The Rise of Digital Humanism: A Global Meta-Culture of the 21st Century
Our generation like many before, appears to be passing through another unrelenting crucible of history. A crucible so hot and unforgiving that the newsworthy events of a month can seemingly happen in a day, and the decisions we make now, will not only influence our immediate horizon, but affect the lives of countless generations to come. When Russia invaded Ukraine, it pivoted the world upon a new timeline of history, a new timeline that until a few weeks ago seemed unlikely and irrational. A world that now includes world powers flirting with global war and a potential outcome of nuclear conflict. Now, as a blacksmith would manipulate hot steel, we must now grab ahold of this timeline and bend it toward the best outcome we can manage, or risk having it be forever warped and twisted by tyrants.
For the average person we are left baffled. Feeling powerless and at the whim of a handful of individuals. Distant leaders who bark orders at unconscious masses of people walking willingly into annihilation, and casually rolling the dice of Armageddon.
I’m writing this document because I reject this interpretation of humanity.
I’m writing this document because I see a different future emerging in the background. A future that we rarely discuss, because it seems naive and over-simplistic.
I’m writing this document because I believe we are the arbitrators of a new ideology that is shattering the violent tactics of old and eroding the structures of power that seek to turn us against each other.
I am talking about something that I can only define as some form of International Digital Humanism, or something like it…
It does not fit on a left-right spectrum, but it pokes it head out wherever I look in the world. And it excites me.
I see hints of this ideology in the undercurrent of this modern conflict in Ukraine, and it sparks life into everyone that notices it.
What I see are Russian soldiers unconvinced of the narrative presented to them, and not willing to die for one man’s goals. Some even abandoning their positions. What I see are Russian citizens protesting in the streets, risking imprisonment or worse. What I see are people who would have likely been gripped in the pro-war propaganda not a century ago, now accessing all the information available to them, talking with friends and strangers across borders, and questioning the moral integrity of their government. I see people asking questions and taking actions that strike to the core of the authoritarian power that exists around them. What I see are translators breaking down into tears, as they translate a Ukrainian president’s call for peace and transmit this message in real-time to millions of people across the internet. What I see is a global culture unifying around a common understanding of right and wrong, and around a common people. These scenes of morality or immorality are documented, uploaded, shared, amplified, embraced, and proliferate through our newsfeeds.
I’m writing this document because the masses aren’t as unconscious as they seem, and technology is exposing cracks in seemingly impenetrable war machines that seek to suppress the mind.
War machines that would’ve steamrolled incalculable human life in the centuries before, appear to be struggling to motivate their own populations and leave the world in exasperated confusion to the point of it all.
What I see is an emergent meta-culture of peace, truth, and individual liberty that has been amplified by the internet and it is seeping into all corners of the world.
After a decade of headlines highlighting technology induced social division, radicalization, and pessimism about how the internet has polluted our discourse, we very rarely stopped to ask if our collective morality was also being amplified by technology.
I think it has.
I think it has and I believe this emergent unifying morality is more powerful than any of the divisions that have emerged alongside it.
This positive trajectory of humanity is not a popular belief to have on the internet, but I choose to embrace it because I see no other alternative.
My core belief is that humans are becoming more similar to one another than ever before. And more similar in a good way, Underneath the noise of extremist division, humans are on average are building more shared values and trust quicker than ever before. We are building networks of commerce, information, and cooperation. Together we have created a vast interconnected cultural network. A network of information and shared consensus of reality that exists outside the influence of any single government or collection of governments. It’s so powerful to us now and we are so ingrained in a common mindset that we fail to understand how quickly it has come upon us, and we struggle for the words to describe it, or even to recognize it. Some people call it cyberspace. Some people call it the metaverse. I’m not sure what to call it, but the concept of digital humanism sounds accurate.
I’ll put it like this.
Today, the average person in India is more similar to an average person in Canada than ever before, and I can’t see that trend decreasing across the long term.
That is exciting.
We have successfully built a global Meta-culture on the internet, and it is blurring our national identities, and shattering the ability of authoritarians to convince us to point weapons at one another.
So they are panicking.
They are panicking because they know their grip on power is as flimsy as the arguments they use to justify unnecessary violence. The whole world is waking up, each country, each individual at their own pace of course. But on average we are plugging into a new digital humanism that is resistant to malicious government narratives. Narratives that force us against each other.
While this notion of rapidly expanding digital humanism is intensely exciting and provides a hopeful backdrop to the chaos around us, it is also is an immensely destabilizing force in the world, and partly the reason why we face conflict to begin with. We are in the middle of a global revolution, and success is not guaranteed.
The Ukrainian revolution of 2014, the Arab Spring, and protests in Hong Kong were all brilliant displays of vibrant humanism exacerbated by technology. But each display was actively suppressed by authoritarians who fear the proliferation of this culture into the core of their societies. So they actively pollute this Meta-culture. They attempt to turn it against us, and overtake physical land with violence which they feel has become infected with the ideology that they fear. These outbursts against the growing digital humanism can be immensely unpredictable and with nuclear weapons the authoritarian reaction against it could threaten all life on earth.
What the authoritarians fail to realize, is that proliferation of these ideas are not constrained by geographical borders. They have already seeped into their own nation’s borders, and a violent outlash upon the external world wont minimize the fact that they are fighting against the inevitable tides of change within themselves. Like a terminal cancer patient, they exist on borrowed time and the civilized world is largely surprised the authoritarians have made it this far.
All of what I have said is intensely obvious, but we suppress this unifying vision of the future in favor of a more pessimistic outlook because we have all become skeptics of the flurry of information presented to us. So skeptical and suspicious that we often times underestimate the progress we have made and hyperfocus on gaping flaws of division exacerbated by the same bad actors that we are defeating.
I’m here to say that we should rejoice.
We should rejoice that in the face of incalculable destruction like in Ukraine, networks of authentic humanity are being amplified by the internet; further deepening cracks in authoritarian ideological structures. And these cracks may never be repaired.
On the short-term it may seem like we are failing. People will get lost in rabbit holes of violence. But what I believe we are witnessing is the death throes of authoritarian power as they scramble to conjure a narrative or conflict that returns them some level of control.
I pray we pass through this crucible of history elegantly, for I am excited for the future that awaits us after this period. It won’t be easy and It will take everybody to bend the timeline away from annihilation and toward a more fluid unified world.
But I truly believe an important step is to simply recognize the progress we have made and work to build upon it.
So let us use technology to amplify the flashes of humanity we find in the darkest of places, within ourselves, within our friends, and especially within our enemies. And let us strengthen this shared meta-culture of humanity that these authoritarians so desperately wish to destroy and proliferate it as far as the internet lets us.
That’s all. ✌️