Our Different Tech-Driven Realities Make Democracy Really Hard

Nick Rabb
6 min readAug 19, 2020
Information technology and its interactions with our psychology have dramatically changed the underlying processes of democracy. Will we be able to adapt? | Source

We don’t often think about it, but our brains are all very different from one another. At the end of the day, sure, we mostly have the same brain regions, there are statistical correlations that show commonality of the interconnections between regions, and people can be grouped similarly by personality. But if we’re really honest about people’s psychology, it becomes apparent that we all have different strange things that trigger us: I have a personality that sees some authority as threatening; I know friends who love order and organization to the point of driving their behavior. Our differing brains lead us to interpret the world in different ways. The more different our brains are, the more distinct our interpretations will be.

If we are to achieve a society that functions cohesively and humanely, we need to recognize the depth of this truth. Unfortunately, technological progress has splintered the notion of shared experience to a degree that makes our cognitive and psychological differences dangerous. When much of our politics surrounds issues that we don’t experience firsthand, we are at the whim of the media, and the distribution platforms that carry their stories to us. These platforms can take advantage of our psychological differences to pull people into different realities — to the point that our realities are disjoint, and even simple conversation becomes incredibly difficult. At this critical juncture of human society, these are some of the paramount issues that must be understood in order to keep organized life going.

Psychology Drives Interpretation

Fields and practices like psychoanalysis or re-evaluation counseling advise us that many of our individual differences at this level can be traced back to the most formative periods of our lives: childhood. In fact, even sub-fields of psychology such as that of Attachment Theory show us that our cognitive models formed during childhood end up affecting us in relationships throughout our adult life. This idea can be revolutionary for many because it gives a lens through which to view our behavior and preferences: they are not just “the way it is,” static and unchanging, or predetermined by socioeconomic factors; they are also products of our experiences and those who we learned from.

Nick Rabb

PhD candidate in Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Tufts University, organizer w/ Dissenters, MA Peace Action, formerly Sunrise Mvmt. Philosophy nerd.