Choices for 2018: National Preferences

What are importance choices for 2018? And how will they impact pluralism? We’ve asked our members their opinion.

In this post, Christophe Bruchansky, author of the Digressive Society, shares some of his thoughts on how to best deal with the democratic choice of nationalism.

In your field of expertise, describe a choice that will become significant in 2018: one that many of us will be able to make, either because of an advance in technology, a new policy or legislation, a disruption happening in an industry, or a shift in cultural norms.

Christophe: What certainly marked the last couple of years is the renewed choice between nationalism and globalization. We can expect this choice to still be very much at the center of the political debate in Western countries, either during in the U.S. midterm elections or the Italian general election in Europe. So far, international organizations have struggled to define a strategy for countries having chosen nationalism. It will be interesting to see how the international community deals with the ongoing “America First” U.S. foreign policy in 2018, and what will be the answer of the European Union to diverse nationalistic aspirations expressed in the U.K., Poland, and Catalonia.

Why do you think having this choice will be important, for individuals and/or society as a whole?

Christophe: Presenting globalization as an ineluctable, unquestionable evolution was clearly a mistake. Alternatives to the sort of globalization we are experiencing today have for long been advocated by alter-globalization movements such as Occupy Wall Street, by young political organization such as Green and Pirate political parties, and to a certain extend groups such as the Anonymous. However, none have reach the level of popularity than recent nationalist and far-right movements. While the popularity of these movements is threatening some of the core principles of Western democracies, their presence in the democratic debate has been a powerful incentive to rethink globalization. As a reaction to these movements, international organizations such as the European Union and the IMF are feeling the urge to better explain how their model could work for everyone, and how they could conciliate (a term very important in the digressive approach) economic ideologies with social values.

How popular do you think making this choice will be? Will alternatives still exist and what will be their appeal?

Christophe: One can only hope that the popularity of far-right and fact-averse nationalisms won’t last for long. In terms of the digressive approach, a sense of national identity is a legitimate value system as long as it is not imposed on others (e.g. on citizens not sharing the same sense of identity), and does not lead to the alienation of other populations (e.g. through wars, deterioration of their environment, or non-assistance to displaced populations). If these two conditions are respected, and they are very strong, I believe that it is possible for global citizens and those expressing a national preference to belong to the same international community. Global cryptocurrencies, the gig economy and near tax-free status of some Internet giants are all threatening nations and their social contract. Until globalization is proven to offer a safe alternative, the choice of some citizens to focus on national interest is all the more understandable.

Could making this choice restrict some others? In what circumstances?

Christophe: Nationalism, “based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests”  is by definition restricting individual choices, and could hardly be justified by the digressive approach. Nationalism, defined as the “a sentiment based on common cultural characteristics that binds a population and often produces a policy of national independence or separatism“, could, on the other hand, be a choice that does not necessary reduce those of others.

Digital technologies have an ambiguous role to play in the opposition between globalization and nationalism. On one hand, their universality is a natural fit for globalization, with the same algorithms and processes implemented worldwide. On the other hand, digital technologies could be used to customize taxes and public services to a degree never seen before, and could help members of a community – or a nation -, to favour its own production and services. Progress in the latter category (see for instance the announced launch of local cryptocurrencies in Kazakstan, Estonia, or Japan), could reequilibrate the role of technology in this debate, providing innovative solutions that respect everybody’s preferences.

What will we need to have access to or to understand in order to make an educated choice?

Christophe: I believe that a genuine sense of national identity can only happen if there is a clear distinction between the State and the nation, or at least if there is an international entity ensuring that citizens are not brainwashed and able to define their own identity the way they see fit. In my view, the European project is the perfect example of such an organization, because it provides a framework within which national preferences can be expressed, but not imposed on others. 

Read our full annual report: Important Choices for 2018 and their Impact on Pluralism.

Choices for 2018: Meaning or Income?

What are importance choices for 2018? And how will they impact pluralism? We’ve asked our members their opinion.

In this post, Lyralen Kaye, artist and social justice activist, tells us how the new U.S. tax reform could impact the choice of being an artist.

In your field of expertise, describe a choice that will become significant in 2018: one that many of us will be able to make, either because of an advance in technology, a new policy or legislation, a disruption happening in an industry, or a shift in cultural norms.

Lyralen: The choice is whether or not to produce theater. Because of new tax laws in the United States that have eliminated deductions for small businesses, small theater companies, especially for-profit fringe organizations, will be paying much higher fees for producing work. This means that the artistic work that most questions the mainstream ideas, the artistic work that most works with conventions that express post modern or avant-garde ideas and experiences, will have less support and may just not happen. Equally, individual artist will now pay between 35-400% more in taxes, and so may be forced to choose to leave the arts.

