Firstly, this isn’t a political speech, on behalf of any party.
Some people unkindly describe the American culture as one where you ‘fake it til you make it’. My experience (a year living in East Coast USA) wasn’t like that. There was nothing fake about Navy bases, homeless people sleeping rough or World-class business schools.
However, in present day UK, we do seem to be living in an age of fake. Or at least a lack of honesty in outlining the real problems. Imagine if doctors only made long speeches about the symptoms of disease. Or tried to distract the hospital waiting room attendees (think voters) with side-show events (hospital expense scandals, hospital staff reorganisations, dramatic efforts to eject people from the waiting room who are causing trouble etc).
S0 what do I mean by the age of fake? Here are six examples in no particular order.
Fake voice – people may think that with the rise of social network channels, that the quality of the discussion is somehow improved. In response, having more information available includes enabling more red herrings/malicious hacking/identity fraud and doesn’t necessarily mean people take the time to fully understand the issues.
People may also think that with more social network access, their own voice becomes more valid (myself included). Or that somehow crowd-sourcing will usurp the decision making by those in power. Really? I would suggest that giving everyone a free soapbox and the ability to film or write whatever they like, creates entertainment, rather than real change.
Fake trade – how much global trade, measured by number of transactions, or value traded, still happens between human traders? Already, 60% of stock market trading happens annually between super computers. How long before that figure rises to 100%? Trade also doesn’t happen between nations, so much as between entities (think of the power of multi-national companies; the oil companies, re-insurers, investment banks, custodian fund managers and R&D organisations. Those entities tend to chose their ‘home country’ at least partly on the basis of tax-haven attractiveness. They’re also happy to shift jobs between countries at will. Increasingly, as trade becomes more digital, the internet itself becomes the ‘home nation’.
Fake education – our Western education system used to require students to be able to write, read and use numbers. And to rote-learn various facts. It still does. Schools encourage some kids to learn a foreign language, but not necessarily one of the ones of our future trading partners. Who will that help? Meanwhile, machines manage vast amounts of data, using complex models, in milliseconds. Internet search-engines scan vast stores of digital data in milliseconds and create big-data analytics using business-intelligence applications.
Shouldn’t primary and secondary education systems teach all kids to self-learn as fast as possible (become ‘Renaissance’ men and women, involved with lifelong learning for survival), problem-solve at every opportunity, be flexible, use imagination and creativity. Also, to become fluent in the languages of our future trading partners at a very early age and then spend their secondary school time studying the literature and ideas of those trading partners during ‘language’ lessons?
Children can still still be kids playing in their lunchtimes, after school and at the weekends. On a related note, promoting apprenticeships for blue-collar jobs is borderline cruel, if machine automation and technological change will soon eradicate such jobs. Instead, perhaps the education system could devote some resources towards teaching non academic kids; subsistence farming of allotment land, small-holding animal husbandry and food preparation, sanitation & irrigation systems management, basic first aid, how to build basic homes themselves (in the countryside) and how to install basic alternative energy systems. That might lead to exchanging depression and inner-city deprivation for skills development, confidence and rural self-sufficiency. Suggest we need greater honesty and vision from the Minister of Education and his/her Whitehall advisers.
Fake liquidity – an endless summer of unlimited consumer credit (credit cards for all and 95% mortgages on offer) can only end in a day of reckoning, especially with job cuts and housing price adjustments. Popular wisdom says that financial markets will create market liquidity through their trade and financial product development. Yet some economists now challenge this as being fake liquidity i.e. activity that gives the illusion of liquidity, but doesn’t provide the substance. On a related note, vast amounts of money pumped into the UK economy by the Bank of England as quantitative easing, haven’t ultimately translated into the construction/reconditioning of affordable residential homes either.
Fake religion – this label is of course highly emotive. In one example only, we continue to have individuals carrying out acts of bloodshed across the World, in the name of religion. If the religious scholars from the religion concerned don’t effectively counter this ‘doctrine threat’, then the particular ‘religious brand’ itself looses legitimacy and is branded (by some) as fake.
Fake politics – see the hospital waiting room analogy above. Suggest that politicians aren’t being honest about whether economic recoveries will create jobs for the masses (they won’t, but upskilling and re-inventing their skills in the downturn might). Politicians aren’t honest about what they can control (much power is held by the EU authorities in Brussels and Strasbourg), especially as a UK coalition government. Or even about some important things they don’t regulate. For example where real profits are actually made (by tax jurisdiction), unregulated hedge fund activity and unregulated derivative trading. Politicians still aren’t honest about the real power of corporate lobby groups. On a wider note, politicians appear to happily assume the trappings of leadership, yet don’t lead by example, witness the MP expenses scandal, cutting their own operating budgets, or effectively solving various problems on a timely basis. For example,energy source stability, an effective justice system, changing climate effects & transport planning.
A further trend that seems to be growing in politics is to pass the buck elsewhere. Politicians are happy for taxpayers to go on funding lawyers indefinitely to fight out court cases about things like extraditing ‘preachers of hate’ back to their home country, rather than changing the law. Or blaming big companies for dodging corporate taxes, when the politicians themselves make the rules about tax shelters.
Fake tans. Fake nails. Botox faces. Collogen lips. Bleached hair. Steroid bodies. Silicon boobs. Enough said.
So how to restore some honesty going forward?
- Recapture the forces of transparency, checks and balances, accountability and root-cause insight.
- Government investment in content for the media channels (not just BBC documentary channels, if the majority of voters now watch You Tube, Soap Operas, Reality TV, celeb interviews or stand-up comedy) to reach the masses more effectively, to try and get collective agreement from people on the disease. Not a focus on the symptoms.
- Real engagement with kids at school on various important issues that will fundamentally affect their future lives – show them process maps, vicious and virtuous circle diagrams, cause and effect diagrams to arm them with useful tools.
Lets not fake it, if we want to make it as a community, a society and a country.