If there is one thing that characterizes the design of our systems, it is our strange obsession to design our world where those who manage our world are excluded from experiencing the consequences of their actions.
Sometimes even our obsession to designing our systems, in a Kafkaesque fashion, so that those who manage our worlds hold conflicts of interests and are perversely rewarded for by the consequences of their actions that make our experiences nightmarish or dystopian.
Those who make our food do not eat it. Those who sell us our ware do not consume it.
Those who report about our world rarely experience the consequences of their stories. Those who run our public transport do not commute in it. Those who manufacture and sell us the goods that we consume, do not experience the consequences of the waste and pollution they generate. Those who manage our data do not experience the consequence of its misuse or passing to unwanted hands. Those who supply us services do not experience the pleasures or pains that result from the services we obtained.
Those who make laws for us do not experience the consequences of these very laws being enforced on them. Those who settle our disputes neither experience the dignity or indignity of the orders they pass.
We design our systems where those who manage our world have no skin in the game.
It is not just that they do not experience the same consequences, feelings, or outcomes, they are indifferent to them. They have neither a physical, social, economic consequence, nor an emotional consequence. Sometimes, in our corrupt systems, those that manage our systems experience rewards when they cause us pain and pain when they cause us pleasure. Their skin in the game is different from skin that we have.
Yet we never cease to be surprised by the indifference of our systems. We continue to stare in dismay at the inability of our systems to be humane.
We continue to be astonished at the failures of our systems. We continue to stare in disbelief as our systems do not result in dignity, justice, liberty, or equality. We continue to wonder why our systems give little pleasure, and much pain. We continue to feel helpless and remain ignorant that the system that supplied us the experiences is a creature of our own creation.
We imagine the replacement of the individuals who manage our worlds with other individuals will change our lives for the better. We believe that better rewarding those who manage our worlds better will yield better outcomes.
We believe politicians or politics can change the outcomes of our systems. We believe that markets might be another way to get our systems to ensure our systems give us pleasure and not pain. We imagine that that the use of the technology will make our systems free from the indifference.
None of what we propose alters the relationship of those who manage our worlds with the consequences of their actions.
We do not propose that those who eat with us should make our food. We do not propose that we buy our ware from those who consume what they sell. We do not insist we hear our news from those who will be affected by the consequences of their stories. We do not require that those who run our public transport commute in it. We do not insist that those who experience the consequences of the waste and pollution they generate are the only ones who may manufacture and sell us the goods that we consume. We do not regulate that only those who are part of our transactions that generates our data may have access to it. We do not insist in obtaining services only from those who experience the pleasures or pains that result from the services we obtained. We do not require that lawmakers may not legislate any law that provides them any different consequence than that we would, or that would spare them experiencing its consequences. We do not insist only those who will suffer the dignity or indignity of their orders sit to pass judgements or settle our disputes.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the pains we experience, in the systems we have designed, are chronic, acute, and Kafkaesque.
David Orr, professor of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, likes to tell the story of the entrance exam for the insane asylum.
Candidates are led into a cement-lined room with a row of faucets on one wall, fully open, gushing water. Leaning against the opposite wall are dozens of buckets and mops.
The insane run frantically for the buckets and mops. The sane turn off the faucets.
If that is the test, we live in a land and times that are certifiably crazy. With astounding consistency, we go for the mop-and-bucket solution.
We spend our fortunes rewarding indifferent managers of our systems, and even creating conflicts of interest for their actions, through our political interventions.
We spare no efforts to lobby for free markets to improve the delivery of services and goods, distancing the managers from the pain or pleasure, in our systems. We call as progress the use of technologies to reinforce the indifference of those that manage our worlds, and the distancing of the manager from our experiences of our worlds.
We choose the short term over the Short Now, or the lifetime of a child born today.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph