Futurism is nothing without the present (and the past)

There is a thing called fake futurism, in which people believe the future is all about embracing the new and the hi-tech, without any concerns about their long-term practicality and sustainability.

And those people tend to be fans of Elon Musk and the likes.

Here’s my take: if we want to a strong and bright future, we must build a well-founded present and learn from the past. Radical, right?

If you ask people what aspects of our lives we must focus on, you would have different answers. Mine would be education, health, physical environment, culture and historical literacy.

High-quality and well-balanced education gives us not only practical skills, but also the wisdom to utilise them tactfully, making sure they actually benefit us in the long run.

High-quality and affordable healthcare makes sure we are not burdened only by health conditions which modern medicine can easily overcome, but also the medical bills.

Well-cared natural environments ensure not only we do not worsen existing natural disasters and disease outbreaks, but also the longevity of our clean water, food and fresh air supply and other natural resources which – believe it or not – many businesses are dependent on.

Good urban planning – which is human-centric instead of car-centric – ensures cities are not only environmentally and financially sustainable in the long run, but also maintaining social connectivity between the residents, which can foster the uniquely local cultures and prevent isolation between individuals and groups.

Attention of cultures ensures our respective countries and even our hometowns can culturally stand out instead of seen as mere carbon copies of other places; you would not leave a deep impression if you are indistinguishable from the rest.

Learning history, including the many grave sins of our ancestors, prevents us from not only repeating their mistakes, but also romanticising the past, which can dangerously inflate our collective sense of pride, which can derail our inability to acknowledge our own collective reality.

What I say above are practically basic common sense: if we want a bright future, what we do in the present must have long-term benefits.

And obsession with the latest hi-tech is not always beneficial.

It is beneficial when the tech makes our lives more practical and efficient in the long run. But, we know damn well some of you don’t care about that.

You love electric cars and any of those “green” techs because you want to maintain your wasteful lifestyles – which are antithetical to being green – and keep filling the infinitely empty space that is your life.

You love space explorations and robots simply because pop culture makes them look cool, not realising “cool” is not the same as “useful”, not realising you want the real world to emulate fiction.

You love IT not because you want better connectivity to the rest of the world, but because you want the ability to violate privacies.

You love nuclear energy not because you want more electricity for the masses, but because you want your country to have nukes, which you can use to bomb anyone who dare to offend your fragile nationalistic ego.

You love anything new because, for some goddamn reasons, you want to entirely cut ties with the past, as if there was nothing good to preserve and learn from it.

If you have so many “duh!” moments while reading this, then this blogpost is obviously not for you and you have wasted your time.

If this blogpost blows your mind or puts you on the defensive, then it is meant for the likes of you.

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You still need the human aspect

I used to feel inexplicably uneasy every time I watched videos by Wendover Productions. It is one of the channels which topics genuinely intrigue me. But, something always felt off.

Thanks to Alan Fisher, now I know why.

Fisher is another Youtuber whose content shares thematic similarities with Wendover, albeit his is more niche. He criticises Wendover’s videos for being hollow shells. Lots of technical information on the surface, no humanness underneath. That critique explains my uneasiness.

While there aren’t that many, I found comments critical of Fisher’s take, saying they would love science and tech videos free from personal opinions.

I do understand their frustration; they are coming only for the technical information. But, we should not forget one thing about STEM: they were created to benefit mankind. Sooner or later, we have to have discussions about how they affect us.

(Note: the following topics are not something Wendover has discussed in its videos. They are just something I have talked about with other people)

You can explain the differences between metric and imperial measurement systems. But, you also have to acknowledge that a system which conversion simply requires moving the decimal point is significantly more dependable and less likely to cause accidents than a system which requires one conversion formula for every pair of unit. Not to mention that metric is much easier to people who suck in math.

You can explain the technical details of man-made physical environments (e.g. buildings and urban planning) and machinery of different modes of transportation. But, you should also talk about how they affect our physical, financial, social and psychological well-being, both on collective and individual levels.

