In the 90s computers were tools who’s main purpose was to create and print Word files that we could use in the real world.
Now no one needs a printer because computers are the real world. I noticed in April with Hao; you don’t really have to leave your bedroom now to find, secure and even do a job. You can get paid and even spend your salary, maybe get yourself a cheeky MSc in Economics on the side – all from your sofa.
The future has arrived.
In 2021 to be online is to be alive; the internet is the world and the physical legacy world’s most valuable function is that its cables, satellites and power grids bring us the internet.
But because this digital world is in such chaotic and profound flux, what we value and respect as human traits has become rightly lost. We’re less sure what qualities to value in a person, because we’re no longer sure what the world they need to operate in looks like.
Take the salesman in Curry’s who has a much harder time selling you the new Samsung BTS smart Freezer with built in Alexa because you’ve already read the 1 star Amazon reviews before he’s even finished asking you ‘how you getting on there, alright?’.
Likewise, the skills that might help you win an argument on a Tuesday night in a village pub might once have been quietly respected but will not necessarily transfer to a facebook group.
Being quick and low-key intimidating will get you nowhere with Gary from Church Lane in a discussion about traffic wardens on Morpeth Matters because he doesn’t feel your physical presence. Gary will take the time to craft a better comment and he knows everyone else is watching you make a fool of yourself. Church Lane Gary is our new hero, Gary who only ever went to quiz night twice a year pre-covid-times has now sent you packing and exposed you as the local bully. You can delete your comment but you can never delete our screenshots.
This might be projection but I suspect the unspoken truth of yesteryear is that we valued men who could push each other and us around. We used cognitive dissonance when they manipulated us, we subconsciously choose the more palatable explanation for our actions and told ourselves that Dirk the Product Manager is ‘a big softy really‘ and ‘alright when you get to know him‘. We cherish the odd moment where Dirk said something nice to the new girl or when he had a sympathetic opinion on the company breastfeeding policy.
This isn’t because we’re all cowards, it’s because we have to live in functioning groups so we socially respect men who can manipulate, command and get things done.
But do those qualities make a good leader in the TikTok age? Which qualities should our culture debug and which do we need to enhance – this is the core of the ‘culture war’ and the answers largely depend on individual interpretations of the world and more importantly, what its becoming.
There is common theme that maybe the most important quality is ‘kindness’. Maybe it is but I don’t think thats good enough on its own.
We used to treasure strong, unshakeable leaders with integrity and wisdom. Leaders who could be charismatic spokesmen for a unified party. Willing to implement the will of the people for the common good.
Today we have more interactions with software than people. Software doesn’t need to be strong or particularly stable like a house, good software has to work intuitively, be fast, available and always improving.
Almost every software company today follows the ‘Agile Manifesto’. Put simply – Agile is a set of principles that encourage making lots of mistakes and changing direction regularly in favour of speed, trusting that the good ideas will naturally rise to the top. It’s necessary because the world is changing so quickly and information is so abundant that creating and sticking to a plan has become old fashioned.
Without realising it I believe the silent majority is starting to seek these qualities from our leaders. Essentially a democratically elected, agile dictator. I think this is what Boris Johnson knows intuitively, why Trump tweeted hourly hot-takes and ruled by executive order and why the UK enjoyed daily COVID press conferences while Netherlands had about 1 a month. I also think this is why the UK voted for Brexit; seeing the EU as a big fat blob of all of those tired, slow qualities that we don’t feel are going to do us any good anymore.
In a world where China is ‘eating our lunch’; agility, independence, fearlessness and regular appearances are more important than fully executing promises made last June and following a process that was written in 19th century. This, with a pinch of a x-factor campness to take the masculine edge off. As long as Johnson has good intentions, let him tear up the rule book, its our only chance of keeping up.
Should clarify: I’m not advocating for this, just observing.