In the recent years innovation has become especially important, as a shifting economy from linear to circular, climate change and an increase in human population, to name but a few, force people to be more creative in solving issues. However, where innovation can be of great value to an economy and people, it can also do harm, especially when it concerns, for example, risky technology. Considering that nearly every new technology has negative side-effects, if innovated responsibly those risks will be minimised and preferably avoided. This poses huge challenges though, as the “problem of many hands” pops up very regularly.
Take for example cars. Great invention, as people became much more mobile than before while these cars became increasingly safer, faster and cheaper, aiding economic growth. However, cars turned out to be harmful to the environment and human health, let’s only consider exhaust gasses for simplicity. Research shows that people die every year due to exhaust fumes. But who is responsible for this? The automotive industry, the government, the consumer? Turns out the answer is everybody and nobody. It is very difficult to point out one, or a couple, guilty. One institution, for example the consumer, could act and buy an electric car. But if only one family does this, not a lot will change. This explains the difference between individual and collective responsibility. Everybody should feel responsible, or at least a form of enforcement of rules should be in place, for the collective whole to prosper and, more fundamentally, to stay alive.
What really strikes me is the collective responsibility in modern day society. Nearly everybody respects the rules and regulations that are there to govern the collective. But when it comes to feeling responsible for ones actions, way less people really care to take responsibility. Take for example the climate issues. While more and more people start to act in one way or another, the collective hardly takes action. One of the arguments I usually hear in this is: “It’s very expensive to live sustainable.” While in some cases this is true, biological food or solar panels are expensive, we live in a country with a very strong middle-class that could afford way more sustainable products than being bought today. But even if living sustainable is too expensive, there are plenty other ways to act:
- Participate in eco initiatives
- Convincing those who can afford it to live sustainable
- Picking up litter
And so much more. With so many of us, rules and enforcement alone just won't do it and more of us should feel morally responsible as well.
As an individual you can’t do everything, but you can do something. I believe that this is the key of all this, just doing something in the right direction. Be it acting on the environment, the refugee crisis, poverty, or less serious and smaller problems. Just, do, something.