You can explain the technical details of information technology. But, you should also talk about how to ethically and cautiously utilising it, making sure it improves interconnectivity instead of stoking divisions, spreading misinformation and violating privacy.

You can explain the technical details of GMOs, pharmaceutical products and nuclear energy. But, you should also mention their political and/or corporate misuse, which distract the masses from seeing the actual benefits.

You can elaborate on the latest technological breakthroughs. But, you should discuss whether they are actually beneficial and sustainable in the long run or they are just symptoms of fake futurism which may or may not exacerbate humanity’s existing problems.

You can elaborate on evolution theory. But, you should also talk about the taboo attached to it. Is it because of literal interpretations of the scriptures? Is it because of anthropocentrism? Is it both? Is it because of a reason I have never thought of before?

If we want to know which technical knowledge is the most beneficial, we must take a look at the data. If it is clear, then we must take a stance by choosing the empirically-proven approaches and ditching the ones that aren’t. If the data isn’t clear, then we must have discussions, which inevitably involve lots and lots opinions.

If we want to know how theoretical knowledge affects us, we must observe people’s responses to it. Do they embrace it to widen their horizon? Do they reject it for contradicting their personal beliefs? Do they believe certain knowledge is useless if it does not bring immediate practical benefits?

Why do humans have such varying responses? How can we spread science appreciation to the wider society? How can we convince people to change their beliefs when faced with refuting evidences? How can we convince them that expansing one’s horizon is also an actual benefit?

If you think science communication must convey nothing but technical information, why bother?

Why bother with science communication – which is meant to make the masses appreciate STEM even more – when you disregard its significance in our human lives? Why bother when you could have just written and read textbooks and scientific papers?

It sounds like I absolutely hate Wendover. While I do think most of his videos aren’t that great, there are two which I truly love: The World’s Most Useful Airport and The Final Years of Majuro.

The former is about an airport in an extremely isolated island called St. Helena. It covers the airport’s arduous technical aspects and its impacts on the islanders’ lives. He interviewed the locals, including a couple whose baby received urgent life-saving treatment thanks to the airport.

The latter is about how climate change is threatening to swallow the entirety of Marshall Islands, which means the Marshallese people will lose their ancestral homeland soon. He interviewed them as well, even ones who lived abroad.

They tackle issues which can be solved using STEM and warn us about the consequences of our refusal to solve them. Unless you are a robot or one of those Ayn Rand-esque selfish bastards, hearing the human side of the stories would make you more appreciative of STEM’s existence and more concerned about its use.

The thing is Wendover does not need to travel to a far flung place and interview its residents. If he compliments his STEM content with some dashes of social sciences and humanities and he acknowledges that it is okay to add personal opinions as long as they are well-reasoned and respectful of facts, his other videos would have been much more profound.

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“Cancel culture stops people from growing”

… is something what people argue against cancel culture. They believe even the worst of the worst should not be cancelled; if they are cancelled, they would never learn to be better people.

I disagree because it insinuates that every mistake humans make is equally bad. We know damn well that is not true. Making tasteless jokes is certainly not on par with inciting violence, being sexually predatory and filming a dead body and showing it your young viewers. You won’t grow up if you don’t taste the bitter consequences for your actions.

Obviously, the severity must be proportionate. Ruining someone’s a career just for a tactless joke – especially the one made in the past – is needlessly cruel. Stern but constructive criticism is more than enough; you would learn that likeability requires reading the goddamn room.

But, incitement of violence? Sexual abuse? Filming a corpse and showing it to children as entertainment? Do I need to explain how harmful they are?

If you committed either one and the only punishments you get are mere criticism and temporary income decrease, it sends a message that your atrocious acts are trivial stuffs which people overreact to. Why should you learn from your mistakes when you can repeat them over and over again and always left relatively unscathed?

