When Twitter first came on the scene, it felt like we had gained a superpower; plugging into the real time web felt like an embryonic form of ESP. Now it feels more like jury duty; except that juries are supposed to be impartial and there's nothing impartial or even rational about most of what's happening on Twitter these days. We're tumbling thumbs first into an Alice in Wonderland world of truth and justice:
"Sentence first, verdict afterwards." said the Queen.
We no longer seem very interested in maintaining many of the norms that stabilized society in the past. Some of those traditions are obsolete and deserve the boot. But free speech, due process, civil discourse? How did the pillars of liberal democracy suddenly become swear words?
Our governments and newspapers, schools and banks, courtrooms and communities are all byproducts of a radically different technological era— one that's quickly disappearing. But the institutional collapse we've been watching unfold is a symptom of a much deeper shift: The human condition itself is changing.
The technologies that were supporting those old institutions were also holding up psychological postures—ways of relating to each other and the world that we just took for granted. That psychological scaffolding is beginning to collapse now as well, and it's as essential to democracy as elections or parliaments.
We like to think that we’re more evolved than our ancestors. That stripped of all our technological comforts we would be still be smarter and more civilized. But it’s worth remembering that we’re only three hundred years removed from tying people to chairs and throwing them into lakes to see if they were witches. Three. Hundred. Years. That’s just six fifty-year-old lives lined up in a row.