Global impact

Thanks to the internet, more people can think about global-scale problems.

What are global-scale problems? They’re questions that face a group of people beyond the thinker’s immediate vicinity. A classic example is climate change, which affects everyone since everyone lives on earth. But our thinker might also be concerned about other sorts of foreign affairs, like the plight of some specific group of people halfway around the world.

The internet abstracts out the physicality of the world, so the suffering of others becomes more equal. This means people can’t establish a meaningful hierarchy of impact, that is who they worry about and how they act as a result.

Before the internet, it would have been harder to hear about the issues of others, and therefore care. Before global trade and movement of information, it would have been impossible. So people’s attention would have been more focused on their own locality.

Since we hear about so much suffering and global-scale problems, we feel we have an obligation to act. If not an obligation, then at least a potential to act.

But we haven’t changed! I have the same biology and capability to respond to the world regardless of if I was alive in the 1600’s or the 2000’s. The tools around me have changed, yes, but not my underlying human tooling.

So let’s approach global-scale problems with caution; we shouldn’t trick ourselves into thinking we’ve become something we aren’t, or that global-scale problems are inherently more meaningful to work on than local ones.