a result, for much of the 20th century, identity was largely defined by how one consumed, by how one spent their money.
Looking back across human history, we see two parallel trends:
- As technology advances, each individual person is given greater flexibility and opportunity to express themselves and improve their lives.
- With access to greater flexibility and opportunity, our identities — or how we choose to define ourselves and see ourselves — become looser and more abstract.
(The fact that you’re reading this right now means that you have seen technology change more in your lifetime than it did in the 100 years before you were born.)
It means that you are reading this on a device that has more information available with a few taps than was accumulated by entire civilizations over thousands of years.
It means you’re probably exposed to more new ideas and images in a day than your ancestors were in a lifetime.
It means that you were probably born after world war two not to mention world war one.
It means that The world isn’t worse.
It’s just that we’re more aware of all of the bad things than ever before that has up to now has created a lazy entitlement wash over the world where everyone feels as though they deserve what they want from their government the second they want it, without thought of repercussions or the rest of the population or the planet we all live on.
The present Corona-virus pandemic is putting a spotlight on a very unsafe world.
Pandemics are not new it’s the cameras that are new.”
Cameras, the internet, and most importantly, social media.
This is what’s new.
Up to now, they (pandemics and other disasters) happened in faraway places, in the annuals of our history books, or in the imaginations of Hollywood movies.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen:
Two foreign invasions and four wars, half a dozen Middle Eastern governments toppled, 9/11, two stock market crashes and the worst global recession in the last 85 years, genocide in Europe, the Berlin wall falling, the end of the Soviet bloc, a man land on the moon AND NOW A PANDEMIC —
Yet people think now is the most chaotic and dangerous time in recent memory as though the world is spinning out of control and there’s nothing we can do about it.
In one sense, we have become a global community by the sheer fact that so much information can be instantly connected to everyone else across the globe. In another sense the Pandemic is all about protected ourselves from the overreaching judgments of others, we consolidate into our own clans and tribes, we take refuge in our own precious identity politics and we buy more and more into a worldview that is disconnected from cold data and hard facts.
It’s this feeling that has up to now consumed the consciousness of millions of people, and caused them to look at their country through the lens of a fun-house mirror: exaggerating all that is wrong and minimizing all that is right.
Due to the massive free-flow of information in recent decades, our identities are becoming more fluid and more extended because our circumstances change so rapidly people don’t just choose how to present themselves to others and how to define themselves; they are able to edit, modify, and accentuate those representations on the fly.
With the limitations of the physical world removed, the online realm provides a low-risk environment for us to “try on” new personas and see how they fit us. And as we embody our online avatars, it affects our offline lives as well (and vice versa).
Borders of all kinds continue to dissolve with each advance in modern information technology. Our possessions are being dematerialized — music, photos, videos, messages and written words, data and information, even our money is being digitized.
User-generated content is blurring the line between producers and consumers.
Smartphones and constant access to the Internet are quickly dissolving the boundary between being offline and online. Our memories are being stored as digital photos, status updates, comments, and “likes” that can all be accessed in seconds.
The distinction between the biological and technological is fading — cochlear implants, artificial joints/limbs, breast implants, pacemakers, robotic limbs that interface with the nervous system motorized exoskeletons — all of these and many more biology-technology mashups are either relatively commonplace and accepted or they are poised to become so in the not-so-distant future.
While many of us still see a pretty clear divide between the digital and “real” world, even these mental boundaries are gradually dissolving.
It’s a way the present Pandemic is reminding people that, hey, this didn’t just magically happen; thousands of people were killed and/or died for us to sit here and sip over-priced mocha frappuccinos and say whatever the fuck we want.
In the attention economy, of smartphones, the constant awareness of every fault and flaw of our humanity, combined with an inundation of false news is what is causing this constant feeling of a chaotic and insecure world that doesn’t actually exist.
By now, we’re all familiar with the tech world which is advancing at an exponential rate. However when this Pandemic is over and over it will be if we are not careful each one of us, individually, will capsize in the flood of negativity, and if we don’t learn the lessons we will burn down the very structures on which the most successful civilizations in human history have been built.