Take Youtubers Logan and Jake Paul as examples. They were never cancelled. As severe as the criticism was, they were never on the brink of losing their careers. In fact, not only they are still thriving, they are still sleazy.

As far as I am concerned, neither of them continue targeting mature content to children (and Logan only filmed a dead body once). But now, they are peddling cryptocurrency scams.

They never stop being bad guys; they simply changed their modus operandi. Logan also created a well-received podcast which, intentionally or not, gives a false impression of personal growth.

If not getting cancelled fosters personal growth, why are the Paul brothers still the cunts that they are?

If influential and problematic Youtubers like them were cancelled, they would be powerless to cause widespread harm. Not only they wouldn’t continue mistreat lots of other people, they also wouldn’t normalise toxicity, to the point where we have extremely low bar of human decency on Youtube, making them look virtuous compared to other problematic individuals.

Would they grow as human beings? I don’t know and I don’t give a fuck.

Seriously, between stopping a disease from spreading and giving it a chance (which is not 100%) to cure itself, why the fuck should we prioritise the latter?

Why the fuck should we risk letting it spreading just for the sake of your pathetic, deluded sensibility?

Why the fuck should we responsible for their redemption arcs?

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Believe it or not, fake news is not the media’s biggest problem

Contrary to popular belief, fake news is mostly confined to fringe and alternative media outlets, which are ironically trusted by those who love screaming “fake news!”.

For people with basic media literacy, fake news can be easy to detect. Unprofessional languages , excessive or absolute reliance on stock footage and photos, absolute reliance on hearsay, anything which compensates for the absence of corroboration.

Most of the time, the news in mainstream media outlets are not… you know…. fake. Even though it does employ questionable languages at times, it also uses actual footages and photos of the stories in question and the journalists interview people on the ground, things which alternative and fringe media often forgoes.

The reports are technically factual. But, that does not mean they are trustworthy.

For one, they can present the facts using dishonest angles, which they often do.

You can report on problems caused by marginalised minorities. But, hyper-fixation on them means you depict those politically powerless people as the biggest trouble-makers and ignoring the system which puts them in their current situations.

You can grill individuals who hate the establishments. But, let’s not depict the powerful establishments as some kind of powerless and angelic underdogs who deserve our sympathy.

You can interview bigots, extremists and snake oil salesmen. But, let’s not pretend all opinions are scientifically, factually and morally equal.

You can report religious extremism. But, if you focus only on the extremists and detractors of the associated religion while ignoring the peaceful believers, you will inevitably depict an entire religious group with the same brush.

You can report problematic behaviours of some activists. But, don’t use their SJW-esque behaviours to ignore the sincere grievances other activists have.

They are technically factual. But, there are false balance, biases and omission of certain details which can provide us the full contexts.

They compel us to lionise, demonise and be dismissive towards undeserving individuals and groups. They compel us to perceive certain situations as more complicated or simplistic than they really are.

The title of this blog seems to insinuate that dishonesty is a bigger threat than fake news. Well, that’s because it is.

It is not to say fake news in fringe media and the people who consume it are not dangerous. They certainly are; from time to time, we have witnessed extremists – like it or not, fake news embracers often have extreme views – inflicting widespread harm upon their respective societies.

But, as I have said before, fake news is – more of than not – brazen; for anyone who possess the most basic media literacy, it is extremely easy to detect it.

Extremists are also easy to spot, as long as you dissect their beliefs and acknowledge there are such things as bad opinions. You don’t even need to wait for the violence.

But, dishonesty of mainstream media is trickier. Not only refuting deceitful viewpoints is significantly a lot more difficult than debunking on-the-nose misinformation, you also have to convince the average media consumers that statements of facts can still misguide them and there is something to read between the lines.

I personally can attest how difficult it is to persuade people – even the smarter than average ones – into acknowledging the abstract. For them, people like me are nothing but conspiracy “theorist” who see non-existing patterns and should learn to take anything at face value.

Do I have a solution for this?

