Anti-Social Media

Transformations often occur without any grand plan.  Worlds change, events come and go, and chance plays its hand.  Leaps forward in technology have give us a level of interconnection that few imagined only a decade or so ago.  But there it is, social media is a part of our landscape like it or not.  And its not going away.

Having participated in the debate about Brexit for the last couple of years certain thing become evident.  There not all negative but the trend is a dangerous one.

The “liberal” hope for technologies like the INTERNET has always been that communication would give us a greater understanding of each other.  The benefits for education are huge.  From that a well of good would bring people together rather than push them apart.  Like the benefits of travel.  The more we know about our neighbours the more we would find common cause.  This is true but there’s a flip side too.

Whereas face-to-face lots of social norms come into play, in the electronic cloud this is not so much so.  Rudeness and vulgarity are still not acceptable in public.  Stupidity is shunned when met in the flesh.  Bigotry is questioned.

A side effect of all the technology we have accumulated is that it requires so little of us.  Immediacy and proliferation means throw away comment and clicks of approval or disapproval costs nothing. In the worst cases people can hunker down in isolated corners and bombard the world with their prejudices and narrow-mindedness.

In politics, the fences surrounding camps are strengthened.  Impenetrable walls are erected to preserve cherished beliefs.   Although some of this is not new it does make it more difficult to cross boundaries and explore original ideas.

Ironic that these liberating technologies bring out the most illiberal instincts.  To throw in a solution would be a step too far.  The road of travel is a dangerous one but somehow, we must learn to behave differently.  It’s a continuous learning.

In addition, having said that, policing plays its part.  Means are needed to put a cost on bad behaviour.  Persistent trolls and campaigns that dive to the depths of vulgarity should be under pressure.  Free speech is not freedom to say anything.

PM at a lectern

IMG_1846The much-billed speech on Britain’s future relationship with the EU is out.  Prime Minister, Theresa May stood at a lectern and read a winding text that dipped into the live subjects of the moment.  Watching a recording of her big speech was like watching an Open University seminar.  Last year, to appease her Party, Theresa May used the slogan: Brexit means Brexit.  This has gone.  Many of the costs of leaving the European Union were addressed.  There was little, if anything about the benefits of leaving.

So, if Brexit happens here are a few of the troublesome problems seeking solutions.

There’s a positive recognition that a “level playing field” is essential for an EU-UK relationship to be sustainable.  The devil is in the detail and on that front much remains to be discovered.

She continues to say that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is ruled out of deciding disputes between EU-UK.  Its clear that the ECJ plays a part but what part is yet to be determined.

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of a good deal on the flow of “data” between EU and UK.  This aspiration makes good sense if only a whole new way of working didn’t have to be set-up in one year.

She accepts that people will still want to work and study in EU countries.  However, there’s no clarity on how such movement will be relatively easy.

Looking at ways the UK could remain part of some EU Agencies is to be welcomed.  However, our membership will be inferior to the 27 EU Member States in the three mentioned: the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency, and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Divergence from the EU on Agriculture seems inevitable.  Its assumed that the maintenance of high standards continues to be the UK’s goal.  An assumption like this could get traded away in the need for a future deal with Countries like the US.

The Prime Minister suggested that she wants to remain part of the science and innovation framework programmes.  There will be a major cost to this objective.

Overall, I would quote Benjamin Franklin: “Necessity never made a good bargain.”  The UK needs a good deal, but it will be inferior to membership of the EU.  May’s speech is well crafted as political theatre.  She has got people feeling good about accepting an inferior situation.