Israeli professor and historian, Yuval Noah Harari, famously wrote an international-bestselling book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011). In the thought-provoking publication, he’s quoted as asking:
“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.”
The capitalist globe has created a conglomerated bureaucratic order that humankind has become so used to, but it’s destroying our very own civilisation. The tech industry that has perpetuated culture since the dominance of social media has attracted heavy criticism recently. Facebook, with its 2.2bn members worldwide, has allowed data firms to interfere in democratic elections by sharing data to release fake advertisements. It has also exposed its leniency on cybersecurity with use of Russian cyber-bots hijacking social media platforms for their own political agenda. The popularity of social media and the reliance on the digital world has meant individuals are all guilty of letting a human-imagined prototype control their own thought processes.
It is so significant to unravel the dangers of the tech industry meddling in western democracies that have long taken pride in their autonomous institutions. The Russians attacking the U.S. elections via social media resulted in a demagogue becoming leader of the country that is the face of the Free World. It promoted white nationalism, economic protectionism and far-right affiliations that the world is still reeling from after the Second World War. Although the tech industry is so advanced, it somehow allows its users to imagine a world by regressing to the past. It is a wrecking ball through one’s use of the internet, controlled completely by only a handful of people. Just this week, London’s Metropolitan Police commissioner, Cressida Dick, blamed the soar in knife crime on social media. In a published interview, she states that threats made online “makes violence faster, it makes it harder for people to cool down”. The use of online platforms has proven to be inherently damaging to people prone to violent tendencies or threats from their peers.
The likes of Facebook and online retailer Amazon are managed by the world’s most powerful men. Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are well-known CEOs and billionaires in the tech world. However, they have underestimated the importance of cybersecurity, to the detriment of the social media industry. Zuckerberg gave a lax response as to why 50m people’s profiles were used in an immoral breach of privacy. Bezos has remained silent on the increasing distrust of Amazon’s new voice-controlled device. Owners of the Amazon Echo have noticed the female voice, Alexa, has laughed randomly and even picked up accents from the local region. The Amazon Echo stores all conversations it hears, a Big Brother-style issue that George Orwell warned the ever-evolving society about decades ago. With fear-mongering of the online world becoming popular in the mainstream media, it’s hard to tackle the concerns being raised when governments have their hands tied when it comes to tech corporations.
That issue is not dissimilar to the drug epidemic that has made headline news. Drugs that are opiate-based are grown naturally. However, the manufacturing, distribution and encouragement of consumption have all been man-made. An alarming increase of 65% of antibiotic use was recorded worldwide. A Public Health England report found that a fifth of antibiotics prescribed were unnecessary for treatments such as coughs and sore throats. In the U.S, the drug epidemic has sparked a national emergency. An estimated 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016, up by 21% from the previous year. Half of these deaths were caused by medicine prescribed to the victim. The opiate painkiller, fentanyl, is more potent than heroin and is highly addictive. Similar to the social media scandals, it makes it difficult for a bureaucratic intervention when pharmaceutical companies who oversee the distribution are powerful and rich organisations.
The pharmaceutical brand, Insys Therapeutics, has been riddled with controversy over their power to prescribe fentanyl to patients who do not require it. The drug is such a strong pain relief, and only those suffering from life-threatening or debilitating conditions should ingest it. The CEO of Insys, John Kapoor, faced legal issues after it was revealed he duped health insurers into paying for the drug by failing to outline the dangers of fentanyl. The power of Insys went unnoticed for years. It was a fast-growing company, making a billionaire out of Kapoor, but had blood on its hands the whole time. Trump has pledged to bring an end to pharmaceutical elitism but relies on it heavily to boost his own administration. He named Alex Azar as his new Secretary of Health & Human Services in January. Azar used to be the head of Eli Lilly & Company, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical organisations. They are the largest manufacturer of antipsychotic medications, such as Prozac. Nevertheless, they failed to outline the correlation between Prozac and suicidal behaviour in their findings, which sparked outrage. As their wealth and dominance become firmer, the more the drug epidemic becomes a national emergency.
Like Harari’s famous quote, the imagined order of the use of social media and the consumption of prescribed medication has become such a societal norm that it is now embedded. Authoritative corporations and their links with government have tricked humankind for some time. Progressive President, Theodore Roosevelt, introduced the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. This made the misleading information on drug packaging illegal for the protection of the consumer. His regulation of companies and breaking down of trusts should be an example for officials today. The infamy currently surrounding social media and the use of drugs will only get worse if it continues to be ignored.
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