How the Walkman Caused the S&P Downgrade

Here’s my newest article for Fast Company. Check it out and whether you agree or don’t, please share your thoughts by commenting.

I was walking across my university campus 20 years ago when it hit me. My bulky Walkman was piping my favorite tunes through muff-like headphones when I noticed just how many other students were also plugged into their own music. We were ensconced in our own customized micro-environments with no need to interact with any sounds we hadn’t selected for ourselves, or even with each other.
At that moment, I was filled with dread for a likely future when we would become alienated from each other by our personalized, parallel realities. Fast-forward tro today’s era of mass customization. More far-reaching than entertainment, the Internet delivers news to us that is automatically filtered for our individual preferences. As a result, we never need bump into a viewpoint that opposes our own.

I currently live in Northern California and travel regularly to the Southeast U.S. As I listened to conversations in each region during the recent debt-ceiling debacle, both the differences in opinion and similarities in attitude were jarring. Whether it was the doomed “Reid-Pelosi-Obama economy” or an unwavering devotion to Keynsian economics, everyone at the respective tables was in such vehement agreement that the other viewpoint was completely incomprehensible. The result across the board was the wholesale dismissal of the people holding the differing opinions as uninformed, stupid, or just plain nuts.

The United States has become fairly accustomed to this dismal state of affairs over the past two decades. We bemoan the viciousness and voracity of divisive politics, but we’ve lived with it because the ramifications have been mainly private. Then comes Standard & Poor’s to pop our own personal bubbles and deliver stinging payback for our political dysfunction….
Read the rest of the article at Fast Company.


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