I read “New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future” by artist and author James Bridle a few weeks ago. It was in the middle of this long hot summer of temperature and burned land records. The book describes the impasse into which computational thinking leads us and states the ravages of new technologies on our planet. The combination of extreme heat and fire plus a brilliant reflection on the failures of a specific technology idea, combined with my guilt facing my behavioral contradictions, plunged me into disarray.
Some would say I was suffering from light eco-anxiety. This is an actual mental health condition, around whom an entire therapy practice is starting to grow to treating anxiety that is both existential and, many would argue, rational. Eco-anxiety has entered the mainstream vocabulary. It is considered a personality marker for part of the young generation. I think it goes beyond and explains an important part of our times’ psychology. Ok. I’m eco-anxious—probably you are too— but what to do once you have your diagnosis? ‘Cause harboring dark fears about the future is a terrible place to be. It inhibits your thinking skills and creativity when it comes to imagining solutions.
I wondered then whether the most important side of climate emergency as individuals is to regain some power to act. Please, do not get me wrong. I am not trying to shift the burden and responsibility from corporations to individuals! Just, how do we cope with it? How do we feel part of the solution so that we find meaning in a meaningless / crazy world?
If you wake up at night overwhelmed with emotion thinking about the changes that would occur in your son’s lifetime, I strongly recommend you the podcast ” Climate Change and Happiness .” The Hosts are clinical Psychologist and therapist Thomas Doherty, from Oregon —father of the concept of eco-anxiety— and Panu Pihkala, a Finnish Researcher and writer specializing in eco-emotions. In an international dialogue, they explore the personal side of climate change and model how to cope with climate stress and build the capacity for hope and happiness.
Another quick morale booster is one of my favorite newsletters, #Reasonstobecheerful, by artist and musician David Byrne. Yes, the same talking head of THE Talking Heads, the one Burning Down The House, founded this non-profit editorial project two years ago as a tonic for tumultuous times. Through stories of hope rooted in evidence, Reasons to be Cheerful is a fast-effect pill inspiring us to be curious about how the world can be better and to ask ourselves how we can be part of the change.
Suppose you are concerned about how artificial intelligence and other technologies are wreaking havoc on the environment and our society. Supposed you are a concerned #TechLeader. In that case, I encourage you to get familiar with James Bridle last book, «Ways of Being». It reframes the question of intelligence (in the plural, beyond human, beyond artificial) and re-situates technology within an ecological framework. In this framework, there is no place for hierarchies between different types of intelligence and technology goes beyond binary—0, 1 computing— opening access to a nuanced knowledge that better approaches the functioning of the world. On the same page, but in French and linked to a European philosophical tradition, my favorite book in 2021, Baptiste Morizot’s masterpiece, Manières d’Être Vivant, a manifesto reimagining a different world of relations between the living and the planet, a world of interdependence and coliving with differences.
Imagine we stick for a bit longer to non-binarity, to nuances and difference. What if the next big move to develop a global self-awareness about the world is for Businesses to embrace this notion? And, what, in that case, our role as communicators and consultants should be?
A “non-binary” business would be the one recognizing being part of a more extensive system, where no hierarchies exist, and acting in a way that considers constant interaction with the other elements and collective’s welfare.
A “non-binary” communicator and consultant would willingly and carefully listen to the world and the shifts at work before stepping into fancy concepts. He or she would help businesses catch up and understand the place they play in culture. We have many ways of doing this. As outsiders, we can move across subjects and disciplines in ways that are often difficult for siloed companies. We can bring other people together, generating new collaboration and ideas. As storytellers, we can stimulate them to imagine different presents, pasts, and futures, allowing other narratives to develop about how we live and understand the world. As advisors, we can work harder to go beyond the fuzz, be more courageous in disagreeing, and (gently) provoking.
Let’s challenge our clients to be less in the Metaverse and other fully digital fabrications that turn us away from the real world and living beings because we bear a responsibility to address the many problems we face in our practice.
This being said and written down in our bucket lists, happy back to work to all!