Olu Online


Most things that are needed for our world to be sustainably supportive of flourishing require a huge shift in culture away from where we are currently. Whether that shift comes from above, where there is usually less impetus for big changes, or below, where the need is urgent, but often individual people don't recognise their collective power and influence, it'll take many levers and many people working in many ways to make any lasting change.

I've been having a lot of conversations recently with people about aspects of culture that seem to have few controllable inputs, like beauty culture. Beyond legalistic boundaries like banning certain plastic surgery procedures, and voluntary measures brought on by consumer pressure like lessening and declaring the use of Photoshopped models, it's hard to guess what will change beauty standards beyond mass individual actions.

Changing the culture in the case of beauty standards is mostly about changing opinions and biases rather than changing laws or business decisions. In the case of the civil rights movement and similar drives for change, changes in laws and systems created more fuel and movement for grassroots changes, and vice versa.

This is a simplistic account of these events, but I wonder what it takes to change an industry quickly at times. Fights such as those for the eight-hour work week were unevenly applied but hard won by unions. Events such as the contemporary Rana Plaza disaster in recent years and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in the 1900s seem to have made few changes to the goings-on of the fashion industry.

Turning to tech, I wonder how insights into the conditions and pay of AI data cleaners will factor (or not) into discussions of how this tech will shape the future. I also wonder how changes to the law, in the realms of copyright, will shape AI. I assume DEI efforts at most companies can only do so much when the companies themselves are creating things that worsen the world, but I wonder how much “changing from the inside” with no outside pressure is even possible.

This piece is part of my attempt at Alphabet Superset, a 6 month creative challenge.