As someone whose university major is media and communication, I do believe the answer is a yes… a reluctant yes.

While the practical skilled I learned (e.g. creating PR plans and writing press releases) did drastically decrease my gullibility, they never gave me different lenses to observe media content with; they were given to me in social science and humanities classes.

I also have this observation about other people: the less they are educated in social sciences and humanities, the more likely they take media content (or anything, really) at face value. Either they are not used to thinking abstractly (thanks, education systems!) or they hate questioning the conventional narratives because it feels like questioning their normal reality.

In fact, I am certain the latter is the reason why many people hate liberal arts. They want to learn what and how things work, they don’t want to question whether we should do them or not.

I know this sounds anecdotal. But, surely, we can agree that recognising subtle deceit like the one of mainstream media requires the ability to read between the line, grasp the intangible and even question our own perceptions of reality.

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“Everything is political!”

I first encountered that remark in a video by Extra Credit, a Youtube channel partially dedicated to video games.

At first, I found it off-putting. I thought it was pretentious and sanctimonious. I thought they were trying too hard to sound socially-conscious. I remember that people in the comment section also shared my discontent.

But then, years later, I changed my mind. Admittedly, as off-putting as it sounds, that remark has some truths. But, I prefer to phrase it differently: everything -literally everything – is affected by politics.

What kinds of entertainment we consume and enjoy are affected by politics. The governments set rules about which works are allowed and prohibited, which require age restrictions, which require “alteration”; in some cases, there may be endorsement of certain works and/or styles.

And yes, even the foods we eat are affected by politics. The openness and closeness of trades affect the variety. Political stances, especially of the ruling classes, may also affect what styles of foods considered acceptable to eat; cultural cringe compels people to look down on their ancestral/local cuisines while pride compels them to be proud of the ancestral/local ones.

In more extreme cases, ultra-nationalists want everyone to eat ONLY ancestral/local foods and some revolutionaries (e.g. Italian Futurists) want everyone to break up with the past by stop eating ancestral foods.

My problem with that Extra Credit quote is the phrasing. It sounds like we have to make be political every second of our lives! I don’t think so and I would be disappointed if that was what they meant.

We have the choice to be tactful and tactless about our political opinions. We have the choice to take heed or be dismissive of politics. But, we don’t have the choice to be free from politics because it is very much interested in you (I am sure some of you have heard of this before).

One can also the same thing about cultures, religions and the economies. On one way or another, our lives are affected by all of them and they are unavoidable.

This is a reminder that humans don’t live in vacuums. We live in a world where everything is inevitably interconnected. In fact, I can also argue not only politics influences entertainment and foods, it can also be the other way around!

But, I am not going there now. I am not into the mood of plunging myself into the rabbit hole.

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As an introvert, the pandemic has finally affected me… in a bad way

No, I don’t miss large social situations.

I know some extroverts insist that, deep down, introverts prefer large social situations over solitude. Of course, they are stupid because that’s the exact opposite of what introversion is. They still believe “true introverts” are damaged, even though some extroverts’ willingness to risk public health for the sake of partying shows they are not immune from damage.

In fact, many introverts (who are free from financial problems) use the opportunity to be free from burdensome social “duties”. If it wasn’t for the adversities, I would have used a more celebratory tone.

I don’t miss the crowds. But, I do have to admit: I have developed a new anxiety.

Before the pandemic, I only had one reason to hate social gatherings: just like any introverts, I found them mentally grueling. Speaking for myself specifically, the less I was familiar with the people, the more exhausted I would end up.

And now, not only I still find them hectic, I also perceive them as potential disease incubator; considering a pandemic can last for years and there is always a potentiality for another one, I doubt my fear would dissipate soon.

Never mind encountering actual crowds. Even the sight of one in a goddamn video makes me anxious. They have become doubly stressful.

No, this does not prove extroverts’ inherent superiority. Let me remind you that some of them help spreading the disease. It shows extroversion’s liability in crises like this.

