I have been reading a book called End State: 9 Ways Society Is Broken – And How We Can Fix It by James Plunkett which is hugely enlightening and which has made me think about what is happening today, and which goes some way to explaining why we are where we are.
‘He sets out an optimistic vision, exploring nine ways in which our social settlement can be upgraded to harness the power of the digital age. Covering a dizzying sweep of geography and history, from London’s 18th Century sewage systems to the uneasy inequality of Silicon Valley, it’s a thrilling and iconoclastic account of how society can not only survive, but thrive, in the digital age.’
It had not occurred to me that the digital age would have such an impact on our society and our lives to the point that it is in effect a new industrial revolution that requires a wholesale change to our laws, social security and all other services. Indeed, the way we govern needs to change to account for it and all avenues, such as universal basic income, need to be explored.
I was particularly struck by the fact that we are forcing millions and millions of people into low-paid jobs with little chance of moving up the earnings ladder, because many of the rungs have been removed in the digital age, and how we are using tools from a different time to try to manage our populations. You will, however, have to read the book to see what I am talking about.
The changes we need will have to be permanent and suffice to make as many people comfortable as possible, at least until the next revolution, and this is where we so often go wrong.
Politicians tend to look for quick solutions that can be translated into votes at the next election. Doing the kind of good that comes of age a decade later is too late for their immediate needs and so we live in a world of perpetual change that rarely sticks.
When you think about what we need today we often hear the words ‘We are going to have to learn to live with it’ in terms of managing Covid and yet we are looking for solutions that try to fix the problem in the short term which is somewhat counter-intuitive. We should also be looking at systems that will enable us to live with a new virus in the long term and one that impacts us as little as possible. Long term is not a phrase politicians like, however, for the reasons above and so we throw millions of vaccines at one country while letting other countries suffer until new variants appear, and we go back to square one.
It is the same for climate change. The solutions we come up with need to be permanent. As such, we need to change how we live forever and to recognise that permanent changes are required. And again, this is a hard sell for those in power because it would not be popular and so we live in a world where we are trying to keep temperature increases to a lower number than they are now, but they are still increasing and so we are merely pushing the problem back a few years. And it will be a much bigger problem because we refused to act sufficiently.
Whether it is our economies, our home (climate) or our health we are absolutely refusing to deal with any of our problems in ways that will give us hope for the future. We look for quick fixes, we don’t want to change much of what we currently have and until we recognise that there is no end game we may as well not bother at all.