"We have accelerated the spread of ideas so much that we are slowing down progress"

Why was slavery accepted in the 19th century and is it aberrant today?.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
15 August 2023 Tuesday 11:09
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"We have accelerated the spread of ideas so much that we are slowing down progress"

Why was slavery accepted in the 19th century and is it aberrant today?

This is one of the questions I try to answer in my essay: Why do majorities in more advanced countries suddenly find it normal for women to vote when they had been relegated to the home for centuries?

Did accessing the printing press set them free?

Certainly, and the list of key questions that change as modernity arrives is very long: Why do we suddenly also find it aberrant to see eight-year-olds working in mines when they've been miners for centuries?

Did you find answers?

My small contribution to the story of how ideas change in societies is to focus on how they are communicated.

Does the way an idea is communicated determine its acceptance?

This is the hypothesis I dare to launch: the way and the channels, the speed and efficiency of the ideas in reaching the people who initially rejected them determine their majority acceptance. I believe that the great ideas that shape the values ​​of a society are born differently depending on the medium in which they will be disseminated.

For example.

Can the ideas that the Pope defends today in a tweet be the same that are debated for years for a council?

The Pope must complete a divine exercise of synthesis to conceive this tweet.

A tweet is sent by anyone right now in five minutes and, five minutes later, another saying the opposite; and a council, on the other hand, required years of preparation to gather far fewer people than today who read that tweet in seconds all over the planet: you think that those ideas of the Pope arrive the same and are accepted in the same way and conceive them the same ?

And does this speed of diffusion stop or accelerate our progress?

This is where my doubts begin. I fear that there has been a time when that acceleration of the printing press in the ability to spread advanced ideas among large sections of the population which was once decisive for our progress has reached a point where it actually slows it down.

The speed of the printing press enabled progress, but is the speed of the tweet holding it back?

It may be that the speed with which ideas spread does not allow us the time necessary to decant them, internalize them...

What is the basis for doubting it?

I have analyzed the communication ecosystems of 400, 500 years ago and I have investigated how the great concepts of progress, such as the abolition of slavery or women's suffrage, were taking shape in letters, pamphlets, local newspapers...

Definitely slower than the internet.

But was this an obstacle or a push for its majority acceptance?

You are the one who studied it.

For this reason, I believe that the ability that a great thinker, leader or intellectual has today to send a message to the world in seconds degrades the debate of ideas and makes us go backwards instead of progressing.

How can speed slow us down?

For Silicon Valley, a council would be a huge waste of time; but for that very reason the quality of the debate of ideas there leaves much to be desired.

Is technology replacing ideology?

Technology determines, yes, the way in which the great concepts with which we base the values ​​that allow coexistence are disseminated.

More speed in spreading ideas doesn't make them better and can make them worse?

I believe that digitization and its ability to disseminate concepts freely, universally, and instantly is degrading the quality of our intellectual debate and therefore our progress.

Have you studied a specific case?

That of Black Lives Matter shows that the emotional spiral in the networks of a movement, which in principle was progressive and defended the community from police abuses, ended up degrading and radicalizing it to the point that it came to call for the dissolution of the police.

And is this facilitated by the networks?

Its acceleration: the activists had no time for debate, discussion, maturation of ideas... Only for the exasperated slogan on the networks, which were becoming radicalized.

And do you think it would have been different without networks?

I verified this when I interviewed its leaders who acknowledged – in a relaxed conversation – that, without abuse, the police were necessary. And I think that, without networks and with analog communication, the Black Lives Matter movement would have gained more dissemination of its ideas and more progress for everyone. And a better police force.