Aggravating Aggregation

A small rant inspired by the space settlement video yesterday:

 If you pay attention, throughout the video, the narrator continually refers to activities that will be performed by an unspecified group. Is it humanity? The population of the United States? Just you and the narrator? ‘We will go to L1.’ ‘We will create a base on Phobos.’

 ‘We’ has become one of my least favorite words. It enables (often unconsciously) a passive-aggressive door to a slew of distasteful things: issue commands, assert consensus, play down inherent differences, avoid responsibility, and more.

 “Have we done this?” – I don’t know, have we? You haven’t and neither have I.

 “We should do that.” – Clearly you won’t, so really you just want me to do it.

 “We believe these things.” – how do you know what is going on in anybody’s head but your own?

 I think it’s a natural human tendency to think this way. We want to believe that we’re acting and thinking in consensus.  ß See: that way of thinking is so easy for me to slip into. I don’t actually know what every other human wants; I just suspect it based on observed behavior and my own desires. 

 In reality, there is no ‘we,’ there is no ‘us’ – there are many collections of individuals in different configurations. Taking this fact into account in your thinking is hard: it’s mentally inefficient to disaggregate groups and consider that individuals all have different actions, needs and desires. It’s probably overkill to never mentally aggregate, but I think in many cases, the balance is much too far towards too much aggregation.

 To return to the inspiration for this post: one place I see a lot of this bothersome aggregation is in discussions of space exploration. This is partially because many people (admittedly including myself) see space exploration as an endeavor for all of humanity, and partially because space exploration is so resource intensive that it does require aggregation on some level – I certainly can’t make myself a rocket.

 My open question is this: how can I use ‘we’ and ‘us’ without making unfair presumptions? 


One thought on “Aggravating Aggregation

  1. Pingback: Studies Can’t Show | The Tinfoil Hat

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