O Brave New Matt (An Introduction) [bravenewmatt re-post]

This Blogpost originally uploaded to bravenewmatt.com 03-01-2019.

O Brave New Matt (An Introduction)

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O Brave New Matt, that has such ideas in it. Let’s start at once.

Dedicated to my future self, and hopefully to yours.

Dear reader,

I am writing this to introduce you to a new creative endeavor I am embarking on, and to also introduce you to a new me — a bravenewmatt who is courageous, open-minded, critical, uncertain, optimistic and loving.

In this first introductory blog post, I hope to answer a few questions you may be formulating. However, first I’d like to answer a few questions that I myself have:

What is the point? Why bother?

I contend with these two seemingly short and simple questions frequently throughout my life, the result of which usually puts me down a rabbit hole of self-reflection. It seems a trend that these questions come to me most before embarking on new efforts, when stepping outside my comfort zone, and during times where I have a supposed feeling of certainty in my life. After contemplation with these questions, which in actuality turn out to be two behemoths, I usually get left with discouragement and constant self-doubting. I battled these questions a lot while deciding to start this blog, and I hope that I can overcome these negative feelings throughout this writing process over the coming weeks, months, or years.

Life is tough in the world nowadays, I’m sure you the reader don’t need some 20-something millennial to tell you that… Writing a blog seems to be one of the lesser things that one should be over-contemplating, struggling through, or worrying about.

The world to me often feels like an overwhelmingly terrible place sometimes, perhaps you may have had this feeling from time to time as well?

War, Tyranny, Greed, Corruption, Poverty, Disease, Pollution, Ignorance, Jealousy, Manipulation, Polarization, Racism, Sexism, Suicide, Homicide, Genocide…

The list of evil influences affecting our society can certainly seem endless at times, this short list barely scratches the surface. Without a doubt it is hard for one to not slip into a pessimistic or even a nihilistic frame of mind when confronted with such an evil list — for good reason, the evils on that list are real and non-trivial. In my own experience it often is a real struggle to not concede trying to effect positive change, and instead just shrug my shoulders and say “whats the point” or “why bother” rhetorically.

It can be hard to muster up the strength to tackle these challenges, even if in small ways. I certainly struggled to muster up the (comparably little amount of) strength required when I decided to write this blog. It took me nearly a year from when I first wrote down the name bravenewmatt on a scrap piece of paper, to now actually publishing my first entry. I battled those questions frequently: What is the point? Why bother? My discouragement and self-doubt kept the pen away from the paper for much too long.

Why contend with these monstrous forces for evil, why willingly enter the belly of the beast; especially when it can be so much easier to just take sanctuary in a statement such as “these things are just the way of the world”, “it’s just how things are” or “there’s nothing I can do about it”. After taking some time think long and hard about it, I have come to the conclusion that those responses are undoubtedly untrue. There is a point, and I should be bothered.

So what is the point?

I am not writing this blog to solve all the worlds problems listed at the start of this post. I am not being modest when I say that solving all the worlds problem is a tad bit out of my scope. I do not believe that I hold all the solutions, nor do I believe that all those solutions would be mine to hold in the first place. The problems we face as a planet are complex, and they are going to take a diverse, multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach to solve. I believe what I can offer as of right now to contribute to solving those problems is to offer my expertise, to share my insights developed from my own lived experiences pertaining to these problems, and to self reflect such that I can learn and develop to become of greater service in the future.

I am writing to be critical on problems that face the world, and in an age of so much supposed certainty among the populace, to be uncertain. I am also writing to share my hopefulness and optimism, and to encourage you to share yours as well. The point of creating and writing bravenewmatt, is at its core, is to be useful.

So why am I bothering?

I am bothering because I feel it is my duty to be useful to my communities, and to the world; not only to do so, but to do so honourably. I fundamentally believe that as a core value of being human, it is my duty and responsibility to be useful. Useful being offering something relevant to my expertise and experience. If I can write a blog post that changes somebody’s mind on an issue, get them to see something in a different way, get them to have a new perspective on the future or the world, and inspire them to take new action in their own life (however big or small), then I know I have been useful and done even the slightest semblance of good towards challenging that evil list above.

Now that I have answers the two questions I frequently pose myself. I’d like to answer a few questions that you the reader may have for me:

Who am I, and what makes me qualified to write about these topics?

Disclaimer: I am not an expert at solving the world’s problems. I am just a person like you, someone with their own experiences that has shaped the way they view the world. Like anyone else, I have my strengths and I have my flaws; I try my best to not let the latter get the better of me. To be honest, I am probably pretty unqualified to talk about the subjects that I wish to discuss. Though I do believe that if I approach these challenging subjects with a proper frame of mind (as outlined below under “ground rules”), I will become ever so slightly more qualified after every time that I post.

As for a personal introduction. My name is Matt (big surprise there), and I can be described or categorized in many different ways. I suppose the most relevant categories for a reader of this blog would be that I am a Canadian engineering graduate who is in their mid-twenties. I have a passion for learning and for teaching, and I hope that these blogs can be a tool for self-development for both you and I. My goal in life (at least at the moment), is to contribute towards a more fair, sustainable, compassionate world. I hope to forward this goal to some extent with my writing here with bravenewmatt.

What topics will I be writing about?

To refrain from writing myself into a corner on my very first entry, I am not going to concretely tell you as to what I will specifically write about during the course of this blog’s life. I do not intend for bravenewmatt to be specifically labeled or categorized into one specific theme or genre, and instead it will flow from topic to topic, and evolve over time. As my ideas, interests, and experiences change throughout my life, such will bravenewmatt — making this blog’s evolution serve as an excellent simulacrum to that of my own life’s evolution. Although the topics I will focus on will likely vary, my focus will lean more towards topics that I have at least some degree of knowledge, expertise, and/or personal experience in.

The first topic that I aim to unpack will be on technology and its relationship with society. I imagine I will spend a great deal of time writing about this area, as it is one that particularly fascinates me.

Why write about this topic specifically?

Well there are a few reasons why:

Firstly, as an engineering graduate and aspiring leader in the technological development space, I believe that I have adopted a level of responsibility with respect to technological development. I believe that I have a duty to help ensure that technology is implemented in our society in both safe and ethical ways, such that we progress towards the highest possible good for humankind. After all that’s the point of technology isn’t it, to make life for us better and not worse. I am a strong believer that we have the capacity as a society to use new and emerging technologies to improve our livelihoods, and not make them more miserable. I believe a Star Trek -like utopian future is both in sight and attainable. We can avoid slipping into an Orwellian — or Black Mirror-ian, if you will — dystopia if we as a society act more responsibly and ethically when implementing our new technological developments.

The other reason for writing about this topic is due to what I believe is an absence of positive publicized news on the subject. It seems a trend that every time I look upon my news and social feeds, the most common theme I see with posts related to new emerging technologies is sensationalized doom and gloom headlines followed by comment threads filled with fear and negativity. I am not suggesting that these headlines and comments are without warrant — criticality, skepticism, and caution, are all valuable when it comes to this approaching things that are new. However I feel that there is a complete void of positive critical dialogue to combat the overwhelming amount of pessimism that exists. I believe that there is a key dialogue missing with regards to these technologies, and part of this blog will be to try and have that discussion. I would like to invite you the reader into this discussion as well (to the extent that you would like), and potentially see this topic in a new way going forward.

That all being said, I would also love to hear back from you. Perhaps you have thoughts of your own on a particular subject that you’d like to bounce back and forth between us, or maybe you even have a suggestion for a topic to explore next, if so I’d love to hear from you! I hope that throughout some of these technology & society blogs we can have meaningful exploratory discussions together.

Here are a few examples of some of the discussions I’d like to have in this blog in the coming weeks/months…

The usage of seemingly frightening new technologies (such as artificial intelligence and automation) to improve our lives instead of make them worse. How we can use these technologies to create new types of jobs instead of just taking old ones away, and to create new opportunities for people to pursue meaning and purpose in their lives instead of leaving them with nothing.

How we can better integrate social media in our lives to better connect us instead of further drive us apart into our own isolated, lonely silos.

What a possible digitized democracy could look like. How it could provide us with a more representative form of governance, and how it could improve our individual freedoms, choices, and sovereignty.

Ways in which we can use emerging technologies to improve our financial system, ensuring fairness and equal opportunity for all. It seems that the classic battle between capitalism vs socialism has run its course, it is becoming outdated. I feel it may be time to look to new technologies that may allow for us to have a better solution appropriate for the current times.

Why a free and open internet protocol is vital for the betterment of humankind. How it can be used to improve people’s lives — regardless of location, age, sex, race — from providing free education, access to vital public services, to giving everyone an opportunity to create success in their lives.

That we can have a wide-scale system for the dissemination of information that can be trusted and reliable. Word travels faster than ever nowadays, and it is important that our media and news be adapted in such a way that allows for trust and accountability. We shouldn’t have to live forever in an era of doubting whether or not what we read and watch is true.

