(originally on design4emergence’s Medium page)
By Taylor Kamnetz
After being hung up on multiple times over the course of an hour by Yellow Cab employees, my friend found herself resentful, hopeless, and still stranded.
It’s been four days since Uber pulled their services out of Austin, and the millennials of this beautiful city are hating every second of it.
Ah, yes — millennials: the generation you (probably) love to hate. Yet it’s the generation that will be calling the shots over the next decade or four. But…will they really? I, myself, am a part of this millennial crew — the ones who unintentionally refuse to physically head to the polls and vote, yet will spend 2 weeks complaining via any and every platform we can reach by smartphone about the outcome — which we probably hate — of every election/vote ever. What right do we have to complain about something we took no part in? Well, in case you’re behind the times, millennials are about one thing and one thing only: instant gratification. If I can’t do it now, get it now, have it now; why would I want to do it, get it, or have it period?
With this in mind, it’s not hard to see why proposition 1 failed. I mean, yes, don’t get me wrong: I, like (m)any other humans/millennials, am against the big ticket threats that have been plaguing society/Uber — sexual harassment, theft, rape, sexism, etc. Of course we want to ensure public safety. Of course we want sexism to be a thing of the past. Of course we don’t want anyone being harassed in any way, shape or form. So we should be happy that Prop 1 failed, even though it wasn’t “technically” our doing.
Headlines stating that voters, “shut down” or, “said no” to Prop. 1 aren’t exactly accurate. Yes, those who voted clearly spoke their peace and won out by 56%. The problem is that the people who (assumedly) make up the larger margin of Uber/Lyft users likely didn’t make it out to a poll.
Why, you ask? Because millennials, that’s why.
As I mentioned before, we are about instant gratification. If I can’t do something now — without going out of my way to do it/get it/have it — it’s probably not going to get done. The same thing goes with voting. If I have to go somewhere that’s even slightly out of the way, or have to do something that even slightly inconveniences my plan for the day…well, that’ll be a no for me, boys.
Don’t ask us why we think this way, ask the creator of positive feedback loops (whoever that is). We’ve seen our peers do this over and over — and you know what they say about the influence of the people you spend the most time with. Case in point: we’ve acquired the same behavior. But we didn’t stop there. Because you see, our voter attrition problem is not really a apathy problem; it’s a design problem. Wherever we can, our generationcriticizes by creating. We’ve designed technologies that enable instant gratification using the power of networks. To understand how fast that’s happened since millennials came of age, just go anywhere you can buy an app. (Guess what! you don’t have to leave your house or wait in line to do that either). Unfortunately, elections are an area where we don’t feel like we have much agency, so we opt out or go around, according to our fashion. This is the definition of self-reinforcing behavior.
Knowing that, my question now is this: If I can do seemingly anything from the tap of a screen, why can I not cast a vote with it?
It’s no secret that there are major flaws in the governmental system currently in place. They’re slow on the technology and heavy on the bureaucracy, but let’s face it, nobody’s going to change that overnight. All systems seek homeostasis—the scientific way of saying nobody’s perfect. We could (and probably have amongst colleagues, friends, family…ants…)say that the government seems to fear, dislike, and/or oppose change, especially when that change is being driven by technology, but that’s probably giving the government too much credit. (Complexity theory tends to debunk conspiracy theories.) So why hasn’t America updated its election technology? Probably just as simple as a bunch of people individually resistant to change and collectively justifying it. This isn’t just a millennial, ‘we want everything, won’t work for it but love pitching a fit about it’ type of thing, either.
Elections of all types are filled with the word “change” in some way, shape or form. Yet in real time, when it comes down to it, does change ever take place? If so, how does it actually take place? At what scale do the conversations we have actually move the needle? Are we opening the floor for a talk or for a dialog? Speaking at each other doesn’t enable organic conversation or the intake of one. It doesn’t enable different perspectives—even those of the bonehead millennials—to be heard. It doesn’t allow for emergence. Without the ability to have this organic dialog and open up the floor to different perspectives, it’s hard for change to take place. How can we possibly see a network in failure if we don’t allow outside perspectives to the opportunity to have a clear and respected voice? How can we vote on things within a network if we’re neglecting to even hear the grumbles within the network?
The world would cease to exist had it not been for change. We wouldn’t have evolved—or survived—as a species if change hadn’t transpired. So what will it take now? How are we going to ignite the fire that transforms opinions (such as this) into constructive change? What real-world platform will set the stage for a millennial revolution of emergence? Sure, a question seldom answers a question, but someone needs to be asking them. Someone needs to be exploring and expanding these boundaries that fell in place along the way to complacency. This is 2016, after all, and stagnation along with the resistance to change are at least something we all have in common. So don’t blame the millennials — let’s work together and change it.
(Is there an app for that yet?)
Photography by Taylor Kamnetz.