It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and then regurgitate them. Instead of watching “Mad Men” or the Super Bowl or the Oscars or a presidential debate, you can simply scroll through someone else’s live-tweeting of it, or read the recaps the next day. Our cultural canon is becoming determined by whatever gets the most clicks.
Over the last couple of days I’ve listened to two excellent podcasts that I wanted to share with you. Both of them are about the relationship between technology and politics.
I’ve always found politics difficult. What I believe society should look like doesn’t fit well with the traditional two-dimensional left/centre/right representation.
On the one hand, I believe that a guiding principle should be for the State not to interfere in our lives (wherever possible). So far, so Libertarian (and usually, so Conservative).
On the other hand, however, I’m not a great believer in the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market to solve all our woes. And I certainly don’t think that billionaires should co-exist in a world with starving people. So that’s fairly Liberal and left-wing.
To me, we seem to be missing a third dimension to politics. Sometimes it’s not either/or. Sometimes it’s and/and/and.
Whilst I enjoy the high quality of podcasts from the BBC (In Our Time and Thinking Allowed being my favourites) my go-to podcasts when commuting come from Canadian broadcasters.
The first, Sparkis hosted by Nora Young, who has a voice like butter. Not only that, but the Spark Plus podcast features the full version of interviews we only hear a snippet of in the regular podcast. It’s a goldmine of interesting people talking about important ideas.
The second, always high-quality, Canadian podcast I think is fantastic is Big Ideas from TVO. Not long ago they featured John Duffy on The Emerging Politics of Technology. The last 17 minutes or so are devoted to questions, leaving just over half an hour of really thoughtful consideration of the three-dimensional nature of politics I allude to above.
Both are well worth watching or listening to. And if you haven’t subscribed to any/many podcasts, I’d highly recommend both Spark and Big Ideas.
The left/centre/right two-dimensional version of the political spectrum has served its purpose as what I call a ‘convenient hypocrisy’. But to try and force every issue into its confines forces the metaphor to breaking point.
Apart from perhaps politicians in line with the party whip, no-one I know exhibits purely Liberal or purely Conservative behaviours. We’re three-dimensional.
What I find really interesting is that, as John Duffy points out, the political battleground is shifting from the economy to issues surrounding technology.
And that sounds like a debate I’d like to be part of.