What is “Peak Indifference?”

A Theory and a Plan for Change.

A silhouette of a shrugging man in front of a wildfire.
( Cameron Strandberg/CC BY 2.0, modified)

Back in 2016, I coined the term “peak indifference” to describe a political phenomenon, when people who have denied an urgent problem begin to self-radicalize, not because of activists or public education, but because the problem has caught up with them, personally.

As I’ve written here, a neat microcosm of peak indifference is smoking: even if you convince yourself that tobacco isn’t that bad for you, if you keep smoking long enough, you will likely come to understand that it is very bad for you, because Stage 4 lung-cancer is convincing in a way that even the most persuasive talk with your family doctor can never be.

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Twitter Arguments

A theory of change

semachthemonkey/CC BY 3.0 (modified)

The kind of activism I do has a serious structural barrier: it’s esoteric. Even today, tech-policy issues are extremely niche. Indeed, tech-policy is a niche within a niche —most people have little technical knowledge and most people have little policy expertise, and the stuff I do requires that you have some of both.

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