Why do you think having this choice will be important, for individuals and/or society as a whole?

Lyralen: Theater and art, at their best, help us to question existing norms, and help us to feel more deeply about our lives, their joys, their tragedies, and their limitations. In the USA, this means the crush of a regime that favours only corporate values, consumerism, and the lives of the rich.

The choice to continue to make art, to find ways to subvert this obstacle, becomes a choice to resist. It is a crucially important choice. Art that takes to the streets returns us to the 60’s and 70’s, a time of much greater experimentation.

For individuals who make a living as artists, particularly people of color and people of lower income brackets, the choice is one of meaning and quality of life. Income? Or meaning? Where do you put your time?

How popular do you think making this choice will be? Will alternatives still exist and what will be their appeal?

Lyralen: I think the choice (of producing theatre and art)  is perceived as stressful, besieged by limitations, harmful to income-producing work. So having to make it is extremely unpopular.

The appeal of alternatives is to create more meaningful work, to return to community, to go even further outside the boundaries of the know.

Could making this choice restrict some others? In what circumstances?

Lyralen: This choice restricts choices impacted by income and security. How does one save for retirement? Eat healthier and expensive food? Take workshops to better your artistry? The choice for celebrity artists is different because the tax laws benefit them.

What will we need to have access to or to understand in order to make an educated choice?

Lyralen: We need to have access to interpretations of tax law, legal representation to change the definition of small organizations (incorporated or non).

We need to access communities of like-minded people to create work that isn’t based in the film/corporate system or the big theater non-profit system.

We need access to income streams we have not had previously.

Read our full annual report: Important Choices for 2018 and their Impact on Pluralism.

Choices for 2018: Thinking

What are importance choices for 2018? And how will they impact pluralism? We’ve asked our members their opinion.

In this post, Shane Saunderson, author of the Artificial Shane blog and Robotics PhD. at the University of Toronto, tells us why he believes that an important choice for 2018 will be whether to think or not!

In your field of expertise, describe a choice that will become significant in 2018: one that many of us will be able to make, either because of an advance in technology, a new policy or legislation, a disruption happening in an industry, or a shift in cultural norms.
Shane: I believe that a choice enabled by technology that will confront many individuals in 2018 is whether or not they will choose to think. As a greater number of automation technologies and data-enabled services become more robust, reliable, and commonplace, I foresee the general populous and many business leaders becoming increasingly reliant to the point of blind faith on some of these technologies and in doing so, forgoing their own option to think for themselves.

Why do you think having this choice will be important, for individuals and/or society as a whole?
Shane: There are positives and negatives to this shift. On the positive side, such technologies will allow people to rid themselves of many low-level, mundane, or inconsequential decisions or thought processes. However, on the negative side, this ignorance to our own lives and decisions will afford a certain ignorance to the realities of the world and day-to- day living for those who are fortunate enough to have access to these technologies. For example, by allowing yourself the ability to not think about the CPG or FMCG products that one buys, they could save time, however, they are also blind to the critical thinking and questioning about those products and how they may impact an individual, society, or world as a whole.

How popular do you think making this choice will be? Will alternatives still exist and what will be their appeal? 
Shane: Sadly, I fear that the choice not to think will become increasingly popular, particularly among more affluent cultures and groups. As more of the world is automated, a greater number of things in our lives will simply occur, unnoticed by those in power, yet potentially with broad implications for those in lower castes who enable or support such decisions. The alternative (thinking about your live and decisions) will unquestionably exist, however, will put individuals at a disadvantage for the time and energy wasted on more basic, sustaining tasks.

Could making this choice restrict some others? In what circumstances?
Shane: This, I feel, is the greatest implication of this choice; by not thinking about your actions and allowing automated systems the ability to think for you, decisions will be made at a personal, communal, and business level that lack human empathy or consideration and could have drastic externalities or implications for individuals who are not in a position to have their voices appropriately heard by such automated systems. In short, this trend could continue to grow the already widening social, educational, and economic divides.

What will we need to have access to or to understand in order to make an educated choice?
Shane: All that is needed to make an educated choice about automation technologies is a healthy dose of skepticism. Many individuals will weigh this choice appropriate and hopefully leverage these technologies appropriately. To gain access to these technologies, one will require the economic means to do so or another form of personal or social capital as payment. Unfortunately, for many, this choice may simply not be possible without sacrificing aspects of themselves (social data, debt, future obligations).

Read our full annual report: Important Choices for 2018 and their Impact on Pluralism.