I was sent an article called The Great Divide, from the Magazine Wired, written by Paul Ford. It was interesting, suggesting that there are two ways to the see the world using computer processing analogy of batch vs. loop processing to compare the two; and a need to reconcile the differences.
In short, the premise is that like the early days of computing where you fed carefully prepared punch cards into the computer and awaited a response (batch) versus the interactive way we use computers today (loop)… the computer now waits for us to respond, whereas in the past, it was us waiting for the computer to answer. Applied to current events, congress – our law-creating body in this country operates in a batch fashion… yet us as constituents we mostly operate in a TicToc, Facebook, Google world which is decidedly loop. Our institutions move slow, we input our concerns, our issues, our desires and we wait to see how the system may respond, if it does at all.
But there is another aspect of batch vs. loop to consider which I think is very important. In the past, as well as present, the concepts of conservatism, of liberalism, or socialism, or any other form of thought operated on the basis of writings and debated ideas by philosopher’s, politicians and even religious leaders who hoped to lead our thinking in preparation for the batch processing that is governing, the batch process which is the basis of civic involvement.
Yesterday, speaking with some young people, and some not so young, I found them conditioned to loop processing in our highly interactive world. We shop for something online and the ads get pushed to us. We push a button, and arguably batch but still very fast-loop a product is delivered to our doorstep. We stream entertainment, with a switch from one platform to another and then another until something grabs our attention. And so too, we and they are attracted to populism, the interactive relationship with political leaders is sought after, they react to the ones articulating and responding, however unreasonably, to grievances and fears we share.
There is little-to-no batch processing, such as reading opinion pieces or seeking data on performance and history, rather we respond to and quote the latest heard in the interactive world of the loop.
As an example, on the left, I heard affection for Marianne Williamson, not for any specific position, but because she’s popular on Tic-Toc… and on the right, affection for Vivek Ramaswamy, because he was demonstrably communicative, and quick on the debate stage, not for specific positions… with the exception of a position for raising the voting age to 25 which was surprisingly illustrative of what they thought about their generation’s attention to this batch-world of governing… and blindness to the obvious positioning of a right-wing which is demographically older and whiter.
Populism is winning because it fits the nearly single-minded “loop-mindset” prevalent in our world today. There is no reconciling batch vs. loop, the only solution is to value and enhance both.