What is our responsibility as privileged members of this world? What is our responsibility as technologists? I recently finished watching a documentary called The Square about the Egyptian revolution (more to come on that in a future post). One thing that struck me about the documentary is that a fairly large group of people took to the streets to profess their values of fairness, dignity, and equality.
I can’t get over the scenes of these young revolutionaries, many of whom were around my age in the film, running to the police/military blockades weathering live gunfire to make a stand for what they believe in.
Since watching this film I’ve been reflecting about my generation in the United States. What do we stand for? What will define our generation? I do acknowledge that our generation has contributed to the technological revolution that is defining our decade, however, it is no secret that there are a host of major issues left for us to tackle – environment, politics (corruption, foreign policy, war), inequality, trafficking, immigration etc.
What is clear to me is that my generation has the ability to breakdown the barriers of nationalistic identity and religion that people in the past generations have used to go to war or maintain power structures. We are the globalized generation exposed to so many cultures, we travel and stay in hostels, we connect over Facebook & Twitter, we listen to the same music on Spotify & SoundCloud, we laugh at the same videos on YouTube. I think it is amazing how technology has unleashed a wave of interconnectedness that has never existed before.
By the same token, I’ve experienced first hand how technology allows us to become apathetic, to become comfortable with the status quo. It is so easy to be apathetic today because we have Facebook to fill in the void, text messaging to entertain us in the silent moments, and casual games to give us momentary spikes of pleasure. Sometimes, I feel like our generation behaves eerily similar to the scenes from Brave New World where everyone is constantly drugged and watching television to numb them from the truth.
Just because it is easy to be apathetic doesn’t mean that it is right, I would actually argue that we have a responsibility to the world to make sure and voice what we believe in. There has never been an easier time in the history of the world to broadcast our beliefs to our friends, family and the world. Most of us have hundreds of connections through Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc. Every time we utilize these networks we are putting something into the world that has the ability to affect someone else’s life. There is a huge responsibility that comes with this power that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Silence on the most important topics that can define our generation is not right. The Square reaffirms the basic principle that each of us have a voice to share, and all those voices together can produce change. Unlike in Egypt, things aren’t so dire that we need to drop our livelihoods to stand up for our beliefs, but it is a disservice to the world if we don’t use the voice we have to proclaim what we believe in.
We have the luxury to research the most important issues, formulate an opinion, and share our views with our friends all from the comfort of our homes. We can choose to share positivity over our social networks to help uplift others. We can engage in meaningful discourse about some of the pressing topics in online forums. For the builders of technology you have an amazing opportunity to create products that can literally affect hundreds of millions of people and change the world. Or we can continue to mindlessly scroll through our News Feeds looking for the next Top 10 list to give us a hit of dopamine.
If these kids in Egypt can march to the front lines and face bullets standing up for what they believe in, surely my generation can at the very least drop their apathy and start using the mediums at their disposal to share their beliefs. I have faith 🙂