I get that with time we as a species become more informed - be that science or humanitarian. 105 years ago we figured out that space is not static. About 39 years ago the last country (supposedly) officially abandoned slavery, generally considered inhumane and wrong under our collective set of norms and values. 25 years ago we discovered the first exoplanet. 107 years ago we discovered the ozone layer, which we started to destroy (unknowingly) about 130 years ago when we starting pumping CFC's into the atmosphere. Only 44 years ago we realised we did something naughty, potentially killing us all, and started implementing measures to ban the use of CFCs which leads us to today, when most evidence suggests the ozone layer is healing. Same goes for asbestos, lead, mercury, radioactive materials and so on.
However, these days, "In the year 2020 when men are still alive" (yeah that is misquoted), we now have to perform complex symmetry rotations and transformations to a lot of what we used to believe was common knowledge:
Gender & Sex
- Gender, sex, and sexual orientation and romantic orientation are four different constructs, not necessarily related at all.
- Sex can be:
- Gender can be:
- Cis Female
- Cis Male
- Cis Man
- Cis Woman
- Cisgender Female
- Cisgender Male
- Cisgender Man
- Cisgender Woman
- Female to Male
- Gender Fluid
- Gender Nonconforming
- Gender Questioning
- Gender Variant
- Male to Female
- Trans Female
- Trans* Female
- Trans Male
- Trans* Male
- Trans Man
- Trans* Man
- Trans Person
- Trans* Person
- Trans Woman
- Trans* Woman
- Transgender Female
- Transgender Male
- Transgender Man
- Transgender Person
- Transgender Woman
- Transsexual Female
- Transsexual Male
- Transsexual Man
- Transsexual Person
- Transsexual Woman
- Sexual and romantic orientation can be:
- Grey Asexual
So you can be a biological male at birth, who is transsexual so now you are a female, but you identify as a intergender but your sexual orientation is polysexual however your romantic orientation is grey asexual. This is so confusing.
It was generally considered bad for your health to be obese, in fact, the modelling industry's ideal picture of a woman is almost bordering on anorexic. However recent scientific studies now suggest that obesity is fine, as long as you are not over a BMI of about 40 you are just as healthy as someone with a BMI of say 22. The studies push the idea that being obese is the new normal and being normal weight is in some cases less healthy than being overweight when it comes to bone density etc.. This push is in part due to the world trying to make everyone equal by removing all sorts of discrimination. Obese people must be as healthy as people with a "normal" BMI, so you need to look elsewhere for explaining issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, being out of breath etc. Otherwise we discriminate and that is bad.
We are being told what we must like. On the one hand we have never had so much sexual freedom as we have right now, you can be in a superposition of any sex and any gender you like and that is OK. But you are not allowed to have a preference for the same race as yourself, opposite sex and slender body weight because if you do, you discriminate against people of other ethnicity, sex and physical appearance. The idea is being pushed so hard that some people close to me argued with me that being a cisgender heterosexual person is not "normal". Arguing that most animals are homosexual, therefore proof that heterosexuality is the outlier. The root cause of this is that society is always pushing too hard in the opposite direction of a previous discrimination that it overcompensates and induces biased reverse discrimination. Since this now becomes a collective societal opinion, people see it as correct and do not question it.
No longer are we disconnected by geography, as the internet and specifically social media has erased those boundaries. That also means everyone can speak to everyone now. So we live in a world where the norm is to:
- Have elections where Russians can pick the American president via the spread of misinformation aka "Fake News"
- The leader of America can say whatever he wants to the world without redaction
- Anyone can be a star
- You can be richer than an anesthesiologist by making videos of yourself playing with your toys as a 5 year old kid. Making more than $1 million per month is pretty crazy for a 5 year old.
- Nothing is what it seems. So much information out there is false, gets re-published in a circular fashion where source is the article, photos are not what it seems (we even have a new word for it: photoshopping), videos are not what it seems due to deepfakes and progress made in AI deep learning neural networks.
- It is not really the invention of the smartphone that transformed the way society interacts with each other, as people did not spend 99% of their waking time on their tiny LCD screens before the convergence of the internet, computing power sufficient to make smartphones usable, the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, GSM and WiFi wireless technologies and finally the rise of social media. With all those technologies aligned, anyone can consume and produce content and then share with anyone else in real time. So people will be sitting in a restaurant and each individual will be deeply invested in the tiny portal they hold in their hands - the conventional social interaction between people is gone.
With social media allowing anyone to be heard, bodycams and bystanders recording police's actions providing world wide transparency and insight into everyone's everyday lives, issues like racism and many other polarizing subjects can turn from a persistent undertone of an issue to flame up and become viral - another new word (at least, in the way it is used). That in itself is good - the problem is that coupled with fake news, false information, world wide group pressure and the need to conform to an "expected identity" and brutal rejection if you disagree with that identity turning into acts such as swatting and doxing (two more terms), the fight against racism is no longer unbiased and reasonable.
