If not now, our planet will soon be dead

If we cannot stop disinformation our globe will become lifeless

The decline of shared values is a pressing issue in the United States (and elsewhere). We are disunited. It would not surprise me if a second American civil war broke out in the next decade. Democrats and Republicans do not have adequate shared values to keep our government from cracking and breaking apart. This state of affairs did not arise accidentally.

The disinformation is intentional. The manufacturing of outrage is intentional. The spread of ignorance via viral content is intentional. There are people with are accountable and can be named. It may be too late to correct course. I hope it isn’t.

I had to cut off my parents and my sister because they continued to support Donald Trump and his ugly version of Republicanism, which is not what Republicans used to stand for, but rather, a cult with a malignant narcissist at its helm. The problem is that one cannot continue a relationship that has become so toxic that it is completely detached from reality. They cannot hear me anymore, because the words coming out of me are auto-translated into something entirely delusional. This is problematic.

But what the American public really needs are lessons in how to be rational, how to assess that information — distinguishing between real evidence and fake evidence — and end up believing only what one is justified in believing. We could use more lessons on what it means to be rational and how to be epistemologically responsible citizens who are familiar with the difference between a valid and invalid argument, and who know an unjustified belief when they see one.

In his Time essay How to Fix American Stupidity, philosophy professor Steven Nadler argues that the answer is more philosophy, by which he means more rationality. More critical thinking skills imbued into the minds of young people. I tend to agree with this rationale, which is why I will be writing a series of essays covering the most common logical fallacies in the next few weeks.

I do not expect to mend the relationship with my Trump loving sister, or my loving and evangelically blind parents. It is far too late for them, but my sister’s kids still have the chance to make a world that isn’t based on fear of the other and magical thinking. Positive social and cultural change only happens when we build robust systems that minimize the toxic influence of these two forces.

The first large-scale program to diagnose and treat HIV/AIDS in South Africa was introduced by the global mining company Anglo American to protect its workforce and reduce absenteeism. The €76 billion Italian energy company Enel now generates 45% of its power from renewable and carbon-neutral energy sources, preventing 92 million tons of CO2 emissions annually. And MasterCard has brought mobile-banking technology to more than 200 million people in developing countries who previously lacked access to financial services.

If companies can act responsibly as in the examples above, then consumers should demand that they do. It is time to regulate social media companies to stop weaponized disinformation. It is time to hold politicians and business leaders personally accountable for putting power and profit ahead of human progress. We must advocate for shared values and humanism. We must demand reality based conversations rise to the top of the algorithms. We must be willing to fight and die for basic human equity. If we cannot achieve these our planet will soon be dead.

Citations:

  1. The Ecosystem of Shared Value. https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-ecosystem-of-shared-value

  2. How to fix American Stupidity. https://time.com/4937675/how-to-fix-american-stupidity/