Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Disconnection means death

Disconnection means death--and connection means life.  This is the theme of the three most powerful books I read in 2018.

The first is Yuval Noah Harari's provocative and brilliantly crafted Homo Deus: A brief history of tomorrow (Harper 2017), in which the title of this post is embedded thusly: "Eventually we may reach a point when it will be impossible to disconnect from this all-knowing network (think Internet-of-all-things) even for a moment. Disconnection will mean death" (p. 349).  Importantly, his word choice 'may' means this is not a fait et compli future.  Paradoxically, one way for Homo Sapiens to persist in the face of ever-encompassing 'Dataism,' is to not let consciousness be completely separated from intelligence.  That is to say, we need to consciously disconnect (at least in part) from the super-intelligence systems we are creating, if we want to preserve our humanity.

Meanwhile, global and local tribalism is disconnecting us from one another and it seems to be increasing at an alarming rate.  Amy Chua's account of Political Tribes (Bloomsbury 2018) describes the age-old and enduring human tendency to bond together, unfortunately often 'against' the 'other.'  This form of disconnection from other humans puts the entire global community at risk.  This successful author describes historic blunders around the world, not so much as ideological, but rather as tribal conflicts.  Through this lens, American tribalism is not just about different deeply held belief systems, but also a simple, blunt dynamic of 'us' vs 'them.'  Reconnecting this disparate band of brothers will require a narrative of unity, of a super-group. Not super as in superior, but rather 'super' as being above the self-interests of the sub-groups. New storytellers are out there. We just have to keep looking and listening.

Raising our sights toward a more humanistic and simultaneously more competitive business future, in 2018, Tom Peters produced another call to action called, The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the tech tide with work that wows and jobs that last  (Vintage 2018). In his inimitable style, the master storyteller takes on the bleak outlook for humans in a tech-driven future. By his own admission, his thesis has not changed in the 30+ years since In Search of Excellence was published.  Essentially, the point that Tom makes is that people still matter, mostly because only people, and people-centric technology can produce excellent products and services.  Price pressure notwithstanding, people still want the human touch as consumers. And, we certainly want it in our workplaces. The hopeful message is that in the face of uncertainty, we can still strive for and deliver excellence, which is its own reward as well as the most rewarding way to run a business.  In Tom's words, "Excellence is a way of life that sustains us and inspires us day in and day out, minute in and minute out. There is no 'long term.'  There is only the way we act when we step out into the corridor after a meeting--or, yes, the quality of your next four-line e-mail. ... The manifestation of excellence--or not--in our moment-to-moment behaviour is the bedrock beneath the bedrock" (p. 44).

Not surprisingly, we humans are better off when we find ways to connect and worse off when we focus on our (surprisingly small) differences as a way to divide ourselves.  That sort of disconnection indeed means death--on all sorts of levels.  By contrast, seeing and celebrating difference is the one form of intelligence that makes us truly human.

This brings me to the most powerful talk shared with me in 2018.  This comedy routine cum oratory masterpiece called 'Nanette' by Hannah Gadsby is at once provocative, stirring and uplifting.  Her concluding comments include a plea for us all to challenge the dominant power narrative that marginalises so many within our various human societies.  The counter-narrative must be one of connection.  Now, more than ever, for us humans, connection is life.

1 comment:

fact said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.