- Hashtag friendly super summaries such as "Defund the Police" catch on like wildfire across the world. Though this is not a new concept, it is definitely only now popularised world wide and repeated by anyone with an internet connection, most of them do not even know what it means as it is a broad term with many interpretations. Conformity forces people to agree with the new viral activity of the week, so everyone repeats and propagates the movement blindly. It is no longer about discussing ideas, but rather about conforming and the question: How will you comply with this new movement in such a way that is least disruptive to my business interests and maximally visible to the public eye? Though this specific movement has some definite positive ideas behind it, such as divesting some funds away from enforcing policing to supporting communities in preventing people from becoming criminals in the first place, there are numerous major holes left if you simply go with the slogan and divest all funds away:
- Who will pay for the huge backlog of rape kits that lie unprocessed all across laboratories in the world? Many police departments do not have enough funds to invest in staff following up on those old cases, so taking away even more money will worsen the situation. So on one hand people are screaming for equal rights and to have justice for women who has been raped but never investigated, and in the same breath they demand the police be defunded. I am not saying all people who support the moment is ignorant to the details, but it sure feels that way when looking at people's quick reactions.
- Crime will still happen regardless of racism. Rather, all crimes are not based on racism. There is sexual assault, murder, drugs, theft, arson, white collar crime and the list goes on - all that have nothing to do with racism. The "Defund the Police" movement seems to be resurrected due to the George Floyd incident, so a racist act invigorated a movement that has way broader repercussions than stopping police from killing black people.
- Since everyone's actions are now public, your reactions are too. This pressure to do something about racism (which is a good thing) is forcing stupid reactions. Or shall I say, "inducing" stupid reactions:
- Large companies and other organizations are working out widely used IT terminology in source code, product documentation and applications in general, or other technology products. Specific examples are the terms master, slave, blacklist, whitelist, dummy, etc. Not using a derogatory term towards another human is a good thing, such as calling a black person a N... However opening the can to changing our general vocabulary is going to be totally pointless. Companies are now focussed on identifying terms that may be considered offensive or oppressive to someone else (a highly subjective issue) in all their written and spoken material - spending time on doing things that make no difference to racism at all, taking time away from better strategies such as creating and enforcing policies that treat individuals equally.
Where does this stop? We are changing innocent words (specifically those used in non-racial contexts) like blacklist, master, slave, to be non offensive - but I can guarantee you that nobody who uses these words are racists because of the words - if they are racists, then it has nothing to do with the words they use, it is about their beliefs. Beliefs invigorate words, not the other way round. Since we as people cannot even agree on what our gender is, how can we ever agree on which words are offensive? Where do you draw the line? Supposedly using the word grandfather in technical documentation is bad due to the association with the correlation to the clause introduced by racist politicians in the 1800's. Saying "no can do" is bad because it was used to mock Chinese immigrants in the mid 19th century. I am confident that most of the world who knows that phrase, would not know its origin. So when they use it, they have no historical connotation to it whatsoever, the word took on a different meaning. And when we speak, it is about our intension that matters. Sure, it definitely matters if we offend someone because of our ignorance, but that can be corrected by people simply speaking up - asking the other person not to say that term because of how it makes you feel. That is how respect is created.
- We are not allowed to speak freely any longer. We have to moderate each and every word we say, in the context of each and every person we speak to as to not come across offensive. It is no longer sufficient to depend on a person's ability to respect another person.
- It is impossible to have a social life separate from work, as your social profile feeds in to your professional assessment.
- You are not allowed to make mistakes, countries such as China have already implemented social points systems whereby your rights are mandated by your social standing. You are no longer free - you are bound to what others deem "appropriate". Your mistakes are persisted on the internet and follow you in your social standing score, affecting your future.
- You can never be disconnected and you have no privacy. Our phones track us, our cars do, surveillance cameras do, biometrics are collected without our consent and used against us without us knowing. Every click you make online are tracked and tied to your profile, used to target you with ads, fake news or identity theft.
- People do not spend time together any longer. They are all tethered to their smartphones and social media. It is hard these days to have a good old fashion conversation with someone face to face with no interruptions from the other side of the world.
- The sense of value is even more vague than it was before. You can be 5 years old, play with your toys and make a million bucks a month.
- You are being told that if you are not actively fighting racism you are a racist. So if I am not actively fighting cancer I am the cause of cancer? If I am not actively saving human lives I am a murderer?
