Podcast

The Year Unwrapped: Technopessimism, population and a new world order

Has the US given up on policing the world? Should we worry about a falling population? And is social media really a threat to democracy?

Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters.

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In this week’s episode, we discuss:

Technopessimism

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has ended the year by suggesting that social media is the biggest threat to democracy. While Erdogan himself is no poster-boy for liberal checks and balances, his argument has been made this year by many on the progressive left too. In the US, Democrats have accused social media networks of empowering Donald Trump and his allies (who in turn accuse tech companies of censoring their speech). Whatever happens next, we’re in for more fraught relations between governments, voters and the technology that connects them.

Shrinking populations

This year, for the first time in recent history, India’s fertility rate has fallen below replacement levels, which means its population is set to start shrinking much earlier than thought. As a result, UN projections about population growth will probably have to be revised, and we will reach the point at which the world’s population is shrinking sooner than we all thought. This will have many enormous ramifications, some of which may be positive. But while we’ve all got used to hearing about the threat of a population explosion, a fall in the number of people could have negative consequences too.

World police

Liberal internationalism has been on the decline for some time, but this year’s US withdrawal from Afghanistan may have sounded its death knell. Increasingly, Western powers are seeking to avoid international conflict. This new isolationism may be tested next year: China is rattling its sabre at Taiwan, Russia has its eye on the Middle East and there’s a risk of conflict returning to Bosnia.

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