Dissent and Social Shaming

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright August 2017


Dissent and social shaming are two activities that all communities engage in. But how they are engaged in varies dramatically from one community to another. This variation is interacts a lot with technology. Technology influences how these are engaged in. The interaction goes both ways: how much progress is made in adapting to new technologies is influenced by how dissent and shaming are handled in the community. Basically, the more tolerance to change the community allows, the faster the technological progress becomes.

As we get into the 2050's, yet more change will come.

Social shaming will grow

As we progress towards the 2050's social shaming will grow in magnitude. This will happen as prosperity gets divorced from human endeavor. The more prosperity becomes the product of automation and artificial intelligence, the more social shaming can be accommodated because it will not be directly affecting material prosperity. By the 2050's shaming will have a big influence on a person's well-being, but not the material side of that well-being.

Dissent will be tougher to express

Closely related to social shaming is expressing dissent. Because it is closely tied to social shaming how will dissent be handled? How will loyal opposition be handled?

In what formats, and in what forms, will expressing dissent be acceptable? This will be a big issue because dissent is so closely tied to social shaming. If dissent is "not liked" it will be social shamed. A vivid example of this in the summer of 2017 was the treatment of James Damore at Google. (WSJ article) (wikipedia version) He got fired for circulating an essay expressing opinions on the suitability of women to high tech jobs at Google.

And in this same August summer week there was another style of dissent making news: Charlottesville. (WSJ article) (wikipedia version) This is a story about a White Nationalist rally and counter rally -- political dissent -- with a fairly typical terrorist incident mixed in -- a car driven into the crowd. Surprisingly, awareness of it ballooned on social media during the following month -- there was lots and lots of talk denouncing Nazis. And there were physical reactions as well -- the pulling down of Confederate hero statues in city parks all over The South, and some in other regions. All-in-all, a surprisingly vigorous reaction to this incident.

What's coming in the 2050's?

These two are examples of dissent. Here are some interesting questions about how these dissent styles will flourish in the 2050's:

Q. If cyber is running Big Business will dissent of the James Damore sort be important to prosperity?

A. It will become less and less important, which means that emotions and urban legend can dominate the discussion more and more -- the harsh reality of creating prosperity won't be affected much by these human discussions. Dissent, where it is not important to growing human prosperity, becomes just another ritual that people engage in. It becomes like rooting for one sports team and booing another.

Q. Why did Charlottesville get so high profile?

A. At the root of the Charlottesville sort of dissent is social shaming. This is why it became high profile. Social shaming, too, will have less and less effect on material prosperity, so it can become more and more vigorous and more and more prescriptive. What is "right" will become more and more based on comfortable urban legend and less and less on the harsh realities of the real world and real history. The difference is that social shaming will continue to have a lot of influence on a person's well-being.


Dissent and social shaming will be very much with us in the 2050's. But both will dramatically change in style and importance.

Dissent will become less important as human activities become less important to human material prosperity -- arguing over how to do a job matters a lot only if a person is doing the job. When a person is not doing the work it becomes a spectator sport.

Unlike dissent, the effects of social shaming on a person's well-being will grow in magnitude. This is a threat that will grow greatly in significance.

Social shaming will grow strongest in magnitude in the necessity lifestyle environments because these are the most divorced from harsh reality.



--The End--