Regardless of the subject being AI, robots disrupting jobs, the Middle East crises, a cure for aging, the future system, the possibility of nuclear war, overpopulation or climate change, more and more statements use the phrase “This is something that requires public discussion” or ”This is something we need to talk about,” “We have to talk,” followed by what can be described as close to nothing.
It seems that world and its population is more centered on what is going on with the rear end of some completely unimportant but publicly well-known person than what represents a real life-and-death situation.
Let’s take the example of drugs, which will have ability to stop or reverse aging. Although prospect seems amazing, there is always some unforeseen side effect we have not thought about. And again, everyone is saying that we need to discuss these things. *1
3 months later: “Yes, we have to talk about this!”
6 months later: “Yes, we have to talk about an aging cure; as soon as possible we should have a public debate!”
2 years later: “Yes, we need to talk about an aging cure; we know that it is very important progress is made!”
5 years later, a product is widely spread on the street, and now the only thing we can do is deal with the consequences of it.
After these consequences everyone is crying for policies and immediate actions, but by then it is too late — about 10 years late. We needed that discussion before we even had any technology to begin with the research.
Everyone is agreeing that these subjects are difficult to discuss but rarely anyone does something worth mentioning. Even when we have discussions, they are very shallow and look more like constant repetition of the same question. Most of the time we do not need to hear the same question over and over again, what we need are solutions. What we need is brainstorming of ideas and the way to quickly validate those ideas.
Or maybe the issue is with the media. They do not know how to properly address things and are more centered on scandals and celebrity gossip than what really matters. Maybe by chasing sensationalistic stories to boost their ratings and profit, they forgot what journalism really is. We do not have enough journalists with a good understanding of science, and instead have too many of those who are capable of copy paste journalism.
News reporting should be about a few short questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Although journalism nowadays does reflect those questions, being so short they usually leave lots of space for misinterpretation.
The main purpose of journalism should be to increase awareness in order for readers to take the necessary action that will lead to positive change.
Or, as American Press Institute described it:
“The foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.” *2
Now, do a quick search on Nazi Germany and the propaganda during Second World War. Why does everything there so closely resemble what we have now? This is not limited to our country; it looks like entire world is infected by the same virus.
Maybe the issue is with platforms and the concepts of likes and comments. Maybe what really matters is struggling to emerge to the surface, but is buried with daily jokes and sensationalistic news.
Old sayings tells us "a bad workman blames his tools," but why would you drill a hole with the axe?
I am not saying that it is not possible, but it is definitely inaccurate and inefficient. Think about it, if technology allows you to make a distance call and connect with someone by video, would you want to use telegraph or smoke signals if the circumstances did not require you to do so?
Every job that needs to be done has its own most efficient set of tools. The better and the more specific the tools are, the faster and more accurate the job will be finished.
Or maybe issue is with us. We have become used to multitasking, constantly seeking new sources of information, similar to junkies desperately seeking their next drug dose. Now, whenever difficult questions arise that require more attention from us, more concentration — we just procrastinate, similar to students who need to study for an exam but the fear of failure gets the best of them. Fear is so disturbing that they tend to do everything else except what is needed to increase their chances of passing that exam.
We have shaped our technology, and in turn our technology has changed us. Similar to the blacksmith hardening his muscles by pounding on the hot metal, with every swing, the metal will take the shape he has envisioned. However, the metal he is trying to change, will untraceably shape his arms, shoulders, bones and muscles.
We cannot blame the man for what he has become, as same as we cannot blame water for taking shape of the bowl. We have become what we have built. We’ve taken the shape of our surroundings.
If we are unsatisfied with marketing and leisure, with money-centered, bullying media, we will not stop it by complaining. The only way to stop it is to build something better so people can migrate toward it.
People, unlike water, have the ability to choose. But that choice is limited to things that already exist. Most people do not have the will strong enough to swim their entire life against the stream — and this is something we have to take into consideration.
To create change in people it isn’t enough to expect that only we have to change, for a long lasting change we have to change our tools, platforms, and systems.
Imagine first what we want to become, and then create systems that will mould us in the way we need to change, to become what we imagined.
If we create an environment where bullying is discouraged, where every idea is praised and celebrated, maybe people will not be afraid to speak and share their ideas openly, and then maybe “difficult subjects” will not be difficult anymore.
Then, it will be easier to speak about those difficult subjects in a timely manner. In the meanwhile, we have to do what we can with what we have. And we should not forget that we are the ones who need to build new tools, as there will be no one else to help us.
“Do not wait; the time will never be 'just right.'
Start where you stand, and work with whatever
tools you may have at your command,
and better tools will be found as you go along.”
- George Herbert