On a recent call with a professor in the social work department at a large Eastern university, we asked him what he saw as the human race's most vexing social problem. His answer was fascinating and quite unexpected. Below find excerpts from that conversation.
GVT: Thank you, Doctor, for taking time out of your busy schedule to help us better understand the state of our society as we slog our way through this horrible pandemic. We'd like to know what you think is the single most threatening problem our society is currently facing.
SWP: Well, from my perch here at the university, I look at social problems from a distance, to get the big picture, you might say. From that perspective, I would have to say that global warming, planet pollution, disintegrating social structures, population growth, and public health are the main challenges our society is facing. Many of my colleagues might argue with this list, but few would debate that each of these issues belongs on a short list somewhere.
GVT: Which of these do you think is the most troubling at the present time?
SWP: Each of these areas deserves attention, and there are solutions to all of them. But, in this country at least, there's a "psychic precondition" that is preventing society from taking meaningful corrective measures. This "precondition" is sapping our energy, distracting us from crafting solutions, and putting society in grave danger. It should probably be classified under the "disintegrating social structures" category. It is a unique problem and precludes solutions to all the other problems. For want of a better description, I call this social disorder "Too Much Pride".
GVT: What do you mean by "Too Much Pride"?
SWP: A large portion of our society no longer believes in experts or recognizes the authority of legitimate political leaders. Everyone thinks they are an expert. If they own a cellphone or use the internet, they believe they know as much as all the ivory tower PHDs combined, even if they haven’t spent five minutes in formal study.
GVT: Why do you consider this new self-confidence a pressing social problem?
SWP: Never have we seen so many everyday citizens believe that, at the push of a button, they can know everything there is to know and, therefore, have no more need for experts. Society is finding it impossible to organize itself behind the facts. The internet and the powerful hand-held computer (cell phone) have put the world's accumulated knowledge at everyone's fingertips, and no one feels compelled to accept expert interpretations of available data. In other words, we can’t even convince people to do what’s good for them. This is a serious problem.
GVT: Are you saying that the internet and the cell phone are currently society's most pressing social problems?
SWP: Yes. Absolutely. No one understood what was happening when these amazing information technologies were suddenly available to everyone. But you can't put the world's most powerful information technology in the hands of every citizen, young and old, without teaching them how to use it. It's like walking a five-year-old child into the Library of Congress and, as soon as he looks up at the books, awarding him a PHD on the spot.
GVT: I think I see your point, Professor. I never saw it like that before.
SWP: For example, the world is not listening to the experts on global warming and now the Western states are burning down, the glaciers are melting, and the Southeast is flooded. And because we are empowered by the little device we have in our pocket we think we're fully capable of forming our own opinions on global warming. This belief, however, has led to the anarchy and chaos that comes with sudden, unbridled, unwarranted self-confidence. Too much pride.
GVT: What now, Professor?
SWP: We need to first recognize that the sudden confluence of these amazing technologies has thrown society for a loop. Then, we must redesign our entire educational system around this new information technology. We have to teach our people how to acquire information, edit it, analyze it, and fit it into a realistic worldview that we all share. This will take some time, but we must make a start.
Enjoy our content? Then please subscribe for instant, weekly or monthly updates!