Imagine that I'm standing on the corner in your neighborhood, organizing grassroots support to protest against the ravages and harms of old age. "The scourge of aging is robbing us of our youthful energy, our physical strength, and mental capacities!" My rant continues with a call to action, "Old age is making us susceptible to disease, increasingly tired, and will eventually kill us! We must act now!"
You're thinking, "Okay, this guy has gone 'full idiot' ... don't make eye contact."
Even if you agree with my assessment of aging's symptoms, you can only shrug and dismiss the possibility of changing the natural and unavoidable effects of getting older. My friend, activist & writer, Michael Albert, often uses this analogy to illustrate the helplessness most of us feel when our political and economic systems fail. Just as we might find a grey hair on our heads and simply shrug, in a concession to age, many of us shrug feebly as we learn about the newest government and corporate scandal. We consciously/unconsciously decide that "it is what it is" ... Why fight a seemingly futile struggle against powerful forces on our lives? It's why we disengage, fall to apathy and do nothing when we witness/experience/live in an undesirable reality.
There is a problem, however: a confusion.
Learning to cope with age-related arthritis is not the same as learning that your government has been data-mining the communications of its citizens indiscriminately. The former might be something you've just gotta deal with ... the latter, no matter how seemingly powerful the forces at play, is NOT an unalterable symptom of nature. Political, economic, and legal structures can be challenged, altered and brought in line with our deepest values and hopes.
Particularly on technological matters, in the digital age! The rules are still being written, precedents not fully set, and there is much opportunity in the grey area. Consider these very current and relevant questions.
Should governments ever have the authority to shut down phone or internet service for its citizens?
Do employers have the right to demand access to your Facebook password?
Should genetically modified foods fill grocery store shelves without labels?
Should states be allowed to fly unmanned "drones" with cameras to watch citizens?
Will the VR Troopers ever come back to television?
I vote "NO" on all of these, and maybe you agree. Our collective agency and potential to shape technology's role in our society has never been greater, or more important! Imagine being in the room during Continental Congress and the drafting of the original Constitution. Yeah, I know ... I said "imagine."
How would you have shaped this country in its infancy? What input would you have given?
This is a phenomenal and rare opportunity to lay the groundwork for the future. Some believe that the fast-growing tech industry will be the source of unprecedented wealth and political power for current and future generations, ushering humans into "post-scarcity." We better do it right so that tech can grow with us and not against us!
Three steps you can take:
1. Support (financially, if possible) your tech liberty groups, open-source projects, democratic institutions, and internet privacy watchdog orgs, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation,Wikileaks, and the American Civil Liberties Union, currently suing the administration for its spying program.
2. Support your local whistleblower. The invasion of your online privacy is part of a much larger issue about the need for government openness, citizen rights to privacy, free speech. Those who use their free speech to protect yours and expose government misuse of power are heroes. Period.
3. Get and stay familiar with the fast changing world of technology! You can follow my blog "Good Kid. Maad Fx" and several other great sources for news about tech and society.