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A Digital Mass Suicide

We are no longer in the era of digital transformation. Rather, we’re in the midst of the digital age. The digital age is not merely a shift from writing a newspaper article on the computer instead of on paper, or requesting a government document via a web portal rather than standing in line. It is also not merely about taking exams remotely rather than doing so in person, in a traditional classroom. Yes, it is true that all of these changes increased the prevalence of technology in our everyday life and made it much easier to perform otherwise laborious tasks, but the truth is that the digital age is much greater than that. The digital age is about the way in which digital platforms have redefined our system of principles and rules. It is about using a digital army instead of a physical army. It is about changing ideas and beliefs with a simple click of a keyboard button. I think that Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad summed this up best in an interview he gave last week, in which he said “the Egyptian government doesn’t make its decisions through Twitter and Facebook. Decisions are made in accordance with the public interest.” The public interest in the digital age has become blurred and muffled. “Open schools,” “close schools,” “take the vaccine,” “beware of the vaccine” are just some of the slogans spreading online faster than the speed of light. Over the course of a single hour, I read reports claiming that the government will demolish slums to build new roads alongside others claiming that the government passed laws protecting the rights of slum dwellers. We might be living in an era of digital empowerment, but it is also an era of cognitive emptiness. The digital era gave rise to popular movements that have been barred from the public stage in the past. But no one can guarantee that these movements are based on reason and logic. While technology has grown and spread around us at an exponential rate, we must make sure that our culture is still protected. Granted, technology has lifted us above the age in which information was centralized and owned only by a powerful few. But we must also treat information in the digital age with prudence and suspicion. Otherwise, we will find ourselves living in an era of post-truth, in which we lack any shared standard of what is real and what isn’t. That would be akin to a digital mass suicide. –Amina Khairy (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)