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Conclusion: Reclaiming Plurality

In this contribution, I have argued that acknowledging natality and embracing plurality is a much-needed stance for making sense of what happens to us with the digital transition. Indeed, staying exclusively focused on an omniscience/omnipotence utopia, and the control-seeking perspective pervading it, prevents policy-makers and all other stakeholders from experiencing freedom in this emerging hyperconnected era and from benefitting of the societal intelligence and resilience. Those arguing for the need to seek more control often do so on the basis that failing to do so would lead us in a dangerous relativistic “anything goes” area. The fear of this “anything goes” is ignoring—at least—three essential features of the human condition, i.e., (i) that human beings are not only “goal seekers”, but also “meaning shapers”, (ii) that control-seekers are always short of their own expectations and sooner or later self-defeated, and (iii) that human beings have a conscience and host an inner dialogue, which is what makes plurality possible. If, by accident, this faculty of inner dialogue, which is nothing else but thought, would be denied so that we would all perceive others as merely functional beings, then indeed, it would be the end of the presence of human beings on earth[1].

The three proposals of the Onlife Manifesto, i.e., the relational self, the literacy approach, and the need to care for attention, are not “ready-made” solutions meant to solve problems in an instrumental way. They are not items issued from some minds to be transmitted to other minds, like packages on a packet-switched network. They are instead proposals that can bear fruits only after having been metabolized by those receiving them.

The relational self denotes those in need of plurality, that is those beings with a satiety threshold, not reducible to their attributes or to a function, and whose identity is revealed by speech and action in presence of others. It points to the need of refraining from thinking about ourselves and the other selves in functional ways and recalling that others, like ourselves, are in need of meaning. The mutual interactions of relational selves give rise to the production of new meanings and affordances, which constitute the ground for the literacy of a society at a given time. Policies should be in resonance with and responsive to the development stage of that literacy. Last, attention is the best we have to offer to each other, it is what links together the fact of being oneself and of appearing to others; it is the fluid that makes plurality a reality: considering attention as a commodity to be merely captured and exchanged can only lead to a serious deterioration, if not a dissolution, of plurality.

All this calls for policy-making to nurture a wide and inclusive understanding of the rationale of its action: besides interests, costs and benefits, optimisation and trade-offs, a key purpose of policy-making is to adapt the regulatory framework to meanings, norms and values as they emerge and crystallise in society, and to maintain and foster a vivid sense of natality and plurality. Indeed if, together with Arendt, we believe that the purpose of politics is freedom, it is high time to endorse and make sense of the world we are living in; it is high time to remember humans, and anybody else claiming an agent's status, are deemed to be equal, singular and …in need of each other to be recognized as who they are. Plurality takes place among agents who recognize their satiety and interact in order to reveal their identity. It is high time for plurality to substitute, or at least complete, the other metaphors underlying policy-making, i.e. the invisible hand (which encourages the pursuit of one's own interest, decoupled from all forms of empathy towards other selves) or the competitive race (which considers others as competitors to be defeated). Generationally speaking, the task of the “day” is, for all, to nurture a common understanding of what plurality means in a hyperconnected era, and for policy-makers, to partner with society, instead of parenting it!

  • [1] This is one of my takes from Arendt's Eichamnn in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil (1963)
 
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