"We are inconsistent creatures who routinely court the catastrophes we most fear. We do so because we don’t feel the pain of others as our own, because there are social constraints on our actions and imaginations, because the future is an abstraction and the pleasures of this instant are a siren. That is true with our health and our finances and our loves and so of course it is true with our world."
If you believe animals are sentient and that their confinement and slaughter cause them to suffer and assign even a tiny fraction of moral importance to animal suffering compared to human suffering, the moral scale of the problem is enormous.
"In effect, during the century since the end of the Great Influenza outbreak, the average human life span has doubled. There are few measures of human progress more astonishing than this. If you were to publish a newspaper that came out just once a century, the banner headline surely would — or should — be the declaration of this incredible feat. But of course, the story of our extra life span almost never appears on the front page of our actual daily newspapers, because the drama and heroism that have given us those additional years are far more evident in hindsight than they are in the moment. That is, the story of our extra life is a story of progress in its usual form: brilliant ideas and collaborations unfolding far from the spotlight of public attention, setting in motion incremental improvements that take decades to display their true magnitude."
The thing is, the right to be left alone makes perfect sense when you’re managing information relationships between individuals, where there are generally pretty clear social norms around what constitutes a boundary violation.
"The impossibility of this burden to individually safeguard our data often reminds me of recycling. Because yes, there’s absolutely digital safety practices to lower our risk of exposure, but they don’t address the core issue that there’s too much data, too many data brokers, too many transactions hidden from the user’s view. And yes, we can and should recycle, but it doesn’t change the fact that 71% of global emissions can be traced back to 100 companies, and it certainly doesn’t change the fact that those companies have spent decades lying to us about how effective recycling is so that they can keep churning out plastic. Those are structural problems that we can’t recycle our way out of, just as we can’t notice-and-consent our way into collective privacy."
"I'm not talking about anything as narrow as ambition. After all, ambition eventually wears out and probably should. But you can keep your zest until the day you die. If I may offer you a simple maxim, "Be interesting," Everyone wants to be interesting -- but the vitalizing thing is to be interested. Keep a sense of curiosity. Discover new things. Care. Risk failure. Reach out."
According to a poll released in 2019, some 54 percent of Americans between the ages of thirteen and thirty-eight would, if given the chance, become a social-media influencer. A whopping 23 percent believed that this term already fit them.
"Call it the retail logic of higher education. I mention this only to observe that if we sneer and snicker at influencers’ desperate quest to win approval from their viewers, it might be because they serve as parodic exaggerations of the ways in which we are all forced to bevel the edges of our personalities and become inoffensive brands. It is a logic that extends from the retailer’s smile to the professor’s easy A to the politician’s capitulation to the co-worker’s calculated post to the journalist’s virtue-signaling tweet to the influencer’s scripted photo. The angle of our pose might be different, but all of us bow unfailingly at the altar of the algorithm."