Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Brexit. When did internationalism stop being perceived as progressive?

I've heard so many factors being debated as to whether we should leave or remain in the EU, from immigration to sovereignty, economics and self governance. I passionately believe the most important reason and the one that is not so often mentioned by the remain camp for obvious reasons is internationalism.

Europe has been host to the world's most bloody wars for most of the last millennium. It was only in our grandparent's generation that 2 world wars were started in Europe and took the lives of almost 100 million people....nuclear and biological weapons were invented and some of the worst crimes against humanity took place....where....in Europe. The world is still a complicated and unstable place but now has the potential to be more dangerous than ever before.

The formation of the EU and our desire to be part of something that works together on a bigger scale shows the rest of the world how it should be done, from the troubled Middle East to the Americans with their potential to elect Trump.  If we are to ever unite as one world then there are steps forward and backwards with leaving the EU being a giant jump back.

If we stay on this nationalist path it won't stop with leaving the EU. Scotland will have a second referendum and leave and then Northern Ireland and Wales will most likely look to join them and attempt to get back into the EU. Then what....the nationalists get their little England back. We will be proudly alone and fighting patriotically but twice as hard to have the same quality of life and have taken the first step in disconnecting Europe.

I know things are different outside the capital but I'm an Englishman in London that will often go out with friends in groups of 10+ and be the only Englishman of the group....it's the nicest feeling and what makes me feel so patriotic. London is the most integrated place in the world and I'm proud to be British as a result of our country making this happen, allowing me to meet some of the most amazing people that are culturally different from me. Each of my friends work, pay taxes and spend their income in this country to the benefit of the nationalist living inside and outside London.

I want to be part of a peaceful Europe that works together to benefit all of US. There is no us and them...we are all Europeans, we are all human. The day Europe grows and the likes of Turkey fulfil their obligations to join will be the day we are safer and have a more united world than ever before and I hope to see this happen in my lifetime. 

In the most simplest sense I'm a loving father that wants his daughter to grow up in a world that respects our human similarities and differences. A world that attempts at even the most difficult of times to avoid war and unite to make a safer place for all of us to live in. Staying in the EU enables this, leaving the EU makes it harder.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Democracy Vs. Intelligence - The Donald Trump Effect

World politics is a hot topic again with the US presidential primaries appearing daily in the world press. As the rest of the world watches in bemusement at the successes of Donald Trump should we be asking ourselves what on earth is going on with Democracy? Should we just accept the way it is and will always be or can we be forward thinking and make change?

Growing up in the UK we are taught to believe that a democracy, ours being a Parliamentary monarchy, is the only way to fairly give power to the people. Although this may be true, it may not be the best thing for the country and the general population as a whole. Our views about the power of a democracy have been tainted by modern history which includes the victory in the world wars over dictatorships, the American’s strong fight over communism during the cold war and their general economic and military dominance over the rest of the world.

With all of the human tragedy that has been caused protecting our democratic freedoms, it’s no wonder we are defensive about it and resistant to change. The trouble with a democracy is the exact same reason that it’s great; everyone has a say.

Assuming a nation’s populous is made up of a majority of emotionally and mentally intelligent people educated in political difference then you’d expect them to make the best decision for themselves. The US population has a huge variance in education from its 14% that are illiterate (the UK isn’t much better) to the 1% that are considered some of the most intelligent people in the world. That combined with the massive power the US media has in influencing people with fear and propaganda, particularly encouraging islamophobia, makes the population look to vote for the likes of someone that could potentially fix their fears. The reality of course would be to seriously damage their country's domestic and foreign social values. In the UK we are sadly seeing more extreme far-right groups becoming popular in politics with almost half of the London mayoral candidates in 2016 representing far-right groups.

So what’s the answer to these problems? It’s been suggested and controversially debated that there should be an intelligence test/test in knowledge that would cover very basic literacy, history and geopolitics. If the potential voter failed the test they would either not be allowed to vote or would have a reduced vote count.

Initially this sounds socially disruptive as a lack of education positively correlates to the wealth and background of the life someone is born into. Visions of an elitist voting population selfishly voting for candidates that provide them with even more wealth at the expense and suffering of others springs to mind.

On the other side of the argument how can you expect someone to vote in the best interests of their nation when they are illiterate, have poor to no understanding of the country and world they live in and do not understand the differences and implications in candidate’s policy manifestos. In no other walks of life do we empower people with such a large responsibility that does not match up with the relevant intelligence to support it. Lawyers bring in expert witnesses; companies hire people with the expertise needed to fulfil their roles and teachers teach children in the subject that they were once educated in.

Recently a plethora of the aforementioned US 1% including celebrities, academics and even some business people, made it clear that they would leave the country if Trump were to come into power. This would have the opposite effect and ostracise the elite! Whatever your stance on this matter, one thing is for sure. If ever someone with extreme views became the elected head of a powerful nation, the world would become a less stable place.

UPDATE 07/05/16: London just voted in Sadiq Khan as Mayor, the first Muslim to be voted as Mayor in a major Western city. Maybe there's hope for us yet! I hope this has some influence in the US.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

My Theme - The Impact of Technology on Modern Society

For as long as I can remember I've felt there's something exciting at the intersection of technology, human behaviour & society. I deeply believe that in the last 10 years part of our society has changed for the worse, caused by human behaviors that are abnormally created from interacting with ill designed software, sites and apps.

Whilst there are real solutions out there that solve human need and wants in a socially responsible way, the sole focus for many product owners is financial success. These (bad) product owners use the human computer interaction element of a user experience to make popular and usable software, sites and apps that appear to solve a need when in reality they are not. Some products were setup responsibly but after their owners gained a massive user base, they could afford to be more monopolistic in the features they subjected their audiences to. Regardless, it just doesn't correlate that a popular feature makes a socially responsible feature.

Never in history has there been a better time to be thoughtful of the impact that technology has on our society, with human to computer experiences often replacing the human to human experiences we've been having since the creation of mankind. Kids are playing consoles instead of playing outside with their friends, teenagers are more interested in the ideal selfie than living in the moment and adults out at dinner are using messenger services instead of talking to the people next to them.

It was once frowned upon for the family to have dinner in front of the TV but the way I see it, at least everyone was interacting in a many-to-one relationship with the TV, allowing for some physical social engagement. These days it's more common for each family member to be engaged in a one-to-one relationship with their own device.

I believe social technologies should be used to enhance our human to human experiences instead of either replacing them with human to computer ones or putting the computer between two humans as a barrier to real life engagement. My interest in studying these modern social changes will hopefully lead to the creation of new technical products that enhance social interaction with people in the physical sense.