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New Year’s Resolution: What I’ll be thinking about in 2018

Image by Ali Syaaban via Unsplash

In 2018 my only New Year’s resolution is to actively think about my relationship with technology, inequality and social norms.

It is probably the hardest resolution I have made for myself, but I believe I need to spend time to form validated opinions around these three topics and ensure my actions are fostering a world I want to live in. At the bare minimum, I want to consider the consequences of my current behaviour.

To kickstart the process I took the time to define how I see the state of technology, inequality and norms at the beginning of 2018. When I read this post in one year, I hope to be embarrassed of my lack of knowledge, but let’s get started.

My relationship with technology

With technology everywhere we are increasingly questioning where we are left off:

  • The largest technology companies possess a power leaving most nation states powerless and desperately competing for attention and investments. Today they are not only market leaders, they are market creators.
  • The success of the selected few technology companies is driven by scale advantages, powerful network effects and proprietary data used to trick human psychology in a scale previously unheard of.
  • The dopamine rush of notifications and social recognition is challenging our ability to withhold focus, to feel valued and to be present. While the internet is supposed to enable connections, more people are struggling with loneliness than 10 years ago.
  • Our deepest secrets are no longer shared with the priest, but with search engines and online platforms who store, analyse and monetise from our anxieties and dreams. What’s more, governments and criminals often find ways to gain access to the information.

The good news is that we still have control. We are not required to use Facebook to connect with friends and family, nor use Google to find information and products. These are our own choices and we have the power to decide differently.

For me the decision is not if I should use technology or not, but rather what technology I use and when I use it. In 2018 I am going to actively consider my relationship with technology.

My relationship with inequality

The stories of Harvey Weinstein made years of malpractice surface the mainstream news. Time magazine recognized the silence breakers as the person of the year and MeToo stories broke every social advertising platform I know of. Yet:

  • Women are still insanely underrepresented in positions of power, carry a disproportionate amount of family chores and are often overlooked at social gatherings.
  • Inequality doesn’t stop at gender, but is also found in religion, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and class. These social inequalities are furthermore closely linked to economic inequality.

I don’t believe we decide our parents and fail to see the fairness in success being a proxy of where you were born and what is your gender. More importantly, are the systems promoting white male behavior of the past the best we can create for the future?

My relationship with social norms

Humans and civilizations have been shaped through thousands of years of evolution. Different times, different cultural norms and expectations. These norms are powerful and useful in keeping humanity afloat, often ensuring stability and long term thinking.

However, I want to consider the mechanics and the meanings of the norms I am following. I want to question when it is me deciding and when it is strongly inherited social behaviours. Basically I want to reconsider the usefulness of these norms in today’s day and age.

Examples include:

  • Narcissism of busyness is a concept where it is seen cool to be busy, because being busy is associated with success. I have noticed the behaviour in myself and I’m pretty sure I don’t like it. Maybe it is time to slow down.
  • Institutionalized slavery is a term I recently saw used to describe employment. I recognize the analogy, but remain sceptic if the current alternative of contractors is any better.
  • We study to work so we can retire in wellness. I’m not sure if a strict division of school, work and retirement is optimal for any human, nor society.
  • Centralized systems is a rather new construct in human history. Most nation states and their institutions only date a few hundred years back. I grew up with centralized systems as default, it might be time to challenge the axiom of modern societies.

Final remarks

I have a number of ideas I want to experiment with for each of these issues. By next year I’ll make an update consisting the concrete initiatives I did to actively consider my relationship with each of these trends. Please hold me accountable throughout the year.

The elephant in the room is that I am working with, for and on technology driven projects. Furthermore, I am a white male with both my parents having long educations and I often work with people similar to myself. The irony is not lost on me.

There are number of other trends close to my heart that I also ought to be thinking about, first and foremost climate change. Climate change should probably have been the only topic I cared about at this point, yet it is not. I don’t feel good about leaving out climate change and my extensive flights are an eternal guilt trip…

In 2019 I need to add climate change. Until then I’ll try to find peace in the statement that climate change is ultimately more dangerous for humanity than for the earth.

If you want to follow the process, the easiest way is probably to subscribe to my weekly newsletter where I in 2018 put focus on technology, inequality and social norms.

Image by Joanna Kosinska via Unsplash