One explanation for the rise of populism in our current political moment: our technological cleverness has outpaced our social intelligence. Suddenly, the internet, mobile devices, and social media provide the means for people to unite broadly and almost instantly behind a slogan, cause, or candidate. Meanwhile, our understanding of the world, of power, of social institutions, of ourselves has atrophied.
For too long we have applied our capacious brain power narrowly to invent ever more efficient means, yet we have neglected to create more worthwhile ends. And so the pattern continues. Technologies become increasingly effective tools of exploitation for the perennial goals of individual advantage: consumption, security, glorification, power. They drive people apart, not bring them together.
Promising exceptions have arisen, such as Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, or Black Lives Matter, yet so far these have culminated only in disruption, not the other half of critique: creation. They have expressed our righteous frustration with what we have, but have not articulated what we need.