11 January 2016

Densification and the new technocracy


Mark McCrindle is one of my go-to guys for trends in society, certainly in Australian society. He wrote an article for the Huffington Post about the latest trends and commented on this issue of crowding. He reports, "Australians have responded to the growth, with housing trends of densification, the growth in apartment living and "walkable" urban communities. In addition to this, the year ahead will see policy and political responses to population growth through more focus on growing regional centres, investing in public transport and road infrastructure, airport and flight movement expansions and renewed discussion of a very-fast train link between Sydney and Melbourne, which together are home to 40 percent of the national population."

In case you missed that, what Mark says is that more people are moving to Sydney and Melbourne from the countryside, where farming and cattle/ sheep stations are losing their populations, and internationals are moving to our capital cities, and since those two cities cannot really expand outward, they are expanding upward. In my own neighbourhood, on a section of land, formerly 18 houses on quarter acre plots were purchased over years, razed, and then developed (photo is of this structure) into 285 units without commensurate parking or other infrastructure services. We are buckling up for the crowdedness to continue everywhere there is a train line or good public transport via buses as well. Squeezing more people into same land means upward trends (but not necessarily upward mobility).

That may not mean anything to you just now, wherever you live, but be sure that this notion of packing-together will continue and demand for infrastructure will cost us all more in the years to come. If it doesn't cost you in money, it will cost you in time. Travel time will increase from one place to another, even if they put in a new fast-train from Sydney to Melbourne, as crowds don't make for ease on any level. Widening roads, increased toll charges, higher costs for products to transport from one place to another... all will assist this troubling trend.

McCrindle also comments on technocracy, which would translate to "the power of technology." He writes, "Technology is now empowering and, in many ways, improving democracy. Traditionally, democracy worked through corresponding with one's local Member of Parliament, signing petitions to be tabled, and of course voting in elections. However, in a technocracy, tweets, trending hashtags, likes and online campaigns have the power to reverse government decisions and influence policy priorities. Such clicktivism gives voice to those beyond adults and enrolled voters and those outside of an electoral or state boundary."

We have been calling this the 'democratisation of information' but I like the term 'technocracy.' When in the past you wanted to know something, you went to an authority, like a rabbi, a teacher, a librarian, someone in authority. Now the blogosphere/ world of tweets has given us anyone as an authority. That's good news and bad news at the same time. Good that any informed person can actually share what they know, to anyone who is actually asking. The truth can get to you fairly quickly, thanks to Google.
What's bad is that people who don't know what they are saying still can say it, and gather a following. Being heard is key to Twitter and Facebook, and the issue of being heard may replace the need to be right, but I'll leave that to the sociologists.

So a madman from ISIS or Boko Haram can write/ video his truth, and voila, some other madman in San Bernardino or Paris will take up the cause and kill and maim. The power (cracy) that people long for, the power to be heard, the power to matter, the power to have significance... are not going to be found in gathering followers. The power of technology is useful for disbursing information and learning when the movie you want to see is showing, but it's useless in being a person of worth. For that, you need the power of God. He alone gives worth to people. He alone shares purpose with you. And this is something we need, more and more, as crowds gather and swarm around us, as information technology passes us by, as Uber drivers and Flipagrams replace the local taxi and YouTube we just discovered.

Don't get lost in the madness; don't get lost in the shuffle. The great Jewish king Solomon wrote, "The LORD has made everything for its own purpose." (Proverbs 16.4) You want to find (your own) significance? Turn towards the Lord who knows you better than anyone (else) and wants to give you your own raison d'ĂȘtre. He will help you sort out the mess, the confusion, the disorientation, and bring you meaning beyond words, and beyond technology and beyond the crowd.

It won't hurt to try.

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