How we can use new renewable energy sources to give the population more power (and not just in the energy sense of the word, but also more freedom, autonomy, and control).

That it is okay for us to move past the ways of old. That we shouldn’t continue to do things the old way just because that's how they've always been done (because I assure you, they haven’t). Adopting new technologies doesn’t have to divulge our society into chaos.

I believe that a better future is possible, and that we can attain it through the optimistic embrace of new emerging technologies. I hope to show you this in some of my next blog posts.

When tackling these complex topics, such as technology and its relationship with society, but also some different topics that I hope to explore in the future, I feel that it is important for me to maintain a specific frame of mind to ensure I stay true to myself and to you the reader. To do so, I have come up with the following 5 ground rules that will guide me…

Ground Rules for my writing:

1- I will speak only from my own experience: With my writing I do not expect to speak on behalf of anyone else except myself. I do not intend to assume I know for a fact what other people think and feel about a particular subject or issue. I am aware that my own personal biases — the way I was raised, my educational background, my social location, as well as my own individualism — all greatly affect my outlook of the world. Part of this ground rule is to continuously challenge these biases and to identify what has caused me to think a particular way on issues. I will do my best to make it apparent for my readers when my bias and person experiences may be influencing why it is I am thinking a certain way; when this happens I will reflect on how it is I may think differently if those biases didn’t exist to begin with.

2- I will be critical in my thought: No profound idea or thought will go through my mind and onto the blog without first being challenged to see if they hold some degree of truth. It is one thing to have an opinion about something, it is an entirely different thing to be able to understand where said opinion is derived from. My understanding of where ideas are derived from will come from a critical thinking method I like to practice known as “reasoning from first principles”. This method is all about breaking down an idea to its very foundational truths, and reconstructing/reverse-engineer the idea from there to see if it still holds true. This method first used by Aristotle, has stood the test of time, and is something that I am grateful for my engineering education instilling into me. When I share opinions and ideas throughout this blog — whether my own ideas or of others — I will practice exploring those ideas most basic, foundational, and self-evident propositions. I will steer away from making assumptions where I can, and when I do so they will be clearly indicated.

3- I will remain uncertain. I’m going to try and refrain from making any grandiose statements about how the world works or what will happen in the future. Instead I will approach discussions from an open-mind, open to possibilities that I have not even thought about. Being open to the idea that not only do I not know everything (I hardly know anything at all), but also that I don’t even know the things I don’t know. I will try my best to eradicate any ignorance or prejudice I may have developed throughout my life — when I feel certain about something in particular, I will reflect and challenge myself to uncover as to why I feel that way. I will be proactive with my uncertainty in my writing. I do not know all the facts, I am still pursuing the truth myself, and I do not know what the future holds. At this ground rules core: I will not act as if I have all the answers.

4- I will keep an open mind: I will not be hasty to shut down any free and honest thought, whether or not my own or someone else's. I will keep an open mind to all ideas, no matter how absurd those ideas may seem at first take. I will keep an open mind to and explore ideas that I don’t even necessarily believe nor agree with. If someone holds an opinion that I don’t believe or agree with — I will assume that may be because they possible have some information that I do not know, I will set out to learn something from their idea. I will try my best to understand the perspectives of other people, and try to derive where their opinions may be coming from.

5- I will use an optimistic lens: I’ve been told for a long time that I have a high capacity to help people see the bright side, to help them be more optimistic and hopeful. I can’t help it, I suppose its just how I was raised. Seeking the higher potential in all possible outcomes in life, being an optimist, is the lens in which I use to guide myself through this dark and difficult world. I hope to possibly reaffirm the part of you that looks to the future with a smile on your face, that part of you that knows that the future will only continue to bring more great things for you and future generations alike. I may not be able to change the world, but I may be able to do this — and if I can contribute to someone developing a more positive outlook, then that is worth writing for.

I will try my absolute best to keep true to these ground rules in order to be honest with those who decide to follow along and read my entries. I also fully encourage and welcome those who wish to hold me accountable when I may be straying from these ground rules — call me out for it. These ground rules will serve as a compass for me to ensure I always stay true to my intent with the blog, and true to you the reader.

As this first post comes to an end, I hope that I have done an adequate job to inform you of what my intent is with this new writing endeavor. I believe that in order to have a Brave New World, I am required to become a Brave New Matt; one who is critical, optimistic, uncertain, open-minded, honest, compassionate, and honorable. I will continuously strive to be that person, for you the reader, for my communities, for the world, and for myself.

I hope that you will find my writing useful.

Humbly,

bravenewmatt