Like often happens, humanity met the internet in the shape of a horseshoe. Those who first used it were the top good fellows in universities and military and the top bad guys in criminal rings. It went down to the point the most of us started using it in the nineties and at some point well into this century it reached the bottom where crocks and idiots got into it.
Sometimes we wake up with a fleeing memory of our dreams. Dreams are also our most longed for feats. We dream at night and we daydream too; Both are necessary for good psychological reasons.
There are though other and more obscure dreams that haunt us both at day and night. Those dreams come often with a panoply of ghosts that we have become acquainted with at some point of time in our lives. Since then, they follow us, sometimes close by, and sometimes at a distance. They aren’t fleeing, nor pleasant, but persistent and inquisitive; Opportunists that prey on us when we are most in need of reassurance.
Those dreams take often embodiment in objects we greed. Not as much as a mockery, but as a cynical gest. They materialize in those cars some of us dream of and few of us own. Owning is indeed a funny way to see this; for it is not obvious who is here taking possession of who.
And car makers excel in anticipating shapes and symbols that may appeal to those hidden dreams. Shapes and symbols impressed in ever larger gnawing front grills, malevolent squinting headlamps, sharp shoulders that show an incredible impossibly powerful muscular tension. All in all as if they would be going to devour us at any moment, like demons on judgement day.
Shapes that convey subtle and not so subtle messages of violence, aggression, supremacy, domination, fear, anger. Those ghosts that isolate us and make us monsters. Monsters on wheels.
Since the beginning of time, the environment was a threat that had to be tamed. Rivers had to be bridged, mountains meant death, floods and droughts too. Humankind scrapped a life at the most benign patches of the world, in the interludes between natural catastrophes.
With mechanization and later into the digital age, the ability of humankind to penetrate former inhospitable places and exploit natural resources has seen an unprecedented explosion. So large that nature has to begin to be considered in the equation of most human activities. Yet nature has no rights or protection other that a few NGO’s. Only very large corporations can mind nature in a honest move or a gimmick, in the best case the mindfulness of very few CEO’s or the opportunism of marketing strategists.
In the 50’s you would have possibly needed half of humanity working in the Amazonas to achieve the same level of deforestation that has been relentlessly achieved in the last few years. What a few years ago was unthinkable or practically impossible, is now only a matter of finding investors.
Now, we know that nature is not unlimited. We know that nature is a very complex network of influences and balances. We know that our survival depends greatly of this myriad of balances that we are beginning to understand.
In this manner, humankind faces nowadays a dilemma that may decide the fate of our planet. Some would posit that this is how it ought to be and humankind has to move out to other planets. Others will posit that a new economy can be envisioned that considers nature as an actor in the model.
We live times of loud voices and bold stances. Times where the narcissist and the idiot find fertile ground to make themselves comfortable and every body around uncomfortable. These are times where those who see less and comprehend still less, strive with simplistic attitudes and weltanschauung.
Wars and catastrophic events bring in their aftermath the best of humankind together to mend those horrors. As soon as peace and order are reestablished, generations spawn that take goodness for granted and fall in a vicious circle of complacency. The sense of community slowly erodes. Fences are built. Mistrust falls over the people like thin dust in expanding waves. We begin to close into ourselves in reaction to this environment. We fall to the vices of becoming “we” against “them”. Dialogue will dry out to give way to words thrown as arrows, avoided or parried.
We become, day by day, a more fragile version of ourselves. More fearful. We see more threats. We become immersed in a slow but penetrating process of destruction of the “I, social” in spite of the “I, lone wolf”. Every time one abusive driver is on the road doing his shenanigans, everyone nearby raises a notch in their pool of discomfort. Every time a neighbor abuses shared space, everyone else looses a portion of their tolerance and willingness to cohabiting. Every time… small aggressions that stack and split us apart, not only apart from the aggressors but also apart from everybody around us; we are bathed in the dust of mistrust. One particle at a time.
the last warmth feels trough my cupping hands as with closed eyes I inhale the last scent of coffee. The buzz of the coffeeshop in the background envelopes me. My mind is empty for a few seconds trying to capture all this sensorial wealth.
How many people are right now finishing a cup of coffee in the world? and how many people are taking the time to appreciate this moment? And by extension to appreciate the sheer size of cultural, technological, and economical advances that enable us the feats of growing the beans, bringing them over here, inventing and manufacturing the coffee machine and firing the porcelain cups.
