Friday, June 26, 2015

Future Shock

These two charts show the rate of social change and the rate of technological adoption. There are a few things to note here:
  1. Vertical (or near vertical) lines did exist for tech in the past--Color TV and Radio took off quickly--while Computers and the Telephone took longer. 
  2. A BIG part of tech-adoption is the rural vs. urban split (electricity on farms took forever--it was widespread in cities long before it was everywhere). Network-effects--and similar (the computer is more valuable the more people have one--the same for VCRs) are hugely important to some things (Telephones) and not others (cars).
  3. Not all social causes are equal either--and not all are listed here.
This has a different view of the world--slightly--but it also makes a point that is worth looking at: this slice of technological adoption shows what a technology looks like when it is in a semi-viable state (the 1975 PCs would only be vaguely identifiable today--as would the Web of 1990). Still, the curve here is worth looking at too.

Is Social Change Being Driven By Technology?
The comparison of these graphs is meant to show a sort of correlation: the speed of social change and the speed of adoptive technologies (especially social-interaction technologies which is what these charts sort of focus on). Are they related?

What we have seen this week is a social-upheaval that is perhaps revolutionary. The collapse of the Southern Pride / Confederate Flag contingent. The legalization of gay marriage. The about-face of a conservative court (Justice Roberts: Appointed by Bush. Justice Kennedy: Appointed by Reagan) on Obamacare. These are blows that have rocked the Conservative party--and been cheered by liberals.

The Omnivore remembers back to 2012 when it was assessed that the Democrats had a massive edge in online activity and social-network recruiting. Is there something inherent in the new technological frontiers that provides a left-ward curve and acceleration of change along that axis to societies that use them?


Brand Management & Social Networks
The first thing we should understand is that all activity on Social Networks is best described as Brand Management. In this case, the brand you are managing on Facebook or Twitter is you. When you post things, LIKE things, Tweet things, and so on, you are projecting and curating a brand that is the version of you that you want to "sell" to people. There is a reason that spending time on Facebook--a lot of it--makes you feel depressed--it's because you are in a competitive atmosphere with all your friends and acquaintances who are all brand-managing in your space.

There are reasons people's lives look "perfect" (or desperately emo) on Facebook: because it's their brand.

Some things work better for brands than others--the terms associated with the GOP are generally not as good for individual brands as liberal ideas. Liberal ideas can be caring. Conservative ideas, in their basic form, often come across as mean. This doesn't mean the ideas are mean--it means that the domain that the GOP dominates (personal responsibility?) are not as brand-amenable as LoveConqueresAll. 

It's possible that everyone's immersion in Social Networks is driving liberal change.

Notes (from
  1. More inclusive / diverse emoji's
  2. Activists using social networks
The Collapse of Religion
There is no reason that technology should be at-odds with religion--but what if it was? Consider that one of the things that technology has done--that The Internet has done--is to bring pornography into every house that wants it. Children had to work to get old magazines when The Omnivore was growing up. Then it was likely Playboy. Today a 12 year old can get pornography that would make the Marquis De Sade blush.

There is also the capture of attention. Today a young person has grown up with numerous devices that enable communication and entertainment. While these do not and cannot compete in the spiritual space, the modern church is probably ill-suited to go up against an Xbox.

Perhaps one of the things that technology is providing is a kind of mental anesthetic that displaces religion in many segments of our society. TV has been accused of this for a while: next year Netflix will surpass standard network television. If TV could be the Opiate of the Masses, Netflix is refined Oxycontin.

Social Justice Normalization
Conservatives rail against Social Justice Warriors--and, to be sure, on the Internet there are plenty of people making asses of themselves in the name of Social Justice. On the other hand, what if technology was presenting a kind of normalized view of Social Justice that was separate from online juvenile activism. In this model what we see is the proliferation of media and person-to-person interaction that provides views into arenas that were never visible before. 

Having to rely on a million-dollar-an-episode prime-time TV show to present gay characters is one thing. Being able to see stories and media about gay people on any device without hesitation may present a picture of a world that is very different and changes far more quickly than the world you'd have seen in the 1980's.

The Omnivore thinks that if Hillary wins in 2016 it will be in large part because of TV shows depicting a female president. The fact that there are thousands of channels is an aspect of technology every bit as much as a cell phone. Some of the biggest media stars of today are on YouTube--and you've never heard of them.

To be sure a lot of the Internet is ANTI-Social Justice--but, again, that brand is weaker than pro. The deluge of rainbow icons on the day of the SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage will have a subliminal impact even if it does not make a specific logical case. For people embedded in social media this may move the dial even if they are inclined to disagree. Hashtag activism (or using Facebook's rainbow filter) is also easy. So long are you personally aren't paying a price for supporting something (Gay Marriage) there's no reason not to and arguments against it just seem mean and old-fashioned. Multiply this by a VAST increase in media and you have a tidal-wave of change waiting to break.

A Redefinition of 'Conservative'
It is worth noting that despite his defection on Obamacare, Roberts is by any rational definition a conservative justice. Kennedy somewhat less so--but still, as noted above: Appointed by Reagan. Part of what we are seeing in the shift is a movement not just of society to the left (see Gallup) but also conservatives--and what it means to be conservative--shifting to the right (see: Pew). It is a common barb to say that Ronald Reagan would be considered too left-wing for today's GOP--and not exactly true (he'd have been totally against Obamacare--and fought it out with Russia)--but there is some truth to it.

To justice Roberts, The Omnivore guesses, today's Congress probably looks like unruly spoiled brats screaming as loudly as they can for things that the government is not designed to deliver. He probably finds the Court to be the last functional branch of a government locked in ouroboros-like battle with itself. What else is he to do but try to prevent chaos and damage?

The new conservative is marked by a litmus test of agreement with the most fanciful elements of the base--that Obama is a literal tyrant, that Operation Jade Helm could be a power-grab-coup by the military, that the president might be a Muslim, a foreigner, or a traitor. These are extreme positions that are reflected by the media the right consumes (see: FEMA warning pop-ups on major conservative web-sites--heralding disaster and collapse) and produces (Fox News and the 'Knock-out game'). This is a change both in degree and content of what being on 'the right' means (note: The Clintons saw many scandals and Bush saw 9/11 Trutherism--but none of these elevated the way conspiracy has today).

Notes (from The Upshot)

  1. A model for the Supreme Court finds that the movement of decisions in the liberal direction may be more due to conservative over-reach than a change in attitude.
The "correlation" above isn't all that strong--and it's not causation anyway--but the rapidity of change makes The Omnivore think there IS a technological acceleration behind what we are seeing. As change is happening in the young faster than the old--and the young are far more immersed in technology--this would provide a sort of "predictive check."

If this is the case, expect to see these trends increase until some sort of natural saturation point is reached. The Omnivore isn't sure what that would look like--but the culture is probably only so elastic. We should also expect back-lash. A few days ago, parties unknown distributed KKK material around Charleston. Periods of rapid social change have always had significant backlash. This one should be no different--but we should also be aware that to a very large extent the people who are being caught in the cultural rip-tide are people who may not be, exactly, ideological enemies of positive social change--but may simply be seeing something they have a hard time understanding happening so quickly that they don't have time to adjust.

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