We are all junkies now. With our never ending quest for instant gratification and the endless dopamine hits that give us transient highs and then leave us wanting for more, our world with its advanced gadgetry and technological excellence has turned us all into something akin to drug addicts in search of the kicks. It needn’t have to be this way. Technology was supposed to liberate us from the humdrum of existence and usher in an egalitarian utopia. Instead, it has enslaved us and made us willing to surrender everything from our privacy and security to our mental and emotional wellbeing at the altar of complexity and and a race to the bottom capitalist profit seeking machine.
If this was limited to the realm of our leisure seeking personal lives, then it would not have been that much of a problem. However, when our economies, our governance structures, and the other pillars of society, such as the media and the judiciary, are all in a hedonistic spree of instant thrills and living for the moment, then it is certainly the case that we are in serious trouble. Indeed, there is no part of our world that has been left untouched by this drive for thrills and highs that leave us in thrall of the next high and so on.
If aliens were to visit us, they would surely be baffled by our surrender to an drug fueled like trance that our contemporary existence has turned us into. Leave alone aliens, future historians would certainly note how we have turned into a mass hysteria kind of slavery to memes and virality that can undo the progress made since the Renaissance in reason, logic, and rationality. Simply put, we are hurtling towards a New Dark Age, that is as much a product of Entropy and the Law of Diminishing Returns, as it is by our tech obsessed world.
When corporates stress on the immediate quarter alone and not longer term value creation, when governments balk at coming up with Multi Year Plans and instead, focus on media management aimed at the immediate present, when narrative is held hostage to Present Shock, and when media debates resemble gladiatorial arenas, then we are in deep trouble. With so much focus on the present, it is no wonder that the children and the future citizens display ever shortening attention spans and an inability to appreciate the arts and the humanities, that need deep reflection and time consuming engagement.
Agreed that Civilizations decay due to a number of reasons, including Entropy. As disorder increases and the cumulative effects of the Last Two Centuries of Binge Growth begin to take their toll, there is little that anyone, no matter how well meaning they are, can do to reverse the decline. Moreover, infinite growth is not possible in a finite world and when economies sputter due to the Law of Diminishing Returns making speculation more profitable than investment in productive activities, minimalism and living on less are pursuits for monks and other Zen influenced Hippies. So, one might very well ask why technology should be singled out for blame when there are other factors at play?
The short answer is that our Digital Age has been touted as an answer to the age old problems of degrowth and decay that laid waste civilizations throughout history. However, when technology turns destroyer, instead of a savior, it is time we invested in something more fulfilling and rewarding, if we are to Save the World. Moreover, for those of us Gen Xers who arrived at the Cusp of the Internet Age, we remember the breathless exhortations of Techno Utopians who promised Manna and Heaven on Earth. So, were they Snake Oil Salespersons or is it that we need to reorient our Neoliberal Paradigm, before it corrupts any future inventions and discoveries that can well and truly help us?
There are no easy solutions to the predicament that we find ourselves in now and perhaps, a course correction is due, in the form of a gradual weaning off from the Madness of Neoliberalism or a sudden Jolt through a Revolution. However, I can say for sure that instead of looking for a Messiah who would deliver redemption, it is time we took personal responsibility and become our own saviors. It begins now and it is Now or Never for humanity as each of us has the power to change ourselves, and perhaps Move the Needle a Bit Away from the Destructive Precipice.
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