The systems we rely on are failing

I was planning to write about different systems individually before going on a meta level, but after having seen the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix, I had a quick moment of realization: each individual system is falling apart, but the biggest problem is that they are interconnected.

The systems I’m talking about are the ones that run our global civilization: the social, financial, ecological and political system.

#Why are these systems failing?

#Social System

As mentioned earlier I recommend watching this documentary to learn about how social media destroys our nations’ social fabric in detail.

Social media platforms like facebook and twitter have personalized feeds. This means everybody sees different information and therefore has a different perception of reality. This destroys our shared understanding of the world, which is necessary for democracy.

Additionally their algorithms and interfaces are designed to manipulate us with whatever intention the highest bidder has. They exploit the weaknesses of human psychology to steer us in a direction without us even noticing.

#Financial System

Our current financial system incentivizes wrong behaviour.

Gambling and betting on the stock market, making money from existential necessities like housing and being able to make the most money by moving it around instead of creating value are all signs the system is not working as it should.

Another sign is that companies can ignore certain costs like the health of people, animals or the planet and profit from that ignorance.

#Ecological System

The climate crisis is getting worse every year.

So many disasters arond the world are connected to the climate crisis and every day new scientific reports are getting published which highlight the damage that we have already done. Yet we continue using up all resources we can get without slowing down.

The best analogy I have read to visualize this situation is that we continue giving nature weapons that it will use in a war against us.

#Political System

Almost all political systems fail to address the issues above.

Depending on the country you look at this is due to lobbying and corruption, sometimes also due to the way the political system is set up in the first place and it’s also caused by political parties failing to draw a positive vision of our future.

Extremists are on the rise. Politicians fail to unite society. The divide between rich and poor is getting bigger. There are countless examples that this system is not working as it should.


#Negative reinforcement makes it worse

These problems are already tricky to solve individually. The trickiest part though is that failing to address any of them will reinforce the problems of the other systems.

For example with the effects of the climate crisis becoming worse, the problems in the political system will become worse, which will make extremists stronger. Failing to limit the power of social media companies will continue to weaken the political system and therefore also the power to address the climate crisis.

Therefore we need to tackle all problems simultaneously. Although the climate crisis is the biggest threat for human civilization, we won’t overcome it without addressing the other failing systems.

This is another reason why we haven’t made a lot of progress yet.

#What does that mean for us?

Nobody can predict the future. With my current knowledge and extrapolating the trends that I’m seeing, my prediction is that things will get worse in the next couple of years before they can get better. As long as I don’t see substantial progress in solving any of the problems above, I have no reasons to be optimistic about the near-term future.

More and more people start taking action though and this makes me hopeful. We still have a chance to turn this around, so let’s use it.

There are movements like extinction rebellion and fridays for future, so many great NGOs and companies trying to tackle social, political and ecological issues. And other movements like veganism, zero-waste and blacklivesmatter are all reasons to not give up.

On a personal level I started to take action in a lot of areas already. My next steps are now to share what I have learned and discuss these topics with more people around me.

Inform yourself, act and then inspire others to do the same.

@max_hoffmann