Indeed, everything we do, carries a large legacy and thinking of it is overwhelming if not mind-blowing. And it all is brought to us in such an easy way. So affordable. So ubiquitous. We almost forget the value of those things we encounter everyday. We are too much hyped with our hopes, frustrations and anxieties, with our projects and aspirations that we rush through the day oblivious to a myriad things that happen all around us.
Ultimately we swallow the espresso coffee whilst eyeing the watch and with our thoughts in the meeting we will start in five minutes. All that sensorial exuberance would never reach our awareness. How many things can our wealthy lifestyle afford us that we fail to even notice? as we busy ourselves through life. Blind, deaf, numb.
so why not voting to the party of Beppe Grillo in the next Italian elections? hypothesises the patron of my dearest luncheon place.
As regrettable as it is that some politicians would abuse the trust we place on them and fall to corruption, there are many others who do a good job. A democracy is not given, like oxygen in the air. A democracy needs a great deal of keeping. And yes, it can get worse. It can get way worse. Italy, with all its political corruption and problems, is a democracy in the EU. Many countries would give all they have to be in Italy’s place in the global politics.
We citizens with our rights and duties, have to now and then spare a thought on the delicate and yet strong balance of institutions that make up the political statu quo of our democracies. It is but for the ingenuity and effort of thousands of people and the legacy of other thousands that we have functioning countries to live in. That we are entitled to the rule of law. That we have roads and railroads, streets and street lighting, police and firefighters, hospitals and medical doctors, electricity, water and heating in our houses.
We have a great responsibility to care for what have been given to our generation, after centuries of fight and sacrifice, for each and every right we enjoy nowadays. Hence, yes, it can go way worse. It never was, and it is not today neither the time for complacency nor for voting questionable demagogues. We have already one too many of those in the world.
“Beppe Grillo, leader of the populist Five Star Movement in Italy, prides himself on his ridicule of the parliamentary system. Yet while his anti-establishment rhetoric sounds appealing, at heart it’s actually anti-democratic. And very similar to that of an infamous Italian from the past.”
in still many corporations, young arrivals would, after a time, come to realise that the only way to make a career is to work up the ladder towards management. Yet not everybody can be or ought to be a manager. This is not new hence unfortunately many who today are shouldn’t be.
In the down of AI, many jobs that today still exist and busy thousands of people, (e.g. moving data from one excel sheet to another, from one database to another) will be one day no more. When a text line will suffice for AI to do all we need with data. And those people who have been shifting cells and making graphs for the last fifteen years won’t have it easy to still be able to add value to their organisations. Yet we find them in ageing swarms in our offices nowadays.
At the same time, we loose young talent because they see no ladder other than the management one. But eventually they would see themselves fitting in the role of an specialist, however no career scheme is today set for those.
Come the time of AI, will be those specialists who will be able to add value to their organisations, and will be those we regrettably miss, and even more regrettably we let go of them when we could have kept them, and grow them inside and in time.
Now more urgently than ever it is time to build the scaffolding of what our organisations will be in 2030. Otherwise we will find ourselves where now traditional banks start to find themselves: rapidly rendered inefficient by FinTech.
A career path moving toward specialisation that will grow towards mastery and end in a position not of management, but of organisation core competences, strategic growth and newcomers nurturance for a new generation of mastery.
This builds into an organisation with less people but more specialised and thus expensive people. Yet those organisations who choose to save money on their people and not foster specialisation, will soon have to close entire divisions out of asphyxia and with a high social cost. Still we have time to make a choice for the future, foster talent and be agile.
What do I want? I want to be happy. Fair enough. To be happy I need things. Yet my ultimate purpose is to BE happy and not to HAVE things. So far so good.
To BE happy I need first and foremost a healthy body upon I can live. I can be happy in an unhealthy or mangled body but it is much harder. Thus I need to HAVE the first thing. If I am lucky enough to have been born in a healthy body, now I just need to keep it healthy. And if not, I have to learn to BE with what I got and try to improve it if possible. For all purposes, the body is the first and most important THING I need to BE happy.
To keep a healthy body I need once more to have things. Possibly the most urgent and important, I need to procure my body with good nutrients (not antibiotics-infested meet grown in a farm I do not dare even imagine if I want to keep myself in a state of ignorant bliss-sanity). To procure good nutrients to my body I need to either grow them myself or buy them with money. Hence now I need to HAVE land and/or money. Secondly, I need shelter; a healthy space, dry, illuminated, spacious enough and protected from cold or hot weather. I need a medical insurance. Ultimately, to be able to HAVE all of this, I practically need to HAVE money.
Unless I am born in a rich family, I need to become somebody if I want to be able to HAVE money. I need to become useful to the society and through my usefulness seek a way to acquire money. Hence my task to BE happy is usually surrogated primarily to becoming useful to the society. And here I may get already lost in the way and forget the purpose of the trip.
Now that I have and can keep a healthy body, and if I didn’t get lost on the way, I need to figure out what do I want to do with it that would enable me to BE happy. I need now a purpose. But the purpose would be meaningless if it would only become the act of HAVING things. I need to BECOME someone. And here again I can easily get once more lost. And I haven’t yet started walking my path to happiness.
In the advent of an efficient global network of transportation and ubiquitous communications, we have experienced an unprecedented explosion of abundance and choice. My father remembers, as he was living in Spain under Franco, that little more than one paper and two TV channels were all what was. The offer of products and services was neither more diverse than that.
But for all these possibilities, we often have a very narrow field of choice. Be that we cannot cope with such diversity or that external circumstances dwindle our choices. We often find ourselves like canoeing down a river: rather following the stream, with but little drifts left or right.
Recently I decided to grow a beard and soon came the point when I had to buy a beard trimmer. It is in such cases—when I have to reach out of my usual market scope—that I realise how difficult it is to choose. When you do not even know if such things are still sold in brick-and-mortar shops and naively start navigating the Internet. Which, to start with, means navigating the subset of internet within the bubble of influence of Amazon. It wasn’t without will that I found a local maker—in these days this would extend to mean anywhere within my country. Yet if I wouldn’t have made a point of it, I would have ended buying a product from Panasonic, Samsung or similar makers that populate the most search results.
At last I still slipped in my awareness and ended up buying the thing through an internet shop, although finding a retailer in my neighborhood was two clicks away. I am sorry, dear retailer. I regret it now. I hope you are still there the next time I need something. And I regret the most if any part of my money ended at Amazon. That devouring monstrosity of a company who owns the majority of office space in Seattle.
It is startling how narrow the choice of a car becomes for the average—and not so average—german. Or what choices we realistically have when we want to buy a new smartphone in a market dominated by two or three companies that stand like palm trees in a desert—here the desertification was of the making of those companies though. How difficult is to find local groceries, or better said, how easy has become to find groceries that, despite their short age, have seen more of the world that we will probably see in our lives.
There is a danger in the comfort of not exercising will when we buy products. Slowly but constantly we are giving power to a few individuals, who despite not being elected politicians, they are amassing more factual power by the day. Every product we buy has become a small ballot. And those ballots we still call ballots, are only damning our best people, our politicians we entrust our future, to play a x-iteration of Doom: a dark dungeon plagued with powerful villains and no real chance of success. Hence it should not surprise us when one day not too far, we have to question if democracy, as we know it since Greece invented it long ago, is still workable. Or maybe we have to understand that in Democracy 2.0 every purchase is a ballot.
We are already seeing this coming.
The increasingly complex environment of today’s business life, together with the economical growth of the last years, has set the grounds for an unprecedented demand of middle managers in advanced countries. These have to be either recruited outside the corporation, with uncertain results and risk, grown inside (but it takes time), or in many cases picked up from the staff as being hopefully the least bad choice.
This poor fellow finds himself in a tight spot and in most cases it will quickly evolve into a blockade to the bottom and a desperate run upwards before the mess becomes too obvious. Thus leaving a trail of demotivation, bad decisions, and desolation.
In any corporation level there are four possible states where people will find themselves. The person itself can be either ambitious (fire) or calm (water). The environment can be a blockade (earth) or supportive (air).
An ambitious person in a supportive environment will become a rocket and will make good use of her fire through the air. Yet in a blockade environment will burn like charcoal. A calm person in a blockade environment will find her way to survive and do as good a job as possible like a battleship entangled in marshes. Yet in a supportive environment she will roam the seas and be the launch basis for her colleagues, the rockets.