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Articles by Martin Gurri
Marc Andreessen’s recent exhortation “to build” is exactly right. Read more at Discourse.Read More »
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We will have to wait at least another four years for a candidate committed to structural reform. Read more at Discourse.Read More »
This interview is a companion to an article about Alicia Juarrero’s ideas that is also published on The Bridge.
Alicia Juarrero is the founder and president of Vector Analytica, Inc., a software development firm in Washington, DC. Her books include Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System (1999) and the forthcoming Complexity and Constraint: How Context Changes Everything; many of her papers can be found at her website, www.aliciajuarrero.org. Juarrero has taught philosophy at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland and has been a visiting scholar at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and Durham University in the United Kingdom. She received her BA, MA, and PhD from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.
Recently, Juarrero spoke with Martin
This article is a companion to an interview that Martin Gurri conducted with Alicia Juarrero that is also published on The Bridge.
A characteristic of our strange moment in history is our fixation with details and our indifference to the big picture. It should be clear, to anyone with eyes to see, that the institutions of representative democracy are maladapted to the digital age. The democratic system—let’s agree to call it that—has lost the public’s trust and is bleeding out authority. Street revolts and populism are increasingly the result. For those who care about democracy, one would think that adapting the system to digital technology in a way that embraces and reconciles the public would be the main topic of discussion. Instead, we obsess about Donald Trump’s latest tweet, or Dr.
An unconquerable anger has gripped the democratic world. The public seethes with feelings of grievance and seems ready to wreak havoc at any provocation. The spasm of fury that swept the United States after the death of George Floyd cost 19 additional lives and $400 million in property damage. Last year’s frenzy in Chile was even more disproportionate: 29 persons were killed, property worth $1.4 billion was destroyed, and a constitutional plebiscite was called, all in response to a 4 percent increase in mass transit fares. As far back as 2011, hundreds of thousands of protesters streamed into the streets of Madrid, Spain, without a discernible triggering event. They called themselves indignados: “the outraged.”
Many books and articles have tried to explain this surge in anger. I am
The American people appear to be caught in the grip of a psychotic episode. Most of us are still sheltering in place, obsessed with the risk of viral infection, primly waiting for someone to give us permission to shake hands with our friends again. Meanwhile, online and on television, we watch, as in a dream, crowds of our fellow citizens thronging into the streets of our cities, raging at the police and the established order generally, with some engaged in arson, looting, and violence.
On one side, a reflexive obedience to authority. On the other, a near-absolute repudiation of the rules of the system—for some, of any restraint whatever. The future will be determined by the uncertain relationship between these two extremes.
As it happens, the future is almost here. With the
We fondly imagine that truth must emerge, pure and triumphant, from facts discovered by “science” or “experts.” That’s not how the world works. Truth is a function of trust and pertains to the authority of the source. If we lose confidence in science—if, for example, we come to think of scientists as hucksters or crackpots—then scientific pronouncements would have no greater weight than a television commercial.
The collapse of trust in our leading institutions has exiled the 21st century to the Siberia of post-truth. I want to be clear about what this means. Reality has not changed. It’s still unyielding. Facts today are partial and contradictory—but that’s always been the case. Post-truth, as I define it, signifies a moment of sharply divergent perspectives on every subject or event,
Like most people I know, I am presently trapped in social isolation, stuck in a dreamlike parenthesis between what was once normal life and the uncertain struggles lurking on the other side. We are huddled, most of us—the fortunate ones—in our hiding places, waiting. That will not last. Sooner rather than later, there will be a re-set of our society. The question we should be asking during this bizarre interlude is what we wish to make of it.
The pandemic crisis has shattered the comfortable old order of things. When we meet again, face to face, we should have some idea of how to apply this brutal lesson as we try to piece the world back together.
An essay recently posted by Marc Andreessen surveys the wreckage caused by this crisis while offering a vision of how to survive the next one.
The global spread of COVID-19 has followed vectors carved out by information flows far more than epidemiological factors. The contagion has moved at the speed of a vast and restless public, while the bureaucracies of government and science have struggled to keep up. Political efforts to control the story, rather than the disease, allowed the virus to attain pandemic proportions. As is always the case in the age of the rant, scapegoating and finger-pointing have often drowned out technical discussions. Bizarre and probably dangerous remedies have propagated on the web. A babble of panicked voices, contradictory assessments, and institutional warnings have made it difficult to know who speaks with authority on the subject.
In a sense, the trajectory of COVID-19 has been typical of our times:
The powerful tide of protest and populism that typifies our moment in time has been propelled primarily by deep structural causes, as I have had occasion to note. But what might be considered moral judgments—specifically, the public’s assessment of elite behavior and rhetoric—have also added fuel to the flames of revolt.
The public has always paid close attention to elite behavior and set its standards accordingly. Children were told to aspire to George Washington’s honesty, Thomas Edison’s determination, and Franklin Roosevelt’s nobility after contracting polio. Aware that they held the monopoly on fame, elites insisted on being represented as paragons of dignity and virtue. The concept of a “right to privacy” was born out of future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s indignation that
On January 31, as celebratory crowds in London’s Parliament Square counted down to 11 p.m., the United Kingdom formally departed from the European Union (EU). It was a decisive ending to a rancorous and drawn-out process.
The battle over Brexit devolved into a nearly perfect specimen of the anti-establishment revolts that have shaken the world during the past decade. In the 2016 referendum on whether to Leave or Remain in the EU, British elites of every type, from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as foreign dignitaries such as Barack Obama campaigned vociferously for the Remain side. Largely for this reason, the public voted to Leave.
There followed three years of muddled parliamentary maneuvers, an inconclusive general election, and transparent efforts
The rapid unraveling of US political parties in the present century raises a question: what is replacing them? Obtaining an answer is tricky business in a fractured information environment. Retweets must not be mistaken for voter intentions, for example. Luckily for all concerned, America has arrived at a moment of inescapable clarity on this question: the presidential election season.
I find it remarkable how firmly Americans cling to conventional labels when thinking—and writing—about American politics. One must be either a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent who “leans” to one party or the other. That is how Gallup has measured US public opinion since time immemorial. But two decisive trends call this long-established way of looking at the political landscape into question.
On December 17, 2010, an insignificant young man, a fruit vendor, set himself on fire in the obscure Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid. His name was Mohamed Bouazizi, and he offered up his life in protest against the humiliations he had endured at the hands of government agents. The incident might have passed unnoticed—but someone snapped a photograph. The image of Bouazizi in flames, stumbling across a nondescript public square, imparted a terrible lesson in the effects of alienation and despair. By the time he died of his burns on January 4, 2011, the Tunisian public had taken to the streets. Ten days later, Tunisia’s dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in power since 1987, fled the country just ahead of a sweeping tide of protests.
A man on fire had inaugurated what we now somewhat uneasily