Edicts for Living – Number 4 Live and let live

In 2002 The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Jimmy Carter for his lifelong efforts to achieve peace and end conflict across the world.  Carter’s impressive CV includes working for peace between Egypt and Israel, the United States and North Korea in 1994, and ensuring democracy through monitoring elections in Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and other places.  Whilst he was President, from 1977 to 1981, the United States was not involved in any wars.  

The Nobel Peace Centre postcard that I have been using for this and the last three posts on ‘edicts for living’ refers to his famous words about the unlikelihood of achieving peace through killing the children of others. Whilst I agree with the anti-war sentiment I think Carter should have gone further and argued for actively helping children to live. As Nelson Mandela said:

“Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future.”

The idea that nothing matters more than children is worth keeping in mind. Any ethical dilemma, political issue or even the simple day-to-day decisions of daily living can be interrogated and addressed through the question:

“Is this in the best interests of children?”

For example, take social media; the dangers of its over-use, the largely unregulated content and it’s entirely commercial ethic, are all regularly discussed by our press, the politicians and various medical and professional bodies. However, it has taken so long to introduce even a small reduction in its power and its harmful effects upon society seem to continue, taking ever-changing new forms.

I recently read an article by American journalist, Karen Hao,  about Frances Haugen’s testimony at the Senate hearing this year, raising serious questions about how Facebook’s algorithms work. Haugen had spoke out because of her concerns about how the most senior Facebook personnel “repeatedly prioritize profit over safety”. Hao quotes Haugen: ” The company’s AI algorithms gave it an insatiable habit for lies and hate speech. Now the man who built them can’t fix the problem.”

The “man” she is referring to is Mark Elliot Zuckerberg , a wealthy Internet entrepreneur who co-founded Facebook with four of his male roommates at Harvard University and who now serves as its chairman, chief executive officer, and controlling shareholder. His wealth tops a hundred billion dollars and he is estimated to be the fifth wealthiest individual in the world.

He is also a father of two daughters and this is the reason I even mention him for I am certain he does not need more publicity. I have read that Zuckerberg and his partner, the girls’ mother, exercise strict control over their daughters’ use of new technology and the Internet in general. Zuckerberg is not alone in doing so as many other high profile and wealthy individuals with children regularly state as part of their own public promotion, this aspect of their parenting strategy. Zuckerberg’s Wikipedia entry also describes him as a philanthropist and a man with strong religious beliefs. It is therefore surprising that he hasn’t worked out by now that although he is positioned economically in such a way as to be able to keep his own children safe and untainted by immoral and harmful technology business most other parents are struggling to do the same. When mothers and fathers lack the time and material sources that only the very wealthy enjoy and can employ in diverting their young from the lure of the Internet, the dangers are so much greater and the cost to children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing is incalculable.

Returning to the question I posed above; could Zuckerberg or any of the new technology overlords of society in all conscience, look at the worst aspects of the Internet, for example, content featuring depictions of human beings that degrade, commodify or promote hate and harm, and answer yes to my question: “Is this in the best interests of children?” Could they, as the self-promoted philanthropists they claim to be, honestly say they care about all children, not just their children?

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