Remember that outrageous news and information spread faster and further than any other form of information, dominating our daily attention.
We will all we hear about are the grossest injustices in our society as soon as they happen.
When all information is freely available at the click of a mouse, our attention naturally nosedives into the sickest and most grotesque we can find.
We will become only exposed to the most extreme negative aspects of certain groups of people, giving us a skewed view of how other people in the world really think, act, and live.
If we are silent the world will come undone thread by thread, when the truth is that most of the population occupies a silent middle ground and is actually probably not in so much disagreement with one another.
The rise of the internet and social media has accelerated social progress in many ways but the only way to beat the attention economy is to opt-out of it.
This is both good and bad.
The basic human rights we enjoy — free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press — were earned through the sacrifice against some external force long before the Pandemic.
In a weird sense, true freedom doesn’t exist. Because the only way for human rights to persist is for everyone to collectively agree to accept that things don’t have to go their way 100% of the time.
In the last couple of decades, I fear that people have confused freedom with a lack of discomfort. They have forgotten about that necessary internal struggle.
“It seems like people don’t actually want democracy anymore, they want a dictator who agrees with them.”
We are now in lockdown we are given a chance to exercising the muscles in our brain responsible for focus, depth, and concentration. To stretch out our logic, to try and challenge our own beliefs and to always holding on to a healthy amount of doubt.
Here’s what we might expect the ‘self’ to look like in the future.
This is our brave new world.
How we interact with technology affects our identities.
Here are just three major areas of technological development that could completely scramble who we are and who we see ourselves to be.
Genetic engineering and nanotechnology.
Gene therapy will allow us to potentially select and choose our own genes. Genetic diseases and conditions can be rooted out of the family tree.
Nanotechnology will mean we can start implanting microscopic computers into parts of our body, and in some cases replace our cells with more efficient versions of cells.
Within another decade or two, our physical traits and abilities may become as arbitrary to our identity as what we had for breakfast or what our favourite TV show is.
Robotics and AI.
It is inevitable that eventually, all but the most creative and intensive service jobs will be successfully outsourced to AI-based machines. Doctors, accountants, bankers, even government bureaucracy will likely be automated through some form of an algorithm or smart-learning machine one day.
What will result, then, will be the majority unemployed population? Most people will have nothing productive to do for the simple reason that their skills are easily outmatched by computers.
Aside from the socio-economic and political crises, this will cause, it will likely cause a worldwide identity crisis as well.
Much of our identity is determined by what we feel most valuable doing. And if technology makes it so nothing we do is considered of particular social value, then we may end up with millions of people wondering what the point of it all is at the same time.
With the coming rise of virtual reality, there’s no reason to think that this won’t continue to grow and become more mainstream. In fact, virtual reality may give us an unlimited ability to alter our personalities in a virtual world and test the limits of how we conceptualize ourselves in a safe, consequence-free environment.
Perhaps virtual reality will become so enjoyable and customizable that a large percentage of the population will one day just give up “the real world” entirely.
In the future, we will likely reach the point where our physical bodies can be changed and upgraded at will, where our consciousness can be uploaded, modified, downloaded and exchanged from a cloud network, where machines and artificial intelligence will manage most of the important global tasks giving us an almost unlimited amount of time for leisure, and physical location will become almost inconsequential with the power and sheer amount of global connectivity.
The whole concept of a singular individual identity may become a vestige of a long-forgotten past, much in the same way we look back at the concept of a tribe or a kingdom today.
What we perceive to be “us” is just an attachment to a bunch of temporary objects and experiences that our brain tricks us into thinking actually represent something.
It’s now creeping into our political system, and I fear there could be irreparable damage done to it.
The fear of death is stronger than any other emotion.
In short this Pandemic, I hope will use revise all known categories of intimacy and care.
The era in which each economic actor need wor only about filling his or her pockets with gold must end.
This virus is a preview of what we can expect in the future.