There have been a number of tweets in my timeline roughly saying: “Ferguson, Gaza, Syria, Ukraine — what is going on with the world?” I don’t know that these can all be reduced to a single underlying reason although the current rate of global change likely has something to do with it. There is, however, one thing they all have in common: an abject failure to recognize each other’s humanity.
This failure is all the more frustrating at a time when we should all know that we are inhabiting a rock hurling through space protected by a ridiculously thin atmosphere. An atmosphere that we have been collectively mistreating together with our water and land. There is now more than ever an urgent need to correct course, if not for the sake of other species, than at least for our own.
Yet this failure shouldn’t be surprising as we are engaged in all sorts of practices both individually and collectively that emphasize and re-enforce otherness over shared humanity. Organized religion deserves a lot of the blame here especially when not tempered by science (possibly modulo Buddhism about which I am learning more), but so does everyday politics and the global economy with its vast and growing differences in wealth and income.
That’s why it is all the more important that we think critically about the role of the internet. It connects us with each other as never before. Fundamentally it has the power to let us become closer, recognize how we are all human and fight the threats we face as a species. Yet to date so many internet systems seem to further our differences (although they do have other positive sides). In the blogosphere we read predominantly what we already believe. On Facebook we mostly connect with the people we already know. On Twitter we often yell at each other because we don’t see the human behind the tweet.
So if/when you are thinking about what to build, please consider anything that has a shot at bringing us closer together and letting us see each other as human beings first and foremost. I will readily admit that I don’t know exactly what that would be, although I suspect that anything that helps people learn as well as anything that shows people in much more depth are steps in the right direction.