I sure hope we can! Although it feels like the forums wherein those kind of discussions may happen are few and far between. I often wring my hands over some of the unforeseen externalities of our always-on media landscape: we’ve become more polarized than ever (via the ability to self-select sources we already agree with), more likely to play politics like it’s a team sport instead of a serious intellectual exercise in democracy (seemingly with the concussions to match), less likely to seek out alternative points of view, more staunch in the self-righteousness of Being Correct or Just Winning…
…things have gotten ugly out there.
It’s harder to be a scientist in a world that rewards incessant self-promotion. Science is constantly trying to disprove its hypotheses… but that sure seems like a rare occurrence anywhere else these days. We certainly all have our guard up for the most part.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the increasing complexity of the world has greatly exacerbated the constraints on almost every single decision we need to make (also recently finished this book which goes into this idea at depth), but we really haven’t changed any of our economic models accordingly. In fact, the whole idea of “behavioral economics” — that human decision-making may not be entirely rational and hence governed nearly as tightly by the assumptions required for “perfect markets” theorizing — is so mind-numbingly new within the last few decades that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the intense redux of some of the free market doctrine arguments we heard from the Chicago School in the 1970s. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a staunch supporter of markets — but as I get older I appreciate much more deeply why the interplay of business and government is required to curb some of the excesses of human nature that no system can easily wipe away (namely corruption, fraud, moral hazard, despotism/forceful hierarchy, the tragedy of the commons, etc. etc.).
I share your general distrust of politicians more broadly, and the notion that for the most part, “their agenda starts and stops with themselves” and yet I’ve witnessed firsthand the same level of venal corruption in private industry — in some respects to an even greater degree, because there are many very powerful and wealthy people who don’t even have to *pretend* to pay lip service to serving the public (it is one of the biggest reasons I’ve physically moved away from Silicon Valley and now work for a company in the UK, to put a very personal point on it). So via experience, I’m not nearly as convinced that the grass is really greener elsewhere… nevertheless, it remains very difficult to accept the general mediocrity of human nature as applied to public and private life alike.
We don’t like imperfection; we don’t like admitting we have flaws; and ultimately deep down I think a lot of the “supremacy” culture we’ve endured throughout history has a lot to do with our biological self-preservation and natural narcissism combined with a predilection to classify everything as either “like me / positive / comfortable” or “unlike me / negative / suspicious.” Then there’s the matter of our natural tendency to bucket everything into binaries, whereas in nature you rarely find anything so cleanly divided. And reality is perhaps nothing but an endlessly confusing onslaught of distributions that our still relatively fledgling brains have a difficult time grasping, much less understanding or articulating — to end with another “now reading in longform (which also feels strangely rare these days!” reference and a meta one at that):
“We are all, as Huxley says someplace, Great Abbreviators, meaning that none of us has the wit to know the whole truth, the time to tell it if we believed we did, or an audience so gullible as to accept it.”
(p.s. regardless of what the rest of the world is up to, I am happy to commit to you that Medium is a place where I will endeavor to check my biases and attitudes at the door so that we may hopefully, possibly, work on core issues!!)