- Social conformity and distributed, global group pressure forces upon us a collective identity that is hard to reject, leaving us all a little less unique. It takes away our diversity and strips us from our subjective opinions. It might seem like the exact opposite is happening - the fight for gender equality, anti-racism, #MeToo movement for fighting sexual harassment etc. all seem to point to diversity. However it is the underlying force that is the worry. We are all forced to conform to a certain group consensus about what is right and what is wrong.
Generally that is a good thing, but the problem is that the group's opinions are not based on science, it is based on public opinion and a circular feedback loop of conformity. A good example is the #MeToo movement - an attempt to give a voice to women to speak up about past sexual harassment and abuse, especially in the light of the typical male dominated work environment where speaking out is suppressed. Once again, in principle this is a great idea, but the execution suffers from a major issue - how do you prevent false accusations?
I bet you the first thought that just popped up in your mind is that I am exactly like the kind of person this movement is supposed to fight against with a comment like that. But I want you to pause for a second and think objectively - what made you think that in the first place? Ignore for a moment all that you feel about the #MeToo movement. Consider the movement objectively and scientifically. A mechanism has been created by society (the #MeToo tag) that allows women to speak up about past atrocities they were too afraid of to talk about before because they felt they had no voice, they felt alone in this and/or they felt ashamed. By making this public two things are attained - it is much more likely you would speak up about something you were embarrassed and ashamed of when there is a thousand other people speaking out along with you (standard group behaviour effect), and it is easier to feel protected against backlash if you are one in a thousand saying the same thing. Like a whistleblower leaking stuff to the press - they are semi protected because everyone knows about them now. Finally consider the fact that not all people are honest, you have the corollary that not all women are honest as women are a subset of people, so there is a statistical likelihood that some of the women speaking out are falsely accusing some men. I have made no biased conjecture here, this is simply a statistical probability based on our history. However, the fact that your first reaction was being shocked, supports my argument that society shapes our thoughts from objective, analytic individual thinking to group thinking.
The problem is not that some women will be lying - that is true no matter whether this is a #MeToo movement or just a women making allegations against someone. The issue is that via social media and more broadly the internet, there is this huge pressure for everyone to accept blindly that any women who speaks up using #MeToo must be correct and that any man accused must be guilty. There is no room for error - the expectation of society is that you have to just accept the fact that all claims are accurate and true. So if someone does lie, it will destroy another innocent person's life (assuming of course this person is indeed innocent as they can still be guilty of harassment against other women). Since the movement is so blindly strong, people will not consider each case on an individual basis but assume guilt regardless of final verdict. It is almost as if once you are named, you are guilty. This skews power disproportionately towards women. To be very clear, I have no problem with empowering women. I have a problem with bias, unfairness, inequality and reverse sexism. The #MeToo movement should have performed its two functions as I have stated; however with the way social media and group behaviour functions, it is no longer about the girl who was sexually abused, it is about sexism. It is no longer about George Floyd being killed by a police man, it is about racism. At no time am I saying the underlying issue (sexism, racism) is not critical to address, the subtle point I am trying to make is that society does not care about that girl, or George Floyd. They care about the underlying cause. Because that is what society demands. We do not have a hashtag #AmyPondHasAVoiceAndShouldBeHeard or #GeorgeFloydKilledByAnOfficer because nobody would care for more than a fleeting moment. #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter however, is something everyone can care about. It is like your 6 year old self stealing a cookie from the cookie jar, just to be caught by your mom. Instead of reprimanding you for stealing a cookie, she publicly shames you on facebook for being a thief.
The incredible visibility the internet and social media provides in to our lives results in a magnified view on every event. A singular event can outrage a global community and become a movement, in the process destroying the individual incident and living on only as a general concept. Any isolated event is transformed into a movement. And people are being stereotyped because of that. We no longer strive for objective equality, it is about collective movements. Instead of addressing the specific issue of police brutality against a person in general, we try to address racism. It is exactly like deciding that in order to fix your marital issues would be best addressed by achieving world peace. Sure, world peace would solve your marital issues, but that will never happen as you are tackling something next to impossible in order to solve a specific issue. Racism cannot be fixed by changing slave to replica or by requiring STEM to stop functioning for a day or by forcing the hiring of black people or by dissolving the police. Racism is rooted much deeper than that. The only way to fight racism is through education, time and patience. People will need to learn to live in harmony with other races. Sexism will not be fixed by a hashtag. Sexism and racism are fundamentally the same thing. It is discrimination against someone else of different race or gender. And even more generally, it is the discrimination between people of different attributes. That can only be solved once people stop mistreating each other for no good reason.
We live in a connected world where everything is amplified, judged and shaped into expectations based on collective, self reinforcing group thinking. We are losing our individual voice in favour of becoming a cog in a machine. We are told what to think, what is real and how to behave. We are monitored and reprimanded if we do not conform. We have come full circle.