How Do We Change The World?

I would like to change the world.

I feel like it needs changing, you know? There are things that definitely aren’t working, things that aren’t going very well, and sometimes it feels like it’s all sort of coming to a head.

 © RyanJHooper on Twitter
© RyanJHooper on Twitter

Which it isn’t, probably. There’s a whole load of evidence that the world currently is much better than it’s ever been. But I do feel like there are some significant changes that need to happen to make it reach its full potential.

By ‘it’ I mean us, of course. Humans.

I’ve struggled with this question throughout my whole adult life: what can I do that would help?

It’s not very straightforward.

I started out by studying philosophy and psychology, in the hope that one or both of those would lead somewhere useful. Unfortunately things didn’t quite align properly and I ended up dropping out, getting married and somehow fell into a job in advertising, which I’ve half-regretted ever since but which did provide a stable income and give me a good grounding in a lot of things. Like business, and self-confidence, and an idea of what I didn’t want to become.

Then I left to work in forensic investigation, specialising in child protection. Because that’s important, right? There aren’t many people who would say it isn’t.

But is it important enough? Is child protection what we really need in order to make the world on the whole a better place? Is investigating crimes the best thing to be doing, or should I be trying to get to the roots of problems and solving them instead?

Some of these thoughts have led to a recent interest in counter terror. Terrorism is one of the most obvious things that’s making the news these days, and I’m interested in religion in general, and cults and subcultures, and things that involve people who are desperate for solutions but who go about it the wrong way.

Partly because I can sort of see how that happens. Not the terrorism part itself, but how it’d be easy to want to make some kind of change, and to be gradually swept up in an increasing current of desperation until something – anything – feels better than not acting.

So counter terror is one of the things I’m currently thinking of working on, as well as the child protection thing. I’ve got two studies half planned out for the next few years, and now just have the fun task of trying to secure funding for them.

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But there’s a really big part of me that’s circling back to 18-year-old scar’s viewpoint that philosophy might be the thing we need the most. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and apparently I’m not the only one.

It’s true, though. Both that we need a new generation of sharp, analytical, brilliant philosophers, and that the reason we don’t have them is because they’re all trying to make a living. Probably a significant percentage of them are stuck behind desks in open-plan offices, optimising for CTR on some multinational corporation’s latest ad campaign.

Can you image Frege doing that? Hegel? Kierkegaard? Fucking Nietzsche?
Because I Kant. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

And I think one of the largest problems we have is that there’s this amazing technological revolution, which has the potential to bring people together in ways that haven’t been possible before, and to encourage open dialogue and create repositories of knowledge, making it more acessible to those who haven’t had access to it in the past… but we haven’t had the social revolution alongside it.

What we need is thinkers. Philosophers. Ethicists. Guides. People who can sit alongside all this amazing technological stuff that’s going on, and look at the way it’s changing the world, and cut through the crap with their razor-sharp logic and analysis. We need people who can look beyond the daily grind and help society to move forward philosophically at the same pace as it’s moving technologically.

Because otherwise, we run the risk of falling far behind ourselves, and ending up lost.

So maybe I should devote my life to philosophy and ethics, to these huge overarching questions that will affect the world even though they don’t enter most people’s consciousness. But how can I do this and also survive in the world? How can I make sure I have enough brain space left to philosophise, when I have to spend all day working in order to keep a roof over my head?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. But I think they’re interesting things to think about.

And if you have any thoughts on (1) what are the best life choices for people who want to make a real difference, and (2) how to pursue them without ending up homeless, that would be great. Please share. And also please share if you’re just as lost and confused as I am, and just as determined to do something – anything – to change the world for the better.

Here’s to the future.

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