My point is I was a bit too assured about mentally surviving the pandemic, thinking introversion immunised me. Fortunately, like the one I have been having for years, this new anxiety is not crippling; I can live my daily life with ease.

But, it is a problem nonetheless.

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Freedom “warriors” and how they unwittingly kick themselves in the nuts

They take freedom of speech to a new level. They believe consequences are tyrannical. Literally all of them, even constructive criticism.

From what I see, these special people are split into two: 1. those who believe humans live in vacuums; 2. those who believe in their innate right to live consequence-free lives. An important similarity to point out: they are extremely fearful of censorship.

I hate myself for taking so long to notice the contradictions.

The former believe so because they want to believe our actions never affect others. In other words, they want an excuse to be irresponsible. But then, their fear of censorship becomes irrational.

If your actions don’t affect others, shouldn’t you be spared from other people’s as well? I mean, if you believe in the vacuums, I don’t see why you should be fearful of any censorship attempts.

The latter are obviously a bunch of people who touch themselves to their mirror reflections. It took me a long time to notice the contradiction:

If you have the right to do literally anything you want, shouldn’t you support other people’ right to be tyrannical? I mean, doing everything they want without facing consequences. That sure sounds like tyranny.

Okay, it is not entirely fair. Tyrants have lawful grasp over their respective societies, unbound by limits. They are certainly incomparable to those Ayn Rand-loving commoners.

But, I still bring this argument anyway. Why? Because I do know some of those freedom “warriors” (emphasise on the word “some”) also believe in Might Is Right.

For them, if other people’s actions hurt you, you are weak and, if you are weak, you deserve to be trampled on. There is no morality, only power.

If that’s how you live life, then embrace your weakling status and bow down to the powerful tyrants. If you believe what you believe, then you should accept it when you are on the receiving end.

Limitless freedom is such a bullshit belief. Besides being the favourite excuse of mindless egomaniacs, it is also paradoxically a slippery slope towards oppression.

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Punching sideways

In general, I despise jokes and satires which punch down.

Punching down can give the impression that marginalised groups create the most number of problems in their societies, despite their lack of political power and smaller population sizes.

I have made a blog post about it. But, it seems I forgot to talk about punching sideways.

Another issue with punching down is the punchers are often ignorant about the problems within marginalised communities. The punches are either full of oversimplifications or inaccurate stereotypes. Do you know who can provide nuanced and accurate information about said communities? Their own members!

Admittedly, I don’t believe you understand a community just because you grew up in it. Fanaticism and cultural cringe can cloud your judgement, compelling you to whitewash and exaggerate the problems among your people, respectively.

But still, if you want to truly understand a community, wouldn’t it make sense to listen people who have lived the life?

I wouldn’t think about this if it wasn’t for a video titled The Darkness by Youtuber Natalie Wynn AKA Contrapoints, in which she asserted that telling funny trans jokes requires knowledge to actual trans experiences. And yes, she has made lots of funny trans jokes.

Disclaimer: I am cis. I certainly don’t know what kind of trans jokes trans people like. But, I have yet to see her any significant backlashes from the trans community regarding her trans jokes.

This also reminds me of Muslim American webcomic artist Huda Fahmy, known for her work Yes, I am hot in this. While she does not create crude content, she constantly makes fun of her fellow American Muslims and, to a lesser extent, the entire Muslim world.

And the fact that she is a hijabi reveals a previously-hidden complexity about Muslims.

When you think of a hijabi, you think of someone who supports shaming of non-hijabis and takes hijab too seriously. That’s what anti-Muslim bigots, liberal Muslims, ex-Muslims and even some moderate Muslims (the old school Indonesian ones, at least) believe.

Huda Fahmy isn’t like that.

For one, she believes in giving women the freedom to wear anything they desire. She despises the idea of shaming them for dressing “immodestly”. In a satirical tone, she offers new dehumanising pro-hijab metaphors which do not involve ants and candies. She even acknowledges that modesty does not prevent sexual harassment.

