The times, they are a-changing

The recent post “Touch my button” (click on Home to review it) brought to the fore how our society is rapidly changing. The subject of artificial intelligence led us to consider how it is likely to change our everyday world as it becomes more sophisticated and more available. Even in the last 10 years the computer, the smart phone and social media have become important to the way we live – sometimes to the detriment of those who have been left behind.

It has not only been a change in facilities; it has led to social change too. The surprising election of President Trump seems in large part to be down to the substantial number of people who felt that the status quo of the establishment ignored their interests. In this country there is a growing number of left wing workers who are getting hot under the collar. It is not quite the French Revolution although it sometimes shares the same language. So I thought it would be interesting to jot down a few concrete and controversial issues which we might consider. You may be able to think of many more. I start with three statements, Take your choice. From time to time there will be more.

Digital faculties will eventually store detailed, perhaps day to day, personal records through which every citizen will be followed, and be obliged to conform to ‘acceptable’ opinion and behaviour.

The term British Values is a list in the imagination of the exhorter. It approves what he approves, it condemns what he condemns. It is an intolerant wolf in a patriotic sheep’s clothing.

The gap between the rich and the poor is likely to increase. Think of the difference between the earnings of large company executives versus their ordinary workers.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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13 Responses to The times, they are a-changing

  1. Horace says:

    “every citizen will be followed, and be obliged to conform”!
    I sincerely hope not!

  2. Vincent says:

    Listening recently on Radio 4 I heard that many of the large charities sell the data of their consumers to other charities and list brokers. And this data can be combined with other data so that likely prosperous givers can be identified.

    There was a survey apparently of whether people would like to be identified by a unique personal number automatically. Appareently a large proportion agreed that this would be a good thing.

  3. Iona says:

    What for? I mean, why might one want to be identified by a unique personal number automatically?
    As for the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest growing, it already is growing and has been growing for a long time. (Been reading a book called “The Spirit Level”. Also, I notice Oxfam frequently publicises the actual figures).

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, if you haven’t seen it you may be interested in http://www.poverty.org.uk/09/index.shtml. It has some excellent analyses of changing income ratios and these are well illustrated by graphs. This of course is much more valuable than comparing the incomes of CEOs in big companies with their lowest paid. That’s only good for headlines.

      It suggests to me that there have been gradual but fundamental changes in our economy in which jobs requiring a higher level of competence are better rewarded compared with those which are now less valuable, How do we change this? Do we need to change this?

      • Martha says:

        I do think we need to change this so that the differentials are not so great. Those who have studied and trained hard to offer skilled services usually expect to be compensated with higher material rewards, but the needs of others who work just as hard are the same. Our London bus driver son, who in fact has got a degree, works very hard and is responsible for the safety of hundreds of people each day, but he earns much less than two of his brothers who work in finance and computing. Life is not fair, but it should not be deliberately planned to be glaringly unequal. How to change things is of course a very different matter, as Communism has demonstrated. Or perhaps it has never been properly tried as GKC said of Christianity.

  4. G.D. says:

    ‘The term British Values is a list in the imagination of the exhorter. It approves what he approves, it condemns what he condemns. It is an intolerant wolf in a patriotic sheep’s clothing.’

    Couldn’t agree more. But not just for ‘British’ values, it’s world wide.
    I do hope we have all read (or seen the film) 1984, and Brave New World.
    Those who are ‘exhorters’ in leadership, and the sycophants that support them (for personal gain so they are brainwashed into believing) are hell bent on realising a society, that would be a perfect mixture of the two books above. Using the very same means as are in those books – psychological, ecomomic, and physical bullying.
    They are at least half way there, if not more so judging by the way people are voting for the leaders we have in the ‘western’ world.
    The other half of us who ‘see’ through the agenda, respond to a ‘higher authority’, and don’t comply are denied any say and repressed as much as possible. Democracy in this day and age is a myth. Social manipulation and ‘imprisonment’, for most, in that manipulation, is the reality.

  5. Hock says:

    There is a possible solution to some of these issues and we have the referendum on EU membership to prove it.
    Whether we like the result or not we have to go with the majority decision and one of the major factors in the result was that for the very first time in many decades every voter was in a position where their vote counted and in a some way affected the result. It would seem that this also presented an opportunity for some to consider other issues besides the EU when casting their votes.
    Were the same system to be used in a general election and the results apportioned directly to the number of seats in Parliament then potential candidates would be a lot more circumspect in what each party was proposing in its manifesto. What British Values for example?
    There is no way of knowing for sure but why was the issue of same sex marriage not put before the people in a referendum? I think the answer is that it would have been rejected and David Cameron did not want to take that risk. He had his legacy to think about.

    • G.D. says:

      The EU vote was just as subjected to spin and hype as much as any other.
      We are conditioned to vote accordingly.
      Unless we let go of the party line and our own preferences …. & despite our own wishes, ally our own consciences in accordance with love & loves justice.

      ‘for the very first time in many decades every voter was in a position where their vote counted’ you mean the other votes i cast were of no account? Because i voted in accordance with the hype and spin?

  6. Peter Foster says:

    Political correctness already disqualifies subjects from public discussion.

    Also Google already constructs profiles of our interests and preferences and selects answers to our queries in this light. Possibly helpful when choosing a hotel; but it narrows the vision when searching areas such as history or politics.

    Furthermore, activists manipulate what can be received. For example, I published a paper on a specialised topic in education and placed it on a website. To my amazement I could not find it by submitting my name and the title, (at least in the first 13 pages of google). Later I found it by submitting a substantive piece of its text in inverted commas. None of my friends could find it in the normal way. How come?

    One criteria for the presentation of a website in response to a query on google is the number of quotations with urls that it has on other websites. Activists have a double strategy: (1) they copiously quote each other’s and other sympathetic sites; (2) they never quote or even mention any site critical of their position; this deprives some texts containing the word education of a viewing.

  7. Peter Foster says:

    “The term British Values is a list in the imagination of the exhorter. It approves what he approves, it condemns what he condemns. It is an intolerant wolf in a patriotic sheep’s clothing.”

    This is just cynical. In fact ‘British Values’ correspond with the precepts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948. Unfortunately, the underlying notion of human universality has been corrupted by the British left in allowing deviations in the name of culture: for example tolerating FGM and forced marriage, and denying free speech in the case of Salman Rushdie. Think of the treatment of Ann Cryer and Ray Honeyford.

    • G.D. says:

      Your concept of ‘Values’ may correspond with U. D. of H. R. but it’s plainly obvious there are others who hold different ‘Values’ as being correct in their ‘imagination’. And some are indeed ‘intolerant wolf(wolves) in a patriotic sheep’s clothing.’

      Take the current political climate & some of the British right’s values that are clearly maligning anyone who is physically or mentally dependant on the state to survive. And other equally inhumane values that have been expressed.

  8. Peter Foster says:

    Surely G.D., what you are concened with are not British values!

    As we enter Lent may I recommend to fellow blogers the daily readings “Lent at Home” in both French and English from the diocese of Dijon via Les textes at: http://www.careme-chretien.fr.
    Each year they are newly constructed by the “Association Carême Chrétien” founded 25 years ago by Père Augustin Gagey (1913-2009).

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