Notes from the age of disengagement

We exist in the Age of Disengagement, an era marked by weaponized speech online where our words are not only used against us but also synthesized by machines to form a new canon of beliefs and attitudes. Yet, behind the algorithms are people, curators who selectively shape this modern narrative akin to a new Bible, impacting how we view different individuals, genders, and non-conforming identities.

Transitioning from this idea, the primary actors often present themselves as benign, assuring us that our private data is safe and being used ethically, yet the mechanisms of their operations remain veiled in secrecy. Our state bureaucrats and policymakers live in a world where they believe there’s no need for transparency regarding measurable progress. However, if tangible change isn’t apparent to the public, leaders need to leverage their power to demonstrate meaningful progress. Public relations gestures, like press conferences, ribbon-cuttings, or podcast appearances, are inadequate substitutes for genuine accountability.

Amidst this backdrop, the current era has also seen a transition in information dissemination. We moved from an age where you could voice any opinion, largely unnoticed, to an age where attention could potentially garner you a book deal off of Twitter, to our current reality. Now, capital has co-opted the democratized mechanisms of free speech, turning them into engines of disinformation—a venture that’s become disturbingly profitable.

This shift leads us into a realm where, in the absence of credible information and veracity, we find ourselves in a vacuum. Instead of holding the powerful accountable, we fight among ourselves on platforms like Reddit, engaging in endless debates about what should be. We find a parallel in the non-profit sector, where many are part of the problem while believing themselves to be part of the solution.

The narrative further unfolds as complicity becomes a universal trait in our current state, and at some point, we must coalesce all stakeholders, including the public, for a moment of reckoning. We all must share the burden to solve our problems, acknowledging the vast organizational technical debt we’ve accumulated. Our societal architecture is burdened by a debt that can’t simply be dissolved through bankruptcy. We must be agile and nimble in addressing these issues, despite society’s inherent resistance to such change.

In reflecting upon this, we live in a world of escalating crises, always on the brink of being permanently upended by the next pandemic. Those in power must recognize that secluding oneself and making reactionary, self-serving policy choices are no longer acceptable. If the instability of the Global South hasn’t made it abundantly clear, those in power are only one day away from losing their seat.

Drawing parallels to our own situation, we like to think we’re beyond such instability here, but the proliferation of societal fissures and bad actors who invite and exploit these divides for personal gain suggests otherwise. In the face of societal upheaval, those who have contributed to the instability wouldn’t shed a tear for the repercussions.

July 31, 2023