Most people would agree that the most powerful and dangerous formula of the last century was:
E = mc²
It is at the heart of the deadliest weapons ever created, weapons with power way beyond anything human beings have evolved to handle. We have too many psychological flaws, too many historical and social grievances, and too little ability to comprehend the entire scope of consequences of our messing around with this sort of power. At least over time we have evolved some temporary band-aid solutions such as MAD and NPT. And we continue to hope for complete disarmament some day as the only real way to ensure our long term survival.
So far it looks like the most powerful and dangerous formula (or rather program) of this century will be:
This formula / program is at the root of most of the political and economic problems we are facing today and why are are not able to deal with them effectively. This is the formula that is allowing demagogues to become powerful; surprising phenomena like Brexit and Trump; people losing their faith in governments, leaders, industries, and political philosophies; and in general people losing faith in each other. Even the advice given to entrepreneurs is to get as many eyeballs as possible first, then worry about business model, leave alone any notion of whether the product you are creating has any real value to the society at large or not. Everything is about viral spread at any cost and without any consideration of its consequences.
Human beings haven’t evolved to handle this level of viral spread of anything either. We have always lived in small relatively isolated communities which made it difficult for things to spread fast virally. But we are well past that phase now and still not quite sure how to grapple with this new power we have unleashed. What solutions might we evolve to handle this one?
- Social media and broadcast services could start indicating the quality and trustworthiness of every post (e.g. through color coding or star rating or something) and broadcast (by being up front about it)
- They can also reduce the feed ranking of posts they consider to be less trustworthy or of lower quality in general so fewer people will see them
- They can also follow / enforce the BNBR policy
- They can at least periodically post PSA’s that warn people and tell them to look for signs that a post is pandering to the lowest common denominator or untrustworthy
- Independent services (e.g. Snopes) or people with large followings could do any of the above independently
- People could educate and police themselves along the same lines as above
- I wonder if there could be something similar to MAD or NPT for this. For example, opposing political parties could declare a truce that they would not be the first one to use the above formula. Investment companies could agree that they would not be the first ones to invest in a company that simply has a viral idea with no business plan and no social good in their business.
Of course, these ideas are controversial and need a lot more thinking and analysis. It is entirely possible that they won’t get any traction until a crisis is precipitated as a result of the formula at some point.