Given all we now know about data collection, its storage and analysis, it’s hard to reconcile our continuing dependence on media hype and the ballot box when electing government yet, we push ever on, making the same mistakes. The decisions of David Lloyd George, Arthur Balfour, General Allenby . . . in the aftermath of WWI continue to fuel the Middle East atrocities to this day. Baldwin’s misjudgment of Hitler’s manic ambitions in 1938 lead us into a war that spent the lives of 59 million people. The American administration’s misconceptions of communism through the post WWII years brought about numerous wars, the most costly being in Vietnam in the 60’s, but we continue to bow to the opinions of wrong people: of misinformed, biased, people.
A decision, based on a media hyped, ballot box referendum, was made in 2016 to extract the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union: a tree-hugging, freedom loving, phoenix still growing from the ashes of WWII in 1947. Immediately the voters’ choice was known the politically ambitious attention seekers, those who initiated the move, resigned from the administration leaving HMS Great Britain to flounder on the rocks of political stupidity.
During his presidential campaign we learned that Donald Trump was a bigoted, racist, misogynist yet we elected him to be the most powerful person on the planet where he remains, everyday proving us correct in our assessment and idiotic in our choosing.
When will we learn not to do things this way? When will we move away from the ballot box and give due credit to the social media analysts who, with every click of the mouse, are increasingly privy to our innermost thoughts – not the thoughts of just a few of us who turn out the vote – the thoughts of billions of us attached to the Internet.? When will we take our most important decisions away from the elected few; away from the clumsily elected, narrow focused, few whose interests might not reflect those of the majority?
We don’t do this when deciding if a criminal accusation is valid. Instead we hold a trial, in a court comprised of the informed advocating the salient facts to a diverse group isolated from gossip and hype. In this way we harness the intelligence of the group’s diversity while shielding it from false information. We do this to protect the accused from bias brought about by prejudice, gossip, propaganda, or from views too narrow to encompass the wider perspectives at issue but, when deciding who to trust in high office we revert to the blunt instrument that is the ballot box? When deciding economic policy, or revising the National Health Plan, or the Education Plan, or when exercising fishing quotas and environmental protection we throw away any intelligence diversity might bring by using committees of the elected. Why don’t we harness the power of a large, diverse group? Because it’s too cumbersome? Not anymore it’s not. It’s less cumbersome. It’s cotton-pickin’ easy now with chat rooms, online polling, social media analysis . . . it’s pretty darned easy for the few to garner the wishes of the many – just ask the commercial marketing teams. They can tell us the most appealing way to package our goods, the phrases to use when pitching our products: colours to choose, images, smells . . . it’s all there to be collected, stored, & analyzed.
Few of us Boomers owned computers in the late 1980’s, and of those few only a very few connected to the Internet yet here we are, just 20 years on, with digital television and international video calling available in our living rooms. Those born into this period, the Millennials, take it all in their stride – always anticipating the exceptional. They accept texting, Tweeting, Snapchating, Telegraphing . . . as the norm, and they are embracing blockchain technology, along with crypto currency, as second nature. They don’t need explanations; they just accept new concepts and
learn how to use the latest devices and applications as they need. We Boomers and Xers are having to adjust: having to accept that we don’t need to study the physics of quantum physics in order to utilize its functions anymore than we need to understand how a car works in order to use it to commute. Better still all we now need to know is how to use the Uber app on our mobiles and we’re away to work without the need to understand electricity or combustion engines.
Further examples might be found in the world of commercial aviation where crew training is a never ending cost. Financial pressure forced the industry away from the pedestrian chalk & talk classroom to training simulators where, instead of sitting and listening, we pressed buttons and flicked switches in response to audio and visual stimuli. As far back as 1976 we Concorde crews learned about Specific Behavioral Orientation, SBO: a method of teaching to produce nothing other than specific behavioral responses. It was in there with BFM: an acceptance of magical explanations designed to circumvent educational shortcomings. Now both are used widely to train pilots and engineers to carry out the effective procedures for given situations. The luxury of long courses to provide the background necessary to dispense wisdom during the operating of a complex flying machine haven’t existed for 40 years. It’s been ‘Monkey-see; Monkey-do,’ for a long time.
Can we emulate that in our schools? Can we put our children in training simulators instead of classrooms? Can we hand them digital devices instead of books and pencils in order to let them teach themselves? Will that do the basic job as well as Mr.Chips and Miss Jean Brody? Perhaps. Perhaps it’s happening.
The good news is that the Millennials are taking the helm. The largest group ever born into a decade they are now driving the economy and, consequently, are the targets of the marketing folks and influence peddlers. The even better news is that most Millennials read a lot more than their predecessors and, consequently, are less susceptible to conditioning . They have developed broad reading skills allowing them to scan efficiently and to absorb selectively. If this translates into less tribalism: less left or right; less conservative or liberal we are indeed moving forward. If it narrows the gap between capitalism and communism; if it translates into more measured, more balanced, analysis of newsworthy events, political propaganda, and cultural bias then the human race is set for great leap forward. If the reptilian instinct that drives machismo behavior be pushed further from the frontal lobe then the human race could be on the cusp of a paradigm shift. We might be returning to the way we were.