She also makes jokes about hijabs, including one which she jokes how women become hijabis after bitten by hijampire, who has snaggle pins as fangs.

Never mind non-Muslims. As someone who grew up Muslim in the biggest Muslim-majority country and attended two Islamic schools, I have yet to met a hijabi who makes such jokes. She showcases an aspect of the Muslim world which is hidden even from many Muslims.

Basically, unless your intention is to dehumanise them even further and make them even more prone to discrimination, you have to learn about intricacies of the lives of marginalised peoples before you make fun of the them.

And no, stereotypes are not good enough. They are beliefs about our fellow human beings which are never 100% accurate, but shamelessly waiting to be affirmed.

Apart from the power imbalance, the absence of nuanced perspectives is another reason why punching down is problematic.

Yes, black and white thinking is problematic. It is just a few steps away from misinformation.

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Facing fears can be pointless

Some fears do need to be confronted when they are severe enough to cripple our daily lives. You know, fearing social interactions to the point where one suffers from agoraphobia.

Do I have fear of them? Yes, I do and my stuttering may be either the cause or the exacerbating factor. Sometimes, when I have to communicate with strangers using more than ten sentences, I do get nervous.

But, they are always manageable. You won’t see me sweating and hyperventilating. I can easily go to stores, banks, gas stations and any places where the strangers are.

Considering I – an introverted, socially-awkward and stuttering homebody – am able live my daily social life and fulfil my practical needs with great ease, I see no reasons why I should waste my time and energy getting rid of something which is practically a trivial nuisance.

Out of social pressure, I tried to get rid of it by interacting with more people. Every time I do that, I become more aware of my own stuttering and awkwardness, needlessly amplifying my self-awareness. Essentially, I become an even bigger wreck.

It is the similar with my fear of height.

It is rare for me to be in a situation where fearlessness against height benefits me. I don’t have window-cleaning or the likes as a job.

And yes, just like my fear of social interactions, my fear of height never cripples me. I never have problems looking down from a cliff or a high-rise building and, unless there is bad weather or a recent news of a crash, an airplane ride is doable for me.

And yes, I have also been coerced to get rid of it and the attempts are not only futile, they give me a bad mood for the rest of the day.

My point is we should focus on actually debilitating defects, instead of the ones that people demand us to fix because they let other people’s trivial weaknesses ruin their lives.

It is like spending time and money to remove a tiny mole on one’s skin simply because it does not meet some else’s shallow beauty standard.

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Punching up and down

Some people I have interacted with despise the concept of punching up and down. They believe everyone deserves to be criticised, regardless of how truly marginalised they are. This concept, they believe, is just an excuse to silence those with unpopular opinions.

I partially agree with the sentiment.

I do believe everyone deserves to be constructively criticised. But, the thing is I don’t know how others define punching up and down. In my mind, they are all about destructive criticism. I mean, the word “punch” is used here.

There are ways to “punch” people. You can either satirise them or straight up mean-spiritedly insult them. Doing either or both means you insinuate that they are the number one source of problems in our societies.

I am comfortable about targetting certain groups like white Christians in the west, Muslims of indigenous lineage in Indonesia or cishet people in every country. They have two things in common: they are the demographic majorities and they dominate the ruling classes.

If both traits apply to your group, then you directly or indirectly shape your societies inside out. Inevitably, just like how you can take some credits (SOME) in your societies’ achievements, you are also directly or indirectly to blame for their problems.

Of course, because humans don’t live in vacuums, marginalised minorities also have their share of blame. But, because they are numerically smaller and politically weaker, their share is far smaller.

If anything, due to their small share of power, they are often among the biggest casualties of the societal problems.

To sum it up, be careful when you criticise groups of people. Make sure to not depict them as more powerful than they really are.

Unless, of course, you are idiotic or bigoted enough to believe the persecution complex narratives.

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