I have become infinitely curious as to the reasons behind the perpetuation of our common behaviors. Behaviors manifesting in work culture, protest organization, political discourse, meeting notices, conference calls, presentations, documents, emails, posts, always creating, communicating and connecting. What is astonishing is the volume of “work” that we, as a society, generate on a daily basis. Because of HOW we now do work, through technology, we now have mountains of data points and cultural signifiers that illustrate the world we are creating for ourselves. Interestingly, when evaluated in their individual states they seem trivial. But when evaluated at scale they are symptoms of a world obsessed with progression. No matter the data point or source it seems like at the root of everything we manifest lays this notion of personal and societal progression. This invariably begs a simple but complex question: What are we progressing?
Progress, in our global state, is almost always measured in our efforts against various problems, challenges, opportunities, threats and, more interestingly, purposes. We exert efforts and resources to progress through these states of unbalance to tackle new ones. It’s perpetual and its only conclusion comes when the individual opts out. This obviously begs the questions as to who defines these measures and what are the consequences of the satisfaction of these progression points? While the former is a much more context-specific question the latter seems to be relatively universal. Two great consequences of our relentless pursuit of progress are an aggressive personal investment towards improving productivity and an endless desire of distraction.
Productivity in the name of progress comes with a relentless attack at maximizing output in the most efficient means possible. This output increases the levels of responsibility. These are signified by celebrations of lack of sleep, the glut of productivity apps, hedonistic business books and the drone like autopilot we maneuver through our everyday. The second form of perpetuation emerges in our culture of distraction. Our time “away from work” is tasked with enriching our lives with the Buda-like balance in the indulgence of everything from sport to celebrity to technology to games to music.
The relationship between these two forms appears to be totally reciprocal and has two critical features. The first is that they compromise one another and the second is they compromise the whole, meaning our global society. For example, our over-indulgence in progress has created an over-stressed, over-worked, over-stretched society that requires its counter-balance, the culture of distraction, to be simple, un-taxing and un-involved. A quick survey at music, television or technology today will quickly demonstrate just the type of cultural distractions we are creating. The relationship also works the other way with the infinite compromise of productivity coming with simple distractions in order to cope with the added progress stressors (E.G. digestible news feeds, texts, IMs, etc). Together they perpetuate us collectively into a downward spiral away from what matters, our need for a more equitable and sustainable state. Furthermore, the role of technology here is accelerating these shared values on both ends and collectively.
We fill our lives with technological means that perpetuate our common selves into a more accelerated version of ourselves. In essence, technology amplifies, accelerates and reinforces our root values. The plethora of sports, music, celebrity and gadget apps along with the millions of productivity, note taking, efficiency technologies are each helping to create our commons into an ultra-efficient, distracted and apathetic state. The more we indulge the stronger the perpetuation. The easy response is to blame technology. But it is not the fault of technology. It is the fault of our common values.
Distracted states of mind and matter live within a reciprocal state of expression and relation through technology. While many have much invested in the benevolent force of technology as a grand savior of the wounds of our common existence (I.E. TED conferences) the truth is that unless we collectively re-evaluate our values and understand our role in it. In my opinion there is hope here and it comes in the way we orientate this root desire towards progression. Together we can share and connect to values that re-orientate our collective selves, use technology to scale and accelerate it, and create a much more equitable world. If we don’t … well then blue pill for me.
Image sourced from: http://oilersnation.com/2011/12/20/progress-whats-your-measure