Being a student of economics and political science, one of the major problems that I believe we are facing right now is the growing inequality. Disparities in income, wealth and power created by political, economic, social and cultural systems cause this growing poverty and inequality. However I realized, if I truly want to understand this world, our problems, figure out solutions, it is not useful to simply concern myself with demand, supply, democracy and electoral systems so to speak. We are in a digital age and if I really want to bring social change, I need to expand my horizons and learn more about the Internet. I could not justify it to myself that I knew so little about the one thing, that I spent so much time with. In our daily life, we cannot comprehend that a genuine relationship would exist without us knowing the other players, whether it is our parents, siblings, friends, partners or even our enemies. Our natural instincts are to learn more about these people and feel a deeper connection. Gaining knowledge about the politics of the Internet, ICT Safety, Surveillance was the one of the main motivating factors for me to apply to a unique one-year academic program titled, "Social Innovation in a Digital Context."
In the first four months of the program, I had the opportunity to think about, research about and discuss with experts about the Internet and I have made one important realization. Contrary to the physical world -- commonly referred to as the real world, which is problematic in its definition since it automatically implies that the counter, i.e. the digital world is the opposite of real, i.e. fake -- in the digital world, everyone is equal. Obviously, the precondition would need to be that the Internet is easily accessible by all but once we are online, we are all on the same playing field if the Internet has not been tampered with. However, if Internet Service Providers and governments tamper with the system, i.e. places filters, censorship, discriminates and charges differentially by user, content, site, platform, mode of communication etc, then equality no longer exists. One of the keywords I often came across in my earlier studies is globalization. Globalization is a fairly novel concept associated with modernity, democratization, connectivity, international trade and technological advancement. When I was first introduced to the term, I associated it with global markets, comparative advantage, removal of trade barriers and so on. However, in the digital age, the more important and interesting factor in globalization is diversity. The Internet is the tool that brings together diverse and multicultural populations seeking to engage each other and benefit from these interactions. Diversity is desirable as it allows one to gain a comprehensive understanding of varied viewpoints and cultures at a scale that was never possible before, from the comfort of one's home for instance. It is a revolutionary idea; an opportunity has been created to harness the power of the Internet to spread knowledge. If we believe that knowledge is power, the Internet has greater potential of giving the power to the people, i.e. achieve democracy, than any political system.
We as humans, possess many talents and abilities; one of the primary ones being the gift of consciousness. Consciousness is a person's mind and thoughts and it is knowledge shared by a group of people. The Internet is powerful since it is a tool to live the consciousness of oneness. Any ordinary person, under normal conditions can have access to the field of oneness and interrelate to each other and gain knowledge. Globalization is transformational as it enables global consciousness. One of the problems we have right now is that we sometimes forget that the person on the other side is another human being, another individual just like us. This prevents us from achieving this global consciousness. In fact, many signs point to the fact that we are moving in a backward direction, with increases in Internet discrimination by people, and governments. This is more dangerous as these practices are being adopted by many developed countries with "open, free and supreme democracies" considered to be role models for countries that have not been so fortunate to experience the rapid rates of development. However, I think it is important to be optimistic, and see this crisis as an opportunity to grow and learn. The old adage "It's always darkest before the dawn" may sound like a broken record but I truly feel that the Internet will bring us closer together and make a meaningful contribution in addressing the pervasive problems of poverty and inequality in our society.
An earlier version of this blog post can be found in my Tumblr. account: http://nausheenkhan.tumblr.com/post/100477972086/interpretations-of-globalization
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