Empathy Doesn't Scale

People don't scale.

Sheryl Sandberg [(citation-needed)]

One death is a tragedy, one million a statistic.

Joseph Stalin (apocryphal)

As long as the victims of persecution are few, the method of execution or, to use a Marxian term, the mode of production, will consist in ceremonial knifings, hangings, or shootings, preceded by a semblance of legal process and followed by a semblance of civilized burial. The executioners, moreover, still not quite sure as to the sufficiency of their power and still feeling their wrong because of the singularity of their acts, will have an urge to apologize. But as the number of their victims increases, the time for apologies and even for indulging in guilt feelings begins to dwindle, and individual executions or burials not only become cumbersome but technically unfeasible. So new practices have to be initiated. Now the victims are led to wells, trenches, or rivers, executed, on the spot, and then simply thrown in. This represents less an increase in viciousness than an adjustment to the requirements of new situations which could not be handled with previous means.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 30

Discussing the ‘economics of extermination’ the British mathematician and astronomer Fred Hoyle calculated that, while the cost of killing in World War II was still several thousand pounds per victim, the new atomic rate per corpse has been brought down to a single pound ($2.80).

breakdown-of-nationsp. 31

Who pays Silicon Valley's hidden costs? who-pays-sv-hidden-costs

The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America fb-mods

Illich used to wave off people fundraising for some distant cause or another, saying "I don't care". This is despite—or perhaps because of—all the work he'd done as a priest with South American communities. He insists he doesn't care, because he recognises his limits as a human being, and that to really care about someone hurting far off requires him to drop all he's doing, and rush immediately to their side to care for those people. To pay undue attention to far-off suffering is to blind ourselves to the people right in front of us, in our immediate vicinity, who may be suffering just the same (he had a much better way of putting this) illich-in-conversation


who-pays-sv-hidden-costs Read, Max. 2019. “Who Pays for Silicon Valley's Hidden Costs?”. New York Magazine. Intelligencer. [link] ↩︎ 1

fb-mods Newton, Casey. 2019. “The Secret Lives of Facebook Moderators in America”. The Verge. [link] ↩︎ 1

illich-in-conversation Cayley, David. 1992. Ivan Illich in Conversation. House of Anansi Press. ↩︎ 1

breakdown-of-nations Kohr, Leopold. 1978. The Breakdown of Nations. Dutton. ↩︎ 1 2

citation-needed “Citation Needed”. “Citation Needed”. ↩︎ 1 2 3 4