In interviewing amazing individuals for the Storytelling for Social Profit Summit, I've been wondering about this concept of "playing god".
I suspect it is a thought that is triggered when we consider the influence we can have in the world.
As changemakers, the maxim we operate from is: how can we generate the most amount of good with the resources we have? And by good we normally mean things like ending suffering, and helping others have better lives.
To do this we are looking for tipping points. Variables that we can influence, that will have further positive effects.
But in doing this, we risk changing the very nature of that culture.
By creating more female role models in our movies, we're contributing to social change here in the West. By educating girls in Uganda, we're effectively giving them the means to raise their whole community out of poverty, but also changing the fabric of their cultural norms. By teaching children that they are all equal regardless of their skin colour, or sex, or beliefs about who created them, we are changing the very structures of all societies across the planet.
And the question that occurs to me is: is this "playing god"?
It got me wondering: What is this programme -- this psychological construct we run -- about "playing god"?
Why is the inferred influence such a bad thing, and what things do we need to be aware of as we create change in any given system or society?
I think the first thing is that this programme, taken literally, assumes that there exists a god.
A god that would have an opinion on the actions you are going to take, and you have no way of knowing whether he would agree or not. There are people far more qualified than I to tackle this question.
But taken as a construct, it suggests that there are some things we should influence and other things we shouldn't" Things that are best left to "a god", the universe (the modern substitute for "god/s"), chance, or fate.
It also seems that the degree of influence is something that triggers us too.
A little influence and we hardly question ourselves.
After all, surely it is a good thing to help a few people here and there, and make our corner of the world a little more tolerable. But if an action could have sweeping implications on a culture, then is it incorrect or potentially dangerous to interfere?