Does Technology Make Us Alone?
The fourth industrial revolution has made us more connected and globalized than ever, but it has also shaped an era of low civic participation.
In his successful book Bowling Alone, political scientist Robert Putnam identified a marked decrease in civic participation during the last generation, and argued that this is a reflection of “a sharp shift towards the individualistic pole of our culture, our society and politics.” in general”. Although the book is already twenty years old, it remains relevant. Indeed, a new study published by two psychologists in a journal of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) project suggests that “the more a cell phone uses to get information, the less likely it is to trust its neighbors, strangers and people of other religions or nationalities. ”
This is bad news for advanced democracies, given that a solid civic life turns out to be a good indicator of the quality of public institutions and their trust in them. The question is: what are some of the antidotes against this modern evil of loneliness and dissociation from public life?
A possible cure is a return to the traditional social networks that smartphones replaced: volunteer organizations. These organizations can help their members stay one step ahead of the events that already occur in the fourth industrial revolution, as well as the trends that are explained in the report The future of work that the World Economic Forum published this year. As part of the report, the Human Resources directors of some of the largest companies in the world were asked to identify the main drivers of change in their industries until 2020.
44% of respondents felt that changes in work environments and flexible work contracts would be the main socio-economic drivers of change and that organizations “would probably have a shrinking core of full-time employees for fixed tasks ” Despite the obvious benefits of flexibility and the rise of the collaborative economy, personified by disruptive companies such as Uber and Airbnb, they also carry many risks for workers. These risks may include unpredictable work schedules, limited access to social benefits and a decrease in the right to freedom of negotiation and association.
Through community projects and the guidance of other members, volunteer groups offer a barrier against the corrosion of civic life, an invaluable source of connections and a space to develop the skills needed to thrive in an environment where that “65% of the children who enter primary school will end up in completely new jobs that do not yet exist”.
The importance of voluntarism is also reflected in the paradigm shift seen in the attitude towards philanthropy, where the new paradigm is to incorporate the social good into the business model instead of considering corporate social responsibility as a discretionary complement to the central activities of a company.
As a result, the private sector begins to witness innovative approaches to encourage voluntary work as a solution to strengthen employees and provide them with meaningful means to get involved with the causes that matter to them. For example, the professional services company Deloitte offers its employees unlimited leave hours to devote to volunteer work. The health company Novo Nordisk incorporates social and community services into its projects, while the technology company Salesforce devotes “1% of working time, technology and resources for community projects as part of its model of” integrated philanthropy “. More than 9000 companies signed the UN Global Compact, an initiative to involve the private sector in the efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and disseminate responsible business practices.
For our well-being and that of our communities, we must seek to replace the networks that have been lost in modern times with the new social networks that are formed in voluntary service organizations, which address some of the great challenges worldwide, from eradication from diseases to the fight against poverty.
These organizations are an excellent alternative for the more than 10.6 million Americans over 65 who want to stay active and involved and return something to society. The same goes for 87% of the approximately 80 million young people of the Millennial Generation who want to make a difference and volunteer but are rejected by traditional institutions.
These networks have an enormous potential to do good, which we can define in three different ways:
First, there are empirical studies that support the value of what social network theorists call “weak links,” that is, “networks of people from different backgrounds, occasional contacts, and friends of friends.” These weak links, which voluntary organizations encourage, “have the greatest potential to provide long-term material benefits, such as employment opportunities.”
This is closely related to the second positive effect of getting involved again in civic life through social impact groups. This is an insurance policy against the changing world of work, in which “the digital flows of data and information -which practically did not exist 15 years ago- now have a greater impact on GDP than the trade of goods, with their centuries of history”.
The third important value of volunteer organizations is their importance as bulwarks against civic apathy and social isolation. The first obvious indicator of the decline in civic life is a low level of political participation. According to a calculation made by the Pew Research Center in 2015, the US UU “They ranked 31st among the 35 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, most of whose members are highly developed democratic states.” The following graph shows how low participation in elections in the US is. UU as a percentage of the estimated age of voting population. This percentage represents a more useful comparative measure than participation as a percentage of registered voters, since the latter represents a smaller share of potential voters in the US. UU also read